The Lowell Mill Girls: Truly Striking Women

Process Paper

            When thinking of research topics pertaining to theme of revolution, reaction, and reform, the Lowell mill girls seemed like a good choice. The Lowell mills are a large part of our local history and were important step in declaring freedom and equality for women. The Lowell mill girls had more freedom than women had ever had before because they had more freedom than women who stayed at home.  
            I started my research at the Bedford Public Library. I checked out many books that seemed to relate well to my topic. My most important source was the book Loom and Spindle: Life among the Early Mill Girls, by Harriet Robinson, because it is a primary source written by a woman who worked in the mills during their early years. It presents factual information about the Lowell mills while also providing insight into the feelings of a woman working at the mills. After using books to research, I visited the Lowell mills themselves so as to get a feel for what it was like to be a girl at the mills. I was able to visit a few different museums and exhibits in Lowell. The museum at the Boott Cotton Mills helped me to get a better idea of the workplace of the mill girls. I got to see videos of real mill workers who shared their experiences. I also used two broad context sources, A New Order of Things and Industrial Revolution: People and Perspectives. Both of these books presented information on how the textile industry affected New England. These books really helped me understand how the revolution of the mill girls fit in with Industrial Revolution and the revolution of the textile industry. 
            My website includes nine different pages. I have a home page, a revolution page, a general reaction page with two sub pages about the two separate reactions I had, a reform page, my process paper, annotated bibliography, and a blog. I have two ways to navigate from page to page. One way is to use the bar at the top of the site and the other is to click the "forward to..." and "back to..." buttons at the bottom of each page. These buttons will lead you to the page which I thought would be most appropriate for you to see next, although it may not be the next page in the bar at the top. I structured my website this way because it makes it easy for one to find their way around.
The Lowell mill girls relates to the theme of revolution, reaction, and reform because those women were  pioneers in freedom for women. The mill girls were a revolution both in labor and in the realm of women and women's place. The mill girls abandoned the traditional role of women in the home and family and went to work in a public place; a role that was usually reserved for men. They were also a new form of labor for employers in Lowell. Women had never before been targeted for a certain job or role in society. The reaction to the mill girls leaving their families was that they created their own community within the mills. This community became like a family for many mill girls and provided them with the sense of support and comfort traditionally created by a family. The reaction to women being a new form of labor was that employers did not feel the need to treat them as well as male employees because the women had nowhere else where they could work. Because of both of these reactions, the mill girls went on strike. Their sense of community led them to be united and the fact that their employers made them work long hours and gave them little pay made the mill girls go on strike. These strikes were the reform because, although the strike for higher wages did not succeed, the strike for a shorter work day did. The Lowell mill girls were a new form of labor in America, and when they left their families and went to work at the mills they created a great sense of community which helped them when they went on strike for earning low wages and working long hours.         


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