Mill Girls

With each letter home to her family, Mary’s experience in the mills changes drastically. The first letter is filled with her positive outlook on how life would be wonderfully different at the mills. Mary begs her father to let her get a job in Lowell, saying that there she would be able to earn money, and buy her fashion items that she could not get at home. Her father let her go, because her second letter is her reporting on her beginning to work at the machines. She at first talks about how she will get paid, but the majority of the letter is focused on her telling others to write to her. At only the second letter, Mary is already missing her family and her home. The mills are most likely not what she thought they were going to be, and she misses the comfort of her hometown family and friends. The third letter she writes home goes into depth of all of the deaths that have been going on around her. She writes “My life and health are spared while others are cut off. Last Thursday one girl fell down and broke her neck which caused instant death”. She is most likely adding in these horrendous details of what is happening to make her father worry, and think that the mills may not be the best place for his daughter. Along with the third letter, Mary writes in her fourth and fifth letter home how she is not getting paid as much as she thought. She also writes about how she is getting sick, and cannot keep up with the work. The tone of her beginning letters are filled with hope and aspiration, with Mary looking forward to all she can accomplish in Lowell. But as she experiences the hard conditions, she realizes that it is not all that it is cracked up to be.

Mary’s experience in the mills represented both the successes and failures of the “Lowell Experiment”. This experiment was a way to convince girls to go work in the mills as temporary workers. The corporation was viewed as the father figure, as they set the rules and watched the girls in case they stepped out of line. The boarding housekeeper was the mother figure because they watched the girl’s behavior outside of work and maintained a home-like environment. The “Lowell Experiment” was first off successful because they were able to recruit endless amounts of girls to come and work in the mills. It was also successful because none of the girls ever wanted to work there forever. The experiment was in ways a failure because at one point the wages became too low, so the girls had no way of getting out. Because they were getting paid barely enough to keep paying their housing, there was no way they could save up to get out.

mill girls

This is a picture of women workers in Lowell protesting against their unfair wages (taken from )


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