Introduction

Early textile entrepreneurs created the nation's first successful planned industrial city in Lowell, Massachusetts. To find workers for their mills, the textile corporations recruited women from New England farms and villages. These "mill girls" were generally 15 to 30 years old and were also called "female operatives." These "daughters of Yankee farmers" had few economic opportunities, and many were enticed by the prospect of monthly cash wages and room and board in a comfortable boardinghouse. However, the reality of mill work included long hours of work under grueling working conditions. Many of these mill girls would eventually become assertive enough to organize themselves to improve working conditions and created the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association in 1844.  Many Irish immigrants had begun arriving in Lowell by this time and began filling the constantly growing number of jobs in the textile mills. Some of the Irish female operatives even joined the Protestant “Lowell mill girls” in the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association. Some took part in the walkouts, or strikes, to protest the conditions in the mills as well as the low wages and long hours. You will be working in groups of four people to read and analyze primary documents in which the female operatives, as well as, other observers discuss the problems they had working in the mills and living in company-owned boardinghouses.