1810-1860 American Industrial Revolution:

1810, US industry $115 million worth of goods; 1860, $2 billion - second only to Britain in total output.

1810 most cloth still made in homes; 1860 nation’s largest industry.


Boston merchant Francis Cabot Lowell:

inspected textile mills of Manchester - power looms;

1820s established new mill town, Lowell MA

idea of industrialization reinforcing American virtues;

new labor source - farmers' daughters in New England;

women working about 73 hours a week, 12/13 hours a day;

paternalistic system of labor management – protected environment,

company-run boardinghouses, close supervision;

nurturing cultural environment – library, lecture series, magazine Lowell Offering.


two levels of waterwheels powering 10,000 looms, employing over 10,000 women & men.

At peak producing one million yards of cloth per week;

1850, Lowell second largest city in Mass.

1830s, increasing competition;

1834 company announced wage cuts up to 15%

strike - 800 workers walked out;

1836 another strike;

1844 Sarah Bagley (come to Lowell from NH 1836) - organized Lowell Female Labor Reform Association;

2000 signatures on petition demanding 10-hour workday;

Testified before Mass. legislature

Set stage for later actions – showed that working women not docile, ready to defend well-being & organize;

Lowell employed immigrant Irish workers;

1860, over 60,000 women employed in New England cotton textile industry alone - more in papermaking, shoemaking;

overall, more working on family farms, as domestic servants, or in “feminine occupations” – millinery, schoolteaching;


1853 Sarah Josepha Hale, Godey’s: ”Home is woman’s world; the training of the young her profession; the happiness of the household her riches; the improvement of morals her glory.  Such would be her position were the world rightly ordered.”

“Louis A. Godey employs now 88 female operatives in the different departments of the Lady’s Book!”


 1830s, one out of every four or five American-born white women in Massachusetts taught at some point in life. 




Catherine Beecher: “Let every woman become so cultivated and refined in intellect that her taste and judgment will be respected; so benevolent in feeling and action that her motives will be reverenced; so unassuming and unambitious that competition will be banished; so gentle and easy… that every heart will repose in her presence; then, the fathers, husbands, and sons will find an influence thrown around them….”

“separate spheres” - “cult of domesticity” or the “cult of true womanhood”;

western frontier;

Early 1800s immigrants from Ireland,Germany