Voices

In: Historical Events

Submitted By aclemo
Words 780
Pages 4
Complaint of a Lowell Factory Female Worker (1845)

Source: Factory Tracts Number One. Factory Life As It Is (Lowell, 1845). Voices of Freedom, Vol. I, 3rd Ed., by Eric Foner.
The early industrial revolution centered on factories producing cotton textiles with water-powered spinning and weaving machinery. In the 1820s, a group of merchants created a new factory town near Boston, incorporated as the city of Lowell in 1836. Here, they built a group of modern textile factories that brought together all phases of production from the spinning of thread to the weaving and finishing of cloth. By 1850, Lowell’s fifty-two mills employed more than 10,000 workers.
At Lowell, young unmarried women from Yankee farm families dominated the workforce that tended the spinning machines. Competition among the mills led to a deterioration in working conditions and, beginning in the 1830s, protests among the workers. They engaged in strikes or “turn-out,” and petitioned the legislature to limit their hours of labor. Founded in 1845, the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association published a series of Factory Tracts to expose conditions in the mills. Frequently, as in this account by an unnamed worker, they drew an analogy between their conditions and those of southern slaves.
Reading Questions: 1. Why does the female factory worker compare her conditions with those of slaves? 2. Why does she doubt the sincerity of the Christian beliefs of the factory owners?
Philanthropists of the nineteenth century! – shall not the operatives of our country be permitted to speak for themselves? Shall they be compelled to listen in silence to [those] who speak for gain, and are the mere echo of the will of the corporations? Shall the worthy laborer be awed into silence by wealth and power, and for fear of being deprived of the means of procuring his daily bread? Shall tyranny and cruel…...

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