Introduction

You are an Irish immigrant living in Massachusetts in the mid-19th century. Having arrived in America with few possessions and little money, you are struggling to support your family. Your job opportunities are limited so you take work as an unskilled laborer in a factory.

What are the working conditions in which many immigrants like you are employed?

In particular, you will read about the disaster at the Pemberton Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts. As you read these stories, consider why immigrants chose to work under such conditions.

Did they really have a choice?

Did these immigrants fight for better working conditions?

What factors may have deterred them from fighting for safe and fair working conditions?

What possible consequences did they face by speaking out for more rights?

As you consider these questions, ask yourself what someone in your circumstances can do.

Header images: Pemberton Mills, retrieved from Wikipedia under Creative Commons License and, Fall of the Pemberton Mills, retrieved from Librarty of Congress under Fair Use Act

Background image: from George Handy's, Poetic Sketch Written Upon the Sad Disaster at Lawrence, Mass., from Boston Public Library's Rere Books Department