September 19, 2021 Comment off
According to the female factory worker, what was the experience of working in the Lowell factories like?
Historical Context: The early industrial revolution centered on factories producing cotton textiles with water-powered spinning and weaving machinery. In the 1820s, a group of merchants created a new factory town near Boston, incorporated as the city of Lowell in 1836. Here, they built a group of modern textile factories that brought together all phases of production from the spinning of thread to the weaving and finishing of cloth. By 1850, Lowells fifty-two mills employed more than 10,000 workers. At Lowell, young unmarried women (fem sols) from Yankee farm families dominated the workforce that tended the spinning machines. Capitalist competition among the mills led to a deterioration in working conditions and, beginning in the 1830s, protests among workers. They engaged in strikes or turn outs, and petitioned the legislature to limit their hours of labor. Founded in 1845, the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association published a series of Factory Tracts to expose conditions in the mills. Frequently, as in this account by an unnamed worker, they drew an analogy between their conditions and those of southern enslaved African Americans. Source: Factory Tracts Number One. Factory Life As It Is (Lowell, 1845). Voices of Freedom, Vol. I, (3rd Ed., by Eric Foner. PHILANTHROPISTS of the nineteenth century!shall not the operatives of our country be permitted to speak for themselves? Shall they be compelled to listen in silence to [ ] who speak for gain, and are the mere echo of the will of the corporations? Shall the worthy laborer be awed into silence by wealth and power, and for fear of being deprived of the means of procuring his daily bread? Shall tyranny and cruel oppression be allowed to rivet the chains of physical and mental slavery on the millions of our country who are the real producers of all its improvements and wealth, and they fear to speak out in noble self-defense? Shall they fear to appeal to the sympathies of the people or the justice of this far-famed republican nation? God forbid! Much has been written and spoken in womans behalf, especially in America; and yet a large class of females are, and have been, destined to a state of servitude as degrading as unceasing toil can make it. I refer to the female operatives of New England the free states of our union the states where no colored slave can breathe the balmy air, and exist as such;but yet there are those, a host of them, too, who are in fact nothing more nor less than slaves in every sense of the word! Slaves to a system of labor which requires them to toil from five until seven oclock, with one hour only to attend to the wants of nature, allowed slaves to the will and requirements of the powers that be, however they may infringe on the rights or conflict with the feelings of the operative slaves to ignorance and how can it be otherwise? What time has the operative to bestow on moral, religious or intellectual culture? How can our country look for aught but ignorance and vice, under the existing state of things? When the whole system is exhausted by unremitting labor during twelve and thirteen hours per day, can any reasonable being expect that the mind will retain its vigor and energy? Impossible! Common sense will each every one the utter impossibility of improving the mind under these circumstances, however great the desire may be for knowledge. Again, we hear much said on the subject of benevolence among the wealthy and so called, Christian part of community. Have we not cause to question the sincerity of those who, while they talk benevolence in the parlor, compel their help to labor for a mean, paltry pittance in the kitchen? And while they manifest great concern for the souls of the heathen in distant lands, care nothing for the bodies and intellects of those within their own precincts? Shall we esteem men honest in their pretensions to piety and benevolence, who compel their help to labor on the Sabbath day or lose their situation? Have they made their regulations hold up to the world a large amount of piety, and a great desire that those in their employ shall be religiousso much so that they have made a corporation law, that no one shall be retained in their employ who is not a constant attendant on public worship. Will those who are obliged to hear the noise and confusion caused by some fifty or more men, with teams of oxen, and all the noise consequent on such occasions, together with splitting and blasting of rock, to their great annoyance while in their places of worshipwill these be deceived by such hypocritical pretensions of piety, and love to the moral interests of the community in which they live? In the strength of our united influence we will soon show these driveling cotton lords, this mushroom aristocracy of New England, who so arrogantly aspire to lord it over Gods heritage, that our rights cannot be trampled upon with impunity; that we WILL not longer submit to that arbitrary power which has for the last ten years been so abundantly exercised over us. An Operative. Directions: Answer the following questions with specific references to the primary source: (20 points total) 1. According to the female factory worker, what was the experience of working in the Lowell factories like? (5 points) 2. Why does she feel the work was so exploitative and degrading and what did she also want to do with her time? (5 points) 3. Why does she feel that the factory owners were hypocrites in relation to their advertised Christian piety? (5 points) 4. What else stood out to you in the primary source, or other observations, thoughts, or questions that you had while reading the source? (5 points)