Lowell Mill Girls essay

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Introduction

      According to Flanagan (2006), Lowell Mill Girls is a name that refers to female textile workers who performed their tasks in Lowell, Massachusetts during the nineteenth century. During this time, the Lowell textile mills recruited a workforce which consisted of about 75 percent of women (Flanagan, 2006). The huge proportion of female was a characteristic that led to the following social effects: close examination of female worker’s moral behavior, and a kind of labor protests (Harriet, 2011). Female workers in the Lowell textile mills wrote and published a great deal of literary magazines, which included the Lowell Offering (Harriet, 2011). Most of the literary magazines featured poetry, fiction, and essays that were written by female textile employees. Female textile laborers also actively took part in early labor reform by establishing labor organizations, protesting through strikes or turn-outs, legislative petitions, and contributing articles and essays to the Voice of Industry newspaper (Flanagan, 2006). The struggle for better work and living conditions will be considered in the discussion.  

Work and living conditions

      The factory girls’ social position had been degraded substantially, especially in England and France. Harriet (2011) suggests that the creation of a large female labor force in Lowell was meant to overcome the prejudice against women in their society. An attractive remuneration had been offered to female workers as an inducement to perform a variety of tasks as mill girls, despite the opprobrium that was associated with this disgracing occupation (Flanagan, 2006). In Lowell, large-scale mechanization was combined with an effort to improve the position of female workers and workforce in general. Young girls accompanied their mothers and older sisters to the work places where they were trained by the experienced female workers on how to perform various tasks in the factory (Harriet, 2011). Lowell mills were characterized by severe working conditions, including working for an average of 12 hours every day (Flanagan, 2006). About eighty women worked at noisy machines in each confined room. The air in the confined rooms was filled with tiny particles of cloth and thread (Flanagan, 2006). The female workers lived in small, half-ventilated rooms which they considered as very uncomfortable.

The Lowell Offering Magazine

      Publication of the Lowell Offering magazine was organized by Reverend Abel Charles Thomas in 1840 (Harriet, 2011). As the Lowell Offering magazine became more popular, women contributed fiction, essays, poems and ballads (Flanagan, 2006). Women used their characters in the literary works to report on situations and conditions in their lives. The contents of the Lowell Offering were sometimes farcical and serious (Harriet, 2011).

Protests through strikes

      Initially, female workers received attractive wages from their employers, but as from 1834 when economic depression was experienced, the Board of Directors suggested a reduction in remunerations by about 15 percent (Flanagan, 2006). Female workers responded to the reduction in remunerations by protesting through strikes or turn-outs. Those women who were involved in the turn-outs withdrew all their savings which caused a run on local banks (Harriet, 2011). However, the protest failed and the female workers had all resumed their chores at reduced remuneration. The strike or turn-out merely indicated that the Lowell female workers were determined to participate in labor action (Harriet, 2011). The female workers organized another strike in 1836 when Board of Directors suggested a rent hike for those workers who lived in boarding houses (Flanagan, 2006). The Board of Directors officially canceled the rent hike following the strike.  

Lowell Female Labor Reform Association

      In 1845, the Lowell female textile employees started an organization known as the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association (Harriet, 2011). The organization was meant to claim for the female workers’ rights, such as improved conditions in the workplace and living quarters, and reduced number of working hours per day. Lowell Female Labor Reform Association published the Voice of Industry newspaper (Flanagan, 2006). The organizing efforts for the Lowell girls were notable both for the political framework that was employed to appeal to the public. Drawing up their struggle for better pay and shorter work days as a matter of personal dignity and rights, they decided to place themselves in the American Revolution context (Harriet, 2011).    

Conclusion  

      A large female labor force in Lowell was meant to overcome the prejudice against women in their society (Harriet, 2011). However, the female workers experienced some problems, such as reduced remuneration, poor living conditions, increased rent, and long work days (Flanagan, 2006). The problems forced women to organize protests through strikes or turn-outs as a way of claiming for their rights. The female workers also expressed their feelings in writing literary works like fiction, essays, poems and ballads (Flanagan, 2006).

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