How do you think “the possession of money” changed the lives of the mill girls? Do you think this had an impact on women in general? How so?
Watch The Working Women of Lowell, read about the experiences of Harriet H Robinson, Links to an external site. Lucy Larcom Links to an external site., and Sarah Bagley Links to an external site., and study the National Park Service Mill girls Links to an external site. brochure.
Thoroughly answer the following questions. Cite evidence where appropriate.
1) Why did women enter the factory labor force at this time? (study the film clip)
2) Describe what life was like for women working in these textile mills?
3) How do you think “the possession of money” changed the lives of the mill girls? Do you think this had an impact on women in general? How so?
4) What did Harriet Robinson think of the strike?
5) Answer in regard to either Lucy Larcom or Sarah Bagley. How does Lucy Larcom or Sarah Bagley think that the mill experience influenced the girls? How do you think it impacted her life and identity?
6) Was this a liberating or exploitative experience for the working women of Lowell? CHOOSE ONE of the following options. Cite evidence from the sources presented in this assignment to support your position.
a) argue the case that Lowell was an exploitative situation and mostly a dead end for working women.
b) argue the case that young women were liberated by the opportunity at Lowell.
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The industrial revolution brought significant changes to the American economy and society, including the rise of factory labor. The textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, were among the first factories to hire young, unmarried women as mill girls. This paper aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the experiences of mill girls in Lowell by analyzing primary sources and secondary sources, including The Working Women of Lowell film clip, Harriet H Robinson’s account, Lucy Larcom’s account, Sarah Bagley’s account, and the National Park Service Mill Girls brochure.
Why did women enter the factory labor force at this time?
The Working Women of Lowell film clip highlights the reasons why women entered the factory labor force. According to the clip, women sought employment in the factories to earn higher wages than what they could earn as domestic servants. Moreover, the mill girls believed that working in the factories would provide them with independence and the opportunity to support themselves.
Women entered the factory labor force in Lowell during the early 19th century for a variety of reasons. One of the primary drivers was the economic pressures faced by working-class families. Many of these families were struggling to make ends meet, and the opportunity to earn a steady wage in the mills offered a means of financial support. Additionally, the factory system allowed women to escape from domestic work, which was often tedious and physically demanding, and provided them with the opportunity to experience greater independence and social mobility.
Moreover, the Lowell mills advertised their jobs as providing young women with an opportunity for self-improvement and personal growth. The mill owners portrayed the mills as benevolent institutions that offered their workers educational and cultural opportunities, such as lectures, concerts, and access to books. This was a compelling message for many young women who were eager to escape the drudgery of farm work and domestic labor.
Despite the promise of upward mobility and personal growth, the reality of life in the mills was often harsh and oppressive. The long hours, low wages, and dangerous working conditions took a toll on the mill girls, and many became disillusioned with the system that had promised them so much. Nevertheless, the mill girls’ experiences paved the way for future generations of women to enter the workforce, and their struggles and sacrifices should be remembered as an important chapter in American labor history.
Life for women working in textile mills
Working in the textile mills was arduous for women. They worked long hours, typically 12 to 14 hours per day, six days a week, with only one day off. The working conditions were poor, with inadequate ventilation, hot temperatures, and lint filling the air. The women were required to follow strict rules, such as not speaking to one another during work hours. The mill girls also faced the risk of injury from the dangerous machinery, and they had to pay for their medical treatment.
Life for women working in textile mills in Lowell during the early 19th century was arduous and challenging. The mill girls worked long hours, typically from 5:00 am to 7:00 pm, six days a week. They were subjected to strict rules and regulations, enforced by the mill owners, which included fines for tardiness, absences, and even talking on the job. The mills were noisy, dusty, and dangerous, and the work was often monotonous, repetitive, and physically demanding.
The mill girls worked in cramped, poorly ventilated rooms that were often hot and humid, with temperatures reaching up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They were required to stand for long periods of time, and the work was often tiring and exhausting. In addition to the physical demands of the job, the mill girls were also subjected to social and cultural pressures, such as the need to conform to strict moral codes of behavior, dress, and speech.
Despite the many challenges they faced, the mill girls were able to form tight-knit communities within the mills, providing mutual support and camaraderie. They organized cultural events, such as lectures, concerts, and dances, and formed literary societies to discuss books and ideas. Some of the mill girls also became involved in political activism and organized labor, challenging the oppressive conditions they faced and demanding better wages and working conditions.
Overall, life for women working in textile mills in Lowell was a difficult and challenging experience, but it also provided an opportunity for self-improvement, personal growth, and collective action.
The possession of money and its impact
The possession of money changed the lives of mill girls as they were able to enjoy newfound economic freedom. They could use their earnings to purchase goods and services, such as clothing and personal items, which they would not have been able to afford otherwise. This economic freedom provided mill girls with the opportunity to challenge gender norms and expectations of their society, making them independent individuals. This impact was not limited to mill girls as it helped break down the traditional gender roles and expectations of women in society, enabling them to become more economically empowered.
Harriet Robinson’s views on the strike
Harriet Robinson, a mill girl who worked in the Lowell mills, wrote a detailed account of her experiences in the mills, including her thoughts on the strike. Robinson believed that the strike was necessary to bring about better working conditions, higher wages, and shorter hours. She thought that the strike was well-organized and disciplined, but the mill owners ultimately won, leading to the eventual decline of the Lowell mills.
Lucy Larcom’s views on the mill experience
Lucy Larcom, a mill girl who worked in the Lowell mills, wrote extensively about her experiences in the mills. According to Larcom, the mill experience influenced the girls positively. She believed that working in the mills taught the girls discipline, independence, and the importance of education. Larcom’s experience in the mills helped shape her life and identity, as she eventually became a prominent writer and editor.
Liberating or exploitative experience for working women in Lowell
The mill experience in Lowell was exploitative as it placed severe demands on the women’s bodies and minds. The mill girls worked long hours for low wages in poor conditions, with little job security or benefits. Moreover, the mill owners controlled every aspect of the women’s lives, including where they lived, what they ate, and how they behaved. The working conditions of the mills were detrimental to the mill girls’ physical and mental health, leading to significant health problems.
The experiences of the mill girls in Lowell provide valuable insights into the lives of women during the industrial revolution. Although the mill girls enjoyed newfound economic freedom, their experiences in the mills were exploitative and detrimental to their health and well-being. Despite the challenges, the mill girls played a significant role in shaping the labor movement and challenging gender norms and expectations. The mill girls were pioneers in the fight for better working conditions, higher wages, and greater independence, paving the way for future generations of women to achieve greater equality in the workplace. Although the mill experience was both exploitative and liberating, it served as a turning point in American labor history, demonstrating the potential for collective action to bring about positive change.