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Industrial Revolution

Lowell Mills

  • Industrialization
    • Change from agrarian to industrial economy
    • Factories / Mass production
    • Began in England
    • Then in U.S.
  • Lowell Mills opened in 1823
    • Located in Lowell Massachusetts
    • Opened by the Boston Associates


The Girls

  • Factories depended on a steady supply of cheap female labor.
    • Thousands of New England farm girls were recruited to operate the machines.
  • Was to be temporary
    • To not disrupt traditional norms
    • Girls eventually got married, had children and stopped working for wages


Boarding Houses

  • The Lowell Mills developed a system of boarding houses
    • Girls lived together in these homes
    • Different than England where girls had to find a place to live. This was dangerous.
  • It was the first time so many girls lived away from home
    • Girls were supervised
    • 4-6 girls shared a room
    • Parents were ensured that girls would be taken care of
  • Factory life was an opportunity for girls to live away from home
  • Contact with other girls allowed them new experiences and sharing of ideas


New Opportunities

  • At first the mills seemed to pay well and offered new opportunities
    • The girls gained a new independence from the male-dominated family farm.
    • Prior generations of girls and women did not have these opportunities
    • New bonds were created among the girls


The Lowell Offering

  • The Lowell Offering: A literary journal of writings by factory girls
    • Poems
    • Stories
    • Essays
  • Girls could learn to read and write in the evenings
  • Factory owners paid editor and distributed the journal
    • Used as marketing to recruit other girls


New Dangers and Discrimination

  • Although there were new opportunities for the girls, there were also new dangers
    • No labor laws – women had little to no protection
    • Dangerous working conditions
    • Sexual harassment and abuse 
    • Wage discrimination


Working Condition

  • Work was strictly segregated by sex
    • Men were supervisors and skilled mechanics
    • Women attended the spinning and weaving machines
  • Insubordinate workers were fired
  • Could be blacklisted
    • Would not be hired at any other factory



  • Women and girls were not considered the family “bread-winners” so they were paid very low wages
  • They earned 1/3 – 1/2 of men’s earnings
  • The highest paid woman earned less than the lowest paid man
  • During economic downturns employers either lowered rates or increased required more pieces


Slater Mill Protest, 1824

  • First strike of its kind involving women
    • 102 girls participated
    • Protested wage cut
    • Stopped work for one week


The New Middle Class

  • Began in the urban and industrializing Northeast
  • One could work their way into it but fall out of it easily
  • Provided a market for consumer goods
  • Most had a new type of family and lifestyle


Changes at Home

  • Old patterns of life diminished as a new market economy developed
    • Farmers and craftsmen now worked outside of the home
    • now in an office or store
    • Women gained a new autonomous role
    • Children were no longer workers but rather what the family produced



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History 111