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Archived Articles
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Was Your Grandmother a Lowell Mill Girl?
Published: 10 May 2010
By: Shirley Gage Hodges   Biography & Archived Articles

Shirley G. Hodges
Was Your Grandmother a Lowell Mill Girl? Many individuals in the United States, who are tracing their roots, will discover a Lowell Mill girl in their background. These young ladies, aged 15 to 25, worked in the Lowell, Massachusetts textile mills in the 19th century. By the late 1840's Lowell was the largest industrial center in the United States

In order to run such a large operation they had to employ young ladies from all over New England. They recruited all over New England looking for young ladies who were working on the farms. They knew that these young ladies were accustomed to working long and hard hours. These women moved to Lowell where they worked for a few years and then many of them returned to their former locations to marry and start families of their own. Some, of course, settled in the Massachusetts area.

The young women lived in boarding houses that were run by the firms. They had a very strict set of rules that they had to live by such as church attendance, curfews and good moral conduct. Their work week averaged 73 hrs. per week. There were only four holidays when the mills would be closed and they were allowed to be off work:
  • Fast Day
  • Fourth of July
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Christmas Day

Lowell Mill Girls' work-week averaged 73 hours

As a result of long hours, inadequate pay and difficult working conditions, the women organized one of the earliest labor unions for women in the United States, the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association. It is believed to be the first women's labor union to work for better working conditions and wages for its members.

There have been many books and articles written about the lives of the Lowell Mill Girls. The following YouTube video provides some more background on Lowell and its Mill Girls:

SOURCE: Lowell Mill Girls, YouTube. More video is available here

If you are going to be attending the Ontario Genealogical Society Seminar in Hamilton, May 13-15, 2011, I would love to have a chance to talk with you. I will be spending a lot of time at the Global Genealogy booth so stop by and say hello.

Until next time :)

Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email:

Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930

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