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Margaret Schroeder Thompson: Charity Degrades Those Who Receive It


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#1

eejm

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Posted Sep 27, 2010 @ 3:43 PM

After last night’s episode, I began to wondering a bit more about Margaret’s back story. We found out that she is a parlor maid in Ireland and is very well-read. She seems to have a lot of integrity and dignity, and appears to love her children a great deal and understandably concerned for their well-being. She’s intrigued by Nucky and the feeling seems to be mutual. Agent Van Alden seems to be really, really into her (or at least her hair ribbon).

But what else is there about her? Was there a particular reason why she left Ireland? How did she meet up with and marry Hans? How will her involvement with Nucky continue? Did she really traipse out in the middle of the night just to return the money to Nucky…or did Van Alden convince her to be a spy?
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#2

scarlett45

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Posted Sep 27, 2010 @ 3:53 PM

I think Margaret is an interesting character.While I was watching that scene at the end I thought to myself "I wonder if she thinks Nucky expects some sexual favors in return for his generosity". Women of that time, (even women of the 21st century in some cases) were taught that their only value was as sex objects/wives/mothers- therefore why would a man give her such a large amount of money if he didnt expect "personal favors". Given her husband is dead, she is probably worried sick about how she will provide for her small children. Just a theory.
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#3

Pallas429

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Posted Sep 27, 2010 @ 6:28 PM

I'm pretty sure she thought that Nucky might expect sexual favors. She pre-empted that request by returning the (latest) money, but intrigued both him and me by continung to raise the question, even after the issue was seemingly resolved.

Shades of Nucky's pining for a woman who would just say "yes" at once. This woman says "No" at once, then asks, "To be clear: what was the question?"
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#4

Boisvert 8

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Posted Sep 29, 2010 @ 3:29 AM

I'm just going to toss this out there- Margaret may not have been a parlor maid in "the old country."

Not because of her quoting George Sand (though it's curious she knew so much about Sand) or her light reading list in the hospital including Henry James, but because of Nucky's seemingly throwaway remark, "With these soft hands?" These are the days long before work-saving household cleaning conveniences, when "elbow grease" was doing the job & harsh cleaning compounds were used in the process (think Gosford Park, & that was the 1930s!) A maid's hands would feel like any laborer's hands, even several years after leaving service. Also imo Nucky would know exactly what a former parlor maid's hands would feel like, glad-handing man-of-the-people that he is.

Plus there are few (if any) throwaway lines in Boardwalk Empire.

ETA:
Or.....Nuck, glad-handing man-of-the-people that he is, was just blowing smoke- what former parlor maid wouldn't want to hear that her hands were still soft & lovely?

I want you...to vote Republican!

Edited by Boisvert 8, Sep 29, 2010 @ 3:30 AM.

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#5

stillshimpy

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Posted Sep 29, 2010 @ 11:14 AM

Or.....Nuck, glad-handing man-of-the-people that he is, was just blowing smoke- what former parlor maid wouldn't want to hear that her hands were still soft & lovely?


I think it was likely that, Boisvert because a lower class housewife's hands are very unlikely to be particularly soft. The labor saving devices we have really take a lot of the backbreaking, callous-making things out of housework. Margaret is unlikely to have to polish silver any longer, but before her husband wrecked the joint her house looked well cared for and tidy. Just scrubbing a floor, or having to do every dish by hand was hard on the skin and that's part of everyday life for her now, or it was. The likelihood that her hands are, in reality, soft is rather slim. Nucky was likely just seeking to flatter her.

As for why she emigrated, there doesn't necessarily need to be a specific reason. No, "I killed a man in Dublin" but rather that being in service, no matter how kind her employer didn't hold a lot of prospects and a lot of Irish emigrated simply to have a chance at a life not entirely defined by a class structure.
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#6

Boisvert 8

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Posted Sep 29, 2010 @ 12:09 PM

Yeah, that's probably it, stillshimpy- like I said, just thought I'd throw the idea out there for discussion.

Also, guess I'm having a tiny bit of trouble swallowing whole the Little Nell/damsel in distress image Margaret projects. If it's entirely genuine, sure, so be it, but BE is setting up to explore some very dark corners of the early 20th Century version of the American Dream...& I'm suspicious by nature ;->
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#7

stillshimpy

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Posted Sep 29, 2010 @ 12:34 PM

Also, guess I'm having a tiny bit of trouble swallowing whole the Little Nell/damsel in distress image Margaret projects. If it's entirely genuine, sure, so be it, but BE is setting up to explore some very dark corners of the early 20th Century version of the American Dream...& I'm suspicious by nature ;->


I agree with you, Boisvert 8, I think there's more going on with Margaret, but I don't think it necessarily has to do with her motives, but rather that she has a deeper understanding of people than she might appear to at face value. It was two things for me, her assertion that her husband had never been in trouble a day of his life. It was an odd thing for her to say given where she was right at that moment. He beat her so badly she miscarried. When we met her, she had a shiner already, and she was clearly afraid of him. Yet she was willing to contradict the Sheriff/Lawman right in front of her, a fact that shocked him enough that he threatened her, and in no veiled terms, with the loss of her children. She still troops off to see his brother, and return the money though. If nothing else, that's one brave lady.

So when she said her employer was a good man, I wasn't really sure what being a good man entails in her view, or if she's more interested in the appearance of something, than the specifics of the reality (which might make her useful to Nucky in the long run). Also, the way she brought up Nucky's wife again felt like she was testing for something, but I wasn't sure what. Evidence of his long-term affection for his wife? I really couldn't tell but it startled me that she rather deliberately brought up a subject that didn't necessarily precisely fit the moment.

I'm not saying she's calculating, at all. Just that the sweet simplicity isn't all there is to that woman. There's also a decided lack of grief about the death of her husband, which is entirely understandable, but it is at marginally at odds with "He was never in trouble a day in his life!" (might be a paraphrase).

She's had some dreadful, upsetting things happen to her. She's got two children, her husband is dead, and she presents herself to a powerful man, at night, calling into question his motives. There's some serious steel in that woman. That's not a bad thing, but she only looks delicate and fragile. Someone who has been through as much as she has in such short order has to be very strong.

Edited by stillshimpy, Sep 29, 2010 @ 12:36 PM.

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#8

CyberSybar

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Posted Sep 29, 2010 @ 12:43 PM

But what else is there about her? Was there a particular reason why she left Ireland?


And, why does she later leave the US for England, to go back into service for Lady Trentham?
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#9

fashionista79

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Posted Sep 29, 2010 @ 4:03 PM

...she has a deeper understanding of people than she might appear to at face value. It was two things for me, her assertion that her husband had never been in trouble a day of his life. It was an odd thing for her to say given where she was right at that moment. He beat her so badly she miscarried. When we met her, she had a shiner already, and she was clearly afraid of him.

I definitely believe that she's of the "sit back and observe" school of thought. With that said, what I took away from her denying that her husband had ever been in trouble a day of his life, is that he had never been in the kind of trouble that Eli was suggesting. She was aware of her husband's issues (his gambling and his abuse towards her), but it didn't make sense to her that he would be tied up in hijacking and (planned) murder. I think it also goes back to what you're saying: she as a sense of people in ways that others don't initially grasp, so I can imagine that she felt something was off with Eli's insistence (and pushing her to believe) that her husband was part of something so big.

Couple that with her later conversation with Van Alden who was telling her that her husband was being used as a fall guy (perhaps confirming her thoughts from her talk with Eli about her husband never being in that kind of trouble), and you have a woman questioning someone's out-of-the-blue charity. She's a lot smarter than the men are giving her credit for.
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#10

TWoP Howard

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Posted Oct 3, 2010 @ 3:11 AM

These are the days long before work-saving household cleaning conveniences, when "elbow grease" was doing the job & harsh cleaning compounds were used in the process (think Gosford Park, & that was the 1930s!) A maid's hands would feel like any laborer's hands, even several years after leaving service.

A parlor maid, though, would have much duties that would be much easier on the hands than that of the average housewife. In a household which had enough staff to actually have a parlor maid, their duties would have been more along the lines of dusting and showing guests in and out, serving meals, or bringing in the tea. The heavier work would have been done by the other maids. I do agree that Nucky was trying to flatter her, though. With three kids and a household to care for, she would have been doing all the work.

With that said, what I took away from her denying that her husband had ever been in trouble a day of his life, is that he had never been in the kind of trouble that Eli was suggesting.

Yes, I agree. Plus, I think that being beaten in a marriage was something that many women of the time would have looked upon as their lot in life, and not something for public acknowledgement.

She's had some dreadful, upsetting things happen to her. She's got two children, her husband is dead, and she presents herself to a powerful man, at night, calling into question his motives.

It was an interesting scene, all the more for being so late at night. I got the impression that if there were strings attached to Nucky’s money, she wanted to know about it upfront. Also, Van Alden’s visit might have put some ideas in her head about Nucky’s involvement in her husband’s death which she wished to prove or dispel.

#11

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Posted Oct 4, 2010 @ 7:37 PM

Margaret managed to swallow her shock and probable disgust in that dressing-room scene with Lucy. I think Margaret has already shown a remarkable resilience to life's unfairness. Her children come first, and she will do what she needs to do to provide for them. She's no dummy. She's intuitive, I think, and perceptive, too; to the outside world, she keeps herself on an even keel. If she's well-read then her mind is open to ideas and possibilities. I'm looking forward to what life holds in store for Margaret Shroeder and for us, as her audience.

There's a movie called Trainspotting that's in the top five of my favorite ten movies ever. (Renton! Love.) However, the first time I watched the film, I was a teen and at a party with girls and boys. I just about died when Kelly Macdonald took Ewan McGregor into her bed and treated us all to the full-frontal. And it wasn't a fleeting, blink-and-you-miss-it glimpse. Kelly put herself out there, no compunction whatsoever. So that Trainspotting scene was the first thing I thought of when Lucy was humiliating Margaret in the dress shop.

Edited by sleekandchic, Oct 4, 2010 @ 7:39 PM.

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#12

anothermi

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Posted Oct 13, 2010 @ 9:00 PM

There's been speculation about Margaret's background. Is she working class or upper class?
My thought's are that she is a bastard child of an upper class "gent" and a servant (not unheard of) and was given "privileges" instead of recognition (who needs to recognize a girl when male heirs are the important ones) so she was one foot in the lower class and one foot in the upper class.
That would account for her "breeding" (ability to dance, read challenging books and stand up for herself intellectually) as well as her subservient demeanour. She would have been, in reality, a "servant" but with upper class privileges. So she would easily carry a "lost princess" fairy tale as her imaginary reality for a lot of her life.

That's MY story and I'm sticking to it.
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#13

Boisvert 8

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Posted Oct 14, 2010 @ 5:05 AM

Good story to stick with, anothermi- certainly fits all Margaret's character traits so far in evidence.

I'd been working on a theory that Margaret's life before BE might have been similar to that of Elsie (Emily Watson), Gosford Park's mistress/maid to Michael Gambon's Lord of the Manor, perhaps with some Irish political connection (IRA?) thrown into the mix. Your storyline is intriguing in that Margaret may have immigrated to America to escape the working class/upper class dilemma you describe, only to end up in AC where she finds herself facing a new twist on that same dilemma.
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#14

eejm

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Posted Oct 14, 2010 @ 8:48 AM

Your theory makes a lot of sense, anothermi. I like it a lot. I do wonder how much we'll find out about how she met and married her husband. I wonder if she found herself in dire straits financially after coming to the US, then married in desperation? Or if Hans swept her off her feet, only to show his true colors later?
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#15

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Posted Oct 17, 2010 @ 8:18 PM

Margret is based on a real person. The scene where she first goes to Nucky about getting help after seeing him at the temperance meeting really happened. I recently found a copy of the original book.Interesting reading.
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#16

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Posted Oct 18, 2010 @ 1:08 AM

Margaret is as tough as nails and not above spitting them out on anyone who wrongs her. Her betrayal of Nucky tonight in "Nights in Ballygran," was not at all surprising, but Nucky's reaction -- and subsequent action -- were surprising.

I think Lucy has met her match in the manipulative-mama-arena. Neither woman will give up Nucky without a fight, IMO.

Meanwhile, Agent Van Alden is madly in love with Margaret. Nothing good can come of that. Ever.
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#17

Boisvert 8

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Posted Oct 24, 2010 @ 11:15 PM

Margaret "luxuriating" for so long in the bathroom was imo more like the time it took to douche with Lysol solution as recommended in Margaret Sanger's birth control pamphlet. I defy any woman commenting here to not have a visceral reaction to having to resort to this method to prevent pregnancy.

Ah, those wonderful Good Old Days.
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#18

bulldawgtownie

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Posted Oct 24, 2010 @ 11:52 PM

Margaret "luxuriating" for so long in the bathroom was imo more like the time it took to douche with Lysol solution as recommended in Margaret Sanger's birth control pamphlet. I defy any woman commenting here to not have a visceral reaction to having to resort to this method to prevent pregnancy.

I feel so stupid now, I saw the brand name Lysol but for some reason it never occured to me that she trying to douche with what we now use to mop our floors
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#19

Demian

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Posted Oct 25, 2010 @ 9:24 PM

That would account for her "breeding" (ability to dance, read challenging books and stand up for herself intellectually)...

Wait. So, Irish women born in the 1880s and 1890s couldn't dance, read, or stand up for themselves, unless they were the bastard children of Protestant landlords and their serving wenches? That's news.

#20

eejm

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Posted Oct 26, 2010 @ 9:02 PM

Wait. So, Irish women born in the 1880s and 1890s couldn't dance, read, or stand up for themselves, unless they were the bastard children of Protestant landlords and their serving wenches? That's news.


No, but it would be unusual for a working class woman of the time - Margaret said she was a parlor maid in Ireland - to be able to both dance and read.

The show seems to focus a great deal on babies and fertility, but specifically on Margaret and hers. She began the show by having a miscarriage, which is partly how she attracted Nucky's eye. Lucy made a particularly nasty comment about Margaret's body and how it was obvious that she'd had children. Yesterday we found out she had a previous miscarriage as a teenager. So far it doesn't seem like Margaret consciously uses sex as a tool or a weapon in getting what she wants, but her fertility seems to be tied with some major events in her life - her immigration, her troubled marriage, her widowhood, and the beginning of her relationship with Nucky. I wonder if she was perhaps pregnant when she married Hans too?
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#21

BeckyBaxter

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Posted Oct 27, 2010 @ 7:45 AM

No, but it would be unusual for a working class woman of the time - Margaret said she was a parlor maid in Ireland - to be able to both dance and read.


I don't think this is accurate. The lower class certainly knew how to dance. For the upper-class, dances could be an elaborate form of entertainment but the lower-classes could dance anywhere....just roll up the rug. The type of dances embraced by all classes had also merged by this time. When reel dancing was still popular, it would be no surprise that the lower-classes probably did not know the same dances as the upper-class. They were long, complicated routines that the upper-class spent a fair amount of time practicing. However, more modern partner dances was relatively easy in comparison. Once you got the basic step, you were set. In fact, some modern dance styles, such as the Foxtrot, are attributed to vaudeville performers, which decidedly lower-class.

As for Margaret’s literacy, this is also not uncommon. By this time, a national education system was well established and most of the population would have received a basic education, at least early in life. This included lower-class women, although with a gendered curriculum. What is unusual about Margaret is the type of books she has read and the subjects of which she has knowledge. The education she would have gotten through the state or another institution would have been basic and focused on making her a better wife, maid, etc. Instead, she is reading literature – Henry James, George Sand. These are not fluffy readings. Too bad it wasn’t D.H. Lawrence. Sons and Lovers would have been published, although Lady Chatterly’s Lover wasn’t until 1928.

I feel so stupid now, I saw the brand name Lysol but for some reason it never occured to me that she trying to douche with what we now use to mop our floors


I have a book published in the 1960’s called A Minnesota Doctor’s Home Remedies. The recommended treatment for crabs is to apply DDT to the infected area. Makes me wonder what sort of stupid medical practices we are doing now that will later seem insane.
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#22

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Posted Oct 27, 2010 @ 8:42 AM

I mentioned this in the episode thread but weren't house maids in the UK expected to be well-mannered also? Maybe this is because I've rewatched Gosford Park and The Remains of the Day recently but it seems like if Margaret held such a position she would have been trained to be well mannered and behave with a proper sense of decorum.
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#23

bulldawgtownie

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Posted Oct 27, 2010 @ 10:54 AM

She began the show by having a miscarriage, which is partly how she attracted Nucky's eye.

She went to Nucky to ask him to help her husband get a job, Nucky gave her money, her husband found the money and after Nucky kicked his butt when he tried to confront Nucky for giving his wife money he beat Margaret and forced her to miscarry. I guess you can say early on she has her miscarriage but Nucky met her before then and I don't think her having a miscarriage played any role in Nucky's becoming attracted to her

Edited by bulldawgtownie, Oct 27, 2010 @ 10:59 AM.

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#24

eejm

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Posted Oct 27, 2010 @ 1:45 PM

She began the show by having a miscarriage, which is partly how she attracted Nucky's eye.

She went to Nucky to ask him to help her husband get a job, Nucky gave her money, her husband found the money and after Nucky kicked his butt when he tried to confront Nucky for giving his wife money he beat Margaret and forced her to miscarry. I guess you can say early on she has her miscarriage but Nucky met her before then and I don't think her having a miscarriage played any role in Nucky's becoming attracted to her


I disagree. Margaret did meet Nucky when she was still pregnant, and he was obviously attracted to her at that point. But remember when the temperance leader told Nucky about Margaret being in the hospital and that she'd suffered a miscarriage? Hearing that and feeling for Margaret helped him decide to use her husband as the patsy in the bootleg liquor heist. I don't think Nucky would have inquired about Margaret again if he hadn't heard about her miscarriage. Her miscarriage set events into motion with Nucky, so to speak.
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#25

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Posted Oct 28, 2010 @ 12:13 PM

Now that Nucky will provide for Margaret and her children, do you think there's any chance that her horrible, greenish, velvetish hat that magically appears in nearly every scene will finally be retired? It's worked very hard.
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#26

Demian

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Posted Oct 28, 2010 @ 1:54 PM

No, but it would be unusual for a working class woman of the time - Margaret said she was a parlor maid in Ireland - to be able to both dance and read.

No, it really, really wasn't unusual for working-class Irishwomen of the time to know how to read, dance, and stand up for themselves.

I'd tell you to consult my three Irish great-grandmothers (and their sisters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers) on the matter, but those ladies have all been dead for at least 45 years.

#27

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Posted Oct 29, 2010 @ 10:16 AM

No, but it would be unusual for a working class woman of the time - Margaret said she was a parlor maid in Ireland - to be able to both dance and read.

As to dancing, no. Dancing (including more formal dancing like waltzing, etc.) was a far more common pursuit/passtime/whatever then. As to reading, literacy rates were lower then compared to now, but illiteracy was not commonplace. In the 1910-20s, compulsory school attendance was fairly common in America and Ireland. Even absent compulsory school attendance, most children learned to read at home, or through a tutor or family friend, especially in non-rural settings and adjusting for race (Jim Crow laws being what they were). I'd want to check, but I would bet that literacy rates among women were similar to those among men. Certainly, "higher education" was more common among men, but I think litteracy was more balanced.
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#28

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Posted Nov 7, 2010 @ 8:59 PM

Thank you for the information regarding dancing, literacy for the middle and lower classes in Ireland during this time period, etc. -- this is very helpful for understanding Margaret's background. I have to say that this relationship is the primary reason I keep watching this show. I was rooting for the two of them to end up together at the very beginning as there is an interesting chemistry there I would not have suspected, either between the characters themselves or Steve Buscemi and Kelly Macdonald. An unlikely couple to be sure but the relationship has very compelling qualities.

I have admired the lovely Scottish actress for years, since she first courted Ewan McGregor as the naughty schoolgirl in Trainspotting. Loved her in Gosford Park (she held her own against a marvelous cast, including a brilliant turn by Helen Mirren). She was also excellent in No Country for Old Men and Finding Neverland (as Peter Pan). She has a beauty and vulnerability yet she can also show a strength of will that makes her believable as Nucky's paramour. I really hope this relationship is fully developed by the writers; I find it the most inspiring aspect of the show.

For some reason I desperately want them to come through for each other. Margaret has a great deal of love to give, and she has the maturity, grace, and composure necessary to be an ideal partner for Nucky -- I have a feeling she can handle the darker aspects of his personality as well as impress his many social contacts. They need each other -- Nucky needs a woman who can support him emotionally and assist as needed in terms of his "business" deals, and Lucy came nowhere close (imho). She was humiliating, lacked dignity, and was generally dim. Margaret has the intuitive smarts that will help her move the chess pieces as she negotiates the new world in which she finds herself.
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#29

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Posted Nov 12, 2010 @ 12:00 AM

Margaret and Nucky are going to turn out to be two of a kind.

When the neighbor said "she's a whore" didn't we learn that Margaret arrived at age 16 single and pregnant, and miscarried? I assume that she was pregnant because of prostitution, but I guess maybe she just concieved out of wedlock. Thoughts?
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#30

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Posted Nov 12, 2010 @ 9:34 AM

When the neighbor said "she's a whore" didn't we learn that Margaret arrived at age 16 single and pregnant, and miscarried? I assume that she was pregnant because of prostitution, but I guess maybe she just concieved out of wedlock. Thoughts?


I remember watching a reality show called "Manor House" on PBS about a group of people who recreated the conditions of the "upstairs / downstairs" dynamic of Edwardian England. It came out about the same time as Godsford park and was very informative.

The program had a closing documentary about the lives of the real people (about people who had lived their lives "in service"), and one of the things it mentioned was that woman were routinely raped/sexually harassed by their employers; and that when these things happened, the woman had no recourse. If Margaret was a parlor maid, I could see her being taken advantage of by her employer, and if not raped by him, put into a position where she couldn't say "no" without losing her job.

She got pregnant and they put on her a boat to America.

That's been my assumption.
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