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In her autobiography, Harriet Hanson Robinson, the wife of a newspaper editor, provided an of her earlier life as female factory worker from the age of ten in to in the textile Mills of Lowell, Massachusetts.
Her explains some of the family dynamics involved, and lets us see the women as active participants in their own lives — for instance in their strike of In what follows, I shall confine myself to a description of factory life in Lowell, Massachusetts, from tosince, with that phase of Early Factory Labor in New England, I am the most familiar-because I was a part of it. InLowell was little more than a factory village. Troops of young girls came from different parts of New England, and from Canada, and men were employed to collect them at so much a head, and deliver them at the factories.
At the time the Lowell cotton mills were started the caste of the factory girl was the lowest among the employments of women. In England and in France, particularly, great injustice had been done to her real character.
In the eyes of her overseer she was but a brute, a slave, to be beaten, pinched and pushed about. These mites worked about fifteen minutes every hour and the rest of the time was their own. They were paid two dollars a week. Even the doffers were forced to be on duty nearly fourteen hours a day.
Primary source reading: lowell mill girls
This was the greatest hardship in the lives of these children. A few taught school during the summer months. Their life in the factory was made pleasant to them. In those days there was no need of advocating the doctrine of the proper relation between employer and employed. The most prevailing incentive to labor was to secure the means of education for some male member of the family.
I have known more than one to give every cent of her wages, month after month, to her brother, that he might get the education necessary to enter some profession. I have known a mother to work years in this way for her boy.
I have known women to educate young men by their earnings, who were not sons or relatives. It is well to digress here a little, and speak of the influence the possession of money had on the characters of some of these women. We can hardly realize what a change the cotton factory made in the status of the working women.
Hitherto woman had always been a money saving rather than a money earning, member of the community. Her labor could command but small return. As teacher, her services were not in demand, and the arts, the professions, and even the trades and industries, were nearly all closed to her.
As late as there were only seven vocations outside the home into which the women of New England had entered. At this time woman had no property rights.
He usually left her a home on the farm as long as she remained single. In Massachusetts, beforea woman could not, legally, be treasurer of her own sewing society, unless some man were responsible for her. She was a ward, an appendage, a relict. One of the first strikes that ever took place in this country was in Lowell in This was done.
The mills were shut down, and the girls went from their several corporations in procession to the grove on Chapel Hill, and listened to incendiary speeches from some early labor reformers. One of the girls stood on a pump and gave vent to the feelings of her companions in a neat speech, declaring that it was their duty to resist all attempts at cutting down the wages.
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This was the first time a woman had spoken in public in Lowell, and the event caused surprise and consternation among her audience. It is hardly necessary to say that, so far as practical are concerned, this strike did no good.
The corporation would not come to terms. The girls were soon tired of holding out, and they went back to their work at the reduced rate of wages.
Source: Harriet H. The Market Revolution. Search for:. Primary Source Reading: Lowell Mill Girls Harriet Robinson: Lowell Mill Girls In her autobiography, Harriet Hanson Robinson, the wife of a newspaper editor, provided an of her earlier life as female factory worker from the age of ten in to in the textile Mills of Lowell, Massachusetts.
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This was the first time a woman had spoken in public in Lowell, and the event caused surprise and consternation among her audience It is hardly necessary to say that, so far as practical are concerned, this strike did no good.
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