Hello to all, my name is Jonathan Hodgkin, I’m a journalist for The Baltimore Sun newspaper, and I’d like to give my appreciation to whomever is reading my article.
Due to the many rural people from the unprofitable farming areas of the East leaving their lands to work in our newest factories (1), the industrial demands towards our country are causing injustice. This injustice particularly is affecting the young girls in Lowell, Massachusetts who are subtly coerced by the supervisors of the factories, into leaving their homes to work in the mills and help make money for their family. I couldn’t help but wonder what the factory life for these girls and young women looked like, and what they truly were like. Due to this curiosity, I looked into visiting one of the Lowell Textile Mills where I found a young 11 year old girl, Lucy Larcom, who shared some of her experiences and thoughts about her routine.
Lucy Larcom, when talking about her first day of the mill work says, “The novelty of it made it seem easy, and it really was not hard, just to change the bobbins on the spinning- frames every three quarters of an hour or so, with half` a dozen other little girls who were doing the same thing. When I came back at night, the family began to pity me for my long, tiresome day’s W
I laughed and said, “Why, it is nothing but fun. It is just like play.”(3). Even though the job sounds incredibly monotonous to even Lucy herself, she attempted to encourage her family that she was doing just fine. When she took 3 months off a grammar school, “everything there was changed, and I too was changed”(3). Lucy was given a brief glimpse of what education was all about, and she loved every well spent minute of studying, but when talking about the possibility of going to high school, she sighs, “But alas! I could not go. The little money I could earn-one dollar a week, besides the price of my board-Was needed in the family, and l must return to the mill”(3). Lucy was given the brief time of education, but she had to return to the mill for the sake of her family, which she seemingly did not enjoy the second time around, “I had looked through an open door that I was not willing to see shut upon me”(3).
Lucy was once happier the first time working in the mill, rather than after her short experience of school. According to Orested A. Brownson, “In regard to labor, two systems obtain: one that of slave labor, the other that of free labor. Of the two, the first is, in our judgment, except so far as the feelings are concerned, decidedly the least oppressive. If the slave has never been a free man, we think, as a general rule, his sufferings are less than those of the free laborer at wages”(2). Brownson believes that free labor workers, in this case the Lowell girls, have worse conditions than those who’re slaves, because, the slaves have never experienced the life of being free, whereas these girls have or had some time of their lives where they never had to work for anyone. That being said, the time where young girls must adapt to working hours after hours in the mill is very taxing.
From the Voice of Industry, it is stated that the “factory powers in this village of forcing poor girls from their quiet homes to become their tools and, like the Southern slaves, to give up their life and liberty to the heartless tyrants and taskmasters”(2), was never apparent to people looking in from the outside of these factories. Even the families send their daughter away lacking the bittersweet knowledge and concerns of whether she will be treated fairly, worked too hard, educated, and so on. Voice of Industry also questions, “Is there any humanity in this? Philanthropists may talk of Negro slavery, but it would be well first to endeavor to emancipate the slaves at home”(2). African slaves are supposedly treated poorly but I’d imagine the young girls in Lowell are not being treated greatly either., and this is something that people may need to be aware of.
My first initial thought after visiting Lucy, was, how did all of these factories start and why were there so many people willing to work for them? Industries started to develop in the Northeast where there were more affluent people to begin with. This started because the British came over and stole huge portions of out country’s exporting trade. In the Midwest the agricultural production grew to the sky, and people no longer had to use their own crops for survival, instead, the regions could import food, therefore causing more people to leave their nests and work in the factories (1).
The clouds that hover over our country are weightless, making the air thin, and the bright blue sky show, but the hearts of the young girls under the trapping factories are turning heavy, and there is only but some who might know.
2. Lowell Girls Primary Source https://www.google.com/search?sugexp=chrome,mod=14&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=margaret+fuller#q=lowell+girls+primary+sources