The Lowell mills are famous in the history of the United States as they employed the maximum number of workers at higher wages. A majority of the women in the Lowell mills belonged to the rural countryside, which relied on farms for their earnings . Life was better for women who chose to work in the Lowell Mills than those who worked in the farms for several reasons. The Lowell mills offered higher wages to the employees when compared to several other jobs. In most of the cases, the families sent their daughters forcefully to work in the mills as they could earn extra money. In some cases, the women wanted to leave the farms and work in the Lowell mills, as they felt the need for independence, which was available in abundance in the Lowell Mills . Some women preferred the mills as it was an opportunity for them to travel and move to a city, which was never possible on the farms. Women had to work for lesser wages and enjoyed no independence on the farms.
Life in the Lowell mills was greater in all aspects. The Lowell mills offered wealth and independence along with prosperity and happiness. The women never complained about their work as it offered future comfort and respectability to them . There was much scope for education as the mills spent huge amount on schools. The Lowell mills offered lectures on different subjects during the nights. Women had the opportunity to subscribe to libraries and spend valuable time reading and writing. Socialization is another reason that attracted women towards the Lowell mills. Women had the chance to meet new people of their age, which was uncommon on the farms. The Lowell mills offered boarding houses, where a group of women stay together . The owners of the Lowell mills assured a moral environment to the women and their parents. The owners instilled discipline and religion in the women working in the mills.
Supervisors took utmost care of the women and never allowed outsiders into the boarding houses. The boarding houses offered a joint-stock piano for the women. The women had warm cloaks, shawls and serviceable bonnets. The women who worked in the Lowell mills were healthier and handsome as the work in the mills was easier than the work on the farms . They maintained extreme cleanliness. Women had the option to choose an affiliate church-sponsored improvement program. The improvement circles gave birth to the publication ‘Lowell Offering’, which featured poems, essays, stories and the benefits of the factory life written by the women employed in the mills . While the daily life in the Lowell mills was great in the initial years, it turned out to be bitter as days passed by.
The women in the mills performed great amount of labor every day. They had to work for twelve to fourteen hours a day in unhealthy conditions in the fear of diseases and privation. Most of the women attended three looms per day and earned decent wages of about three dollars a week . The working conditions in the mills deteriorated due to the availability of immigrant labor. Due to the reduction in the wages, women had to work in schools as teachers during the Sundays. The time allotted for the meals was very short, due to which women could not fulfill their appetite. The new rules set up by the Lowell mills disappointed the women. They felt an assault upon their self-worth and dignity. When the women had to express their dissatisfaction, the editors failed to acknowledge with the fear of losing the reputation of the Lowell mills .
In the early nineteenth century, colonial America was predominantly agricultural. Both men and women worked on the agricultural plantations. The engagement of women in both economic and non-economic activities was common during this period. Several women also participated in discussions of public affairs. The legal status of the women was a direct outgrowth of the farming way of life. A married woman had to real legal existence. After the marriage, everything owned by the woman became the husband’s property . The concept of divorce was neither common nor acceptable during the early nineteenth century. The constitution made no mention of the rights of women. Women were unable to vote and participate in political offices. The early nineteenth century was a period when women fought for their rights. Various states gave women the right to hold and manage property. Feminists began to agitate for greater rights; however, the society viewed them as traditional and conservative . Women had limited opportunities in terms of selection of their careers. Women became active participants in the women’s rights movement. They demanded justice in various aspects, such as inability to own property, lack of political access, submission by men, lack of educational opportunities, and many others.
The market revolution had a tremendous impact on the beliefs and roles of gender in the United States. For women, the market revolution was an opportunity than a challenge. Women had the opportunity to actively participate in the market economy. They developed cottage industries and home crafts. Businesses such as milk, butter and egg earned great profits for women. Women became independent from the household activities. Several women joined shoe and clothing companies as sewers and fitters. Women had to accept the limitations of the new economy . The market revolution brought several immigrants to the United States, who belonged to both the genders. On the other hand, the affluent women raised huge funds, made investment decisions and secured corporate characters. Wage labor was common among women; however, the wages earned by women were lesser when compared to those of men . The outcome of market revolution was to encourage individualism and social atomization.
Republican motherhood born out of the American Revolution offered a degree of empowerment to women. While republican motherhood increased the educational and employment opportunities for women, it denied their political participation in the new republic. Republic motherhood assigned women the task of childbearing and fulfilling their responsibility as mothers and wives, which leads to the success of the republic . The role of a republican mother was to impart values and disciplines to her sons to make them virtuous citizens of the nation. While republic motherhood freed the women from slavery, it confined them to the domestic sphere. Women’s participation in the public threatened to exceed the bounds of gendered appropriateness. In certain ways, republican motherhood delayed the emergence of feminist activism in the United States by reserving the rights and citizenship to men and expanding the role of women into the domestic sphere .
Eisler, B. (1997). The Lowell Offering. Norton.