Half a century before the better-known mass movements for workers’ rights in the United States, the working women of Lowell mill organized, went on strike and mobilized in politics when women couldn’t even vote—and created the first union of working women in American history.

Lowell Mill Women Create First Union of Working Women

The Lowell, Mass., textile mills where they worked were widely admired. But for the young women from around New England who made the mills run, they were a living hell. A mill worker named Amelia—we don’t know her full name—wrote that mill girls worked an average of nearly 13 hours a day. It was worse than “the poor peasant of Ireland or the Russian serf who labors from sun to sun.” Lucy Larcom started as a doffer of bobbins when she was only 12 and “hated the confinement, noise, and lint-filled air, and regretted the time lost to education,” according to one historian.

In 1834, when working women of Lowell bosses decided to cut their wages, the mill girls had enough: They organized and fought back. The mill girls “turned out”—in other words, went on strike—to protest. They marched to several mills to encourage others to join them, gathered at an outdoor rally and signed a petition saying, “We will not go back into the mills to work unless our wages are continued.”

There are two parts to this discussion.  The original post is due by 11:59 p.m. on October 24th.  The second part is due by 11:59 on October 26th.

  1. Post your argument from question 6 of the The Working Women of Lowell assignment (2 points, due by 11:59 on October 24th).
  2. Respond to TWO of your classmates posts.  One of your response posts must be to a post on the other side of the argument from what you chose to support. (4 points each, Due by 11:59 on October 26th) For full credit commenting posts must offer new information or deepen the discussion or lead the discussion into new and productive areas.
  3. Like what you consider the best of your classmates original posts. The original post with the most Likes will receive 5 extra credit points. You cannot like your own post.

Mill Girls instructions

Watch The Working Women of Lowell, read about the experiences of Harriet H Robinson,Links to an external site. Lucy LarcomLinks to an external site., and Sarah BagleyLinks to an external site., and study the National Park Service Mill girlsLinks 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 LowellCHOOSE 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.

Part II – Copy and Paste your response to question 6 to the Graded Discussion board