A study of women migrant domestic workers in the USA and their reasons for participating and persisting in community-based literacy and ESOL programmes is presented. Case studies and themes were developed about the women's experiences of work life and how it connected to their programme participation. The findings revealed that the women had health problems that were related to their work, and they participated in programmes in order to better understand them. The women also experienced considerable isolation at work, and attended their programmes in order to socialise and meet other women like themselves. Additionally, the women wanted to learn how to better negotiate workplace texts, and, eventually, use their new-found knowledge and education to move into other occupations. The article ends with implications for practice and policy.