Thursday, October 2, 2014

Wanting to Work in the Mills?

Video: Daughters of Free Men

Factory conditions during the Industrial Revolution were torturous and horrible. Even though everyone knows that, there were reasons girls wanted to go to the mills and start working there. A lot of girls, including Lucy, begged their parents to let them work. Lucy is the girl from the Daughters of Free Men video. Lucy Hall wanted to go to the Lowell Mills to work, and make money to send back to her home to help pay for mortgage. Her father was very hesitant to send his little girl away to work in Lowell. We were asked what we would do if we were Lucy's father, and I said I would be fine with sending her. If she really wanted to work there, and would make more money for her family, I would think it was a good idea. The rest of the video revealed more about Lucy and the girls she worked with in Lowell. Once the girls got to Lowell, they were very excited. It was a real city! There were many people and places to see, and they were excited to buy city dresses during their time there. They were all very interested in the general atmosphere. However, once the work started, the girls became frustrated. The wages weren't very high, and they didn't have much time for meals and relaxing. The girls decided to protest. Harriet is a girl who shows Lucy how to run the weaving machine. It is clear that Harriet is much more determined to protest and fight for better wages than Lucy is. This is because Lucy has a home, and somewhere to go. Harriet does not have a home she can easily return to, so she wants to be treated more fairly. The strike failed and the mill owners ended up hiring new people.

Benefits of Working at Mills

The decision to go to a mill and work was a huge decision for a girl in these times. They had to consider both the costs and benefits of working at a mill. The benefits are mostly based on independence. Benefits of being a "Mill Girl" also included the girls sending home money. The girls sent home money to help pay the mortgage for their families. Also, they learned to care about money more and be more independent. It was good for the girls to earn their own money and buy their own clothes because they felt like their own person. If they stayed home, they would most likely make their own boring clothes, rather than going into the city and buying dresses. In Lowell, the girls got 3 months of education, and there is even a book containing a collection of articles written by factory girls. The cover of the image shows that the girls were educated and had a life outside of the mills. It was also good in the social aspect, because the girls met friends at the mills as well as family figures. Even though a lot of good seemed to come out of working, the mills were definitely not all fun and games. 

Cover of book with my edits on it.

Costs of Working at Mills

A lot had to be sacrificed in order to work at the mills in a factory. The family the girls belonged to had to give their child away. It was very emotional for families to let their child go, as one can tell in the photo below. At the mills, a new set of problems had to be faced by the girls working there. First of all, health and injuries hugely impacted the workers. A lot of injuries and accidents are explained in this article about factories in Great Britain. Even though this is not about Lowell Mills, many of the same accidents may have occurred. Machinery was being handled all day, which is bound to cause injury. Health was also a big issue. Many girls were working in the same room, so once one worker got sick, mostly every other one did too. Another cost was being away from family. One of the biggest downfalls was being treated unfairly by the overseers and mill owners. The girls were not treated with the respect they deserved when working in the mills. It is not fair to punish a worker because they don't do something right only once. 

Photo showing a family letting their daughter go to work.

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