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Lowell Mills Girls

Lowell mills Girls

Textile Factory

Lowell mills were the largest textile company in the mid-ninetieth century. The company employed children who spent the whole of their lives as employees in the firm[1]. However, the owners of the company established boarding facilities to attract female employees. The female employees were expected to work in the facility for some time and then proceed with their normal lives. The company also introduced educational facilities to promote the welfare of the employees and attract more work forces. However, the company initiated rules and regulations that attempted to regulate the lives of the employees. The employees adopted some of the regulations and opposed others. The employees used various mechanisms to respond to such regulations which they deemed to have regulated their freedom and rights.

The textile industries regulated the lives of their employees in the mid-nineteenth century by introducing laws that restricted the activities of the employees in the firms. The companies introduced laws that workers were expected to comply with. The regulations affected employees who were working in various residential areas. For instance, the employees who were occupying the boarding houses belonging to Merrimack manufacturing company were expected to adhere to various provisions[2]. The employees were not expected to host any person who was not an employee of the company with official permission from the employer. This regulation barred several employees from staying in close contact with their immediate family members. As a result, the social ties of the employees were affected. The employees did not find the opportunity to watch over children. The company outlined specific guidelines to regulate the movement of the employees in and out of the houses. The regulations required all the doors to be closed by 10 pm, and violation of this rule required sufficient evidence or excuse[3]. In this regards, the employees did not have adequate leisure time with friends. The species of the animals to be kept by the employees were regulated. For instance, no employee was allowed to keep swine within the company premises. Men were not allowed within the boarding houses, and over 26 women occupied each house.

Employees who had not displayed good character were not allowed to board in the company houses. The company did not employ any person who displays immoral character or is addicted to any drug or intemperance. These regulations limited the social life of the employees. They were made to act as slaves since strict adherence to the regulations was required. Anybody who objected the regulations was dismissed with immediate effect. These rules are considered as unfamiliar and did not favor the development of the employees in their respective careers[4]. Besides, the people who were residing within the company premises were not allowed to associate with immoral people. Anybody who was suspected to have any relations with individuals suspected of a crime was dismissed. Majority of the people who were employed in these factories were women and children. The early textile industries also regulated the religion of the employees. All the employees who worked in these industries were required to observe the Sabbath. The employees who worked in these industries worked from 5 am in the morning to 7 p.m. Majority of the workers were women. Each machine was assigned 80 women with only two men acting as the overseers[5]. The noise produced by the machines was infernal and frightful. The doors and windows were kept closed making the rooms hot and unsuitable for the ladies female employees. The nature of work in the firms affected the intellectual development of the employees.

All the employees working in the company were expected to observe the rules to the latter. Male overseers were assigned to check the activities of the female employees. The workers were obliged to board the houses constructed by the company. Their activities at the boarding houses were monitored by the male overseers appointed by the company. The employees were not expected to be absent from work. The company did not employ employees who were absent from public worship on the Sabbath[6]. These regulations restricted the regulation of worship of the workers. The employees of the company were also restricted from accommodating anyone who was not an employee of the company. The company boarding facilities were meant for the company employees only.

The female employees were assigned designated places where they were expected to reside. Employees who had served for the longest time in the factory slept in the Northern chamber while new employees occupied the Southern chamber. Such a decision restricted the freedom of the choice of the employees. The manners of the employees at the table were also regulated. The employees were expected to exhibit good manners during the meals. This was act of slavery which curtailed the freedom of the employees within the boarding facilities. The employees who resided in the boarding houses were served with only one lamp to serve the whole chamber. The boarders were not allowed to take the lights to their chambers. Moreover, the boarders had Sunday as the appointed day of worship.

The employees created a strong bond of friendship while serving in the company. The strong bond united the women and made it possible for them to organize strikes to champion their demands. The female employees employed at the Lowell Factory learned several tactics from Yankee farm communities which they utilized to fight unladylike actions[7]. During the mid 19th century, several trade union organizations excluded women from their union membership. However, the women working at the factory maintained a close relationship with trade unionists. They shared many concerns and the unions assisted them in forming feminists’ movements to champion their agenda. The feminist movement advocated for labor reforms to scrap restrictions imposed on women lives. The movements were fueled by the company policies to cut wages of the employees by 15%. The board of directors of the company agreed to this decision to allow the company to respond positively to the economic depression witnessed in the 1830s. The company increased the rent paid by the employees in the boarding facilities to allow them cut the cost of living.

The employees responded to these regulations to allow them to lead a productive life. They formed trade unions and appointed leaders to address their grievances. Besides, they held demonstrations to compel the employers to give in to their demands. The women workers formed Factory Girls Association to resist attempts by the company directors to cut their wages[8]. Apart from strikes, the workers also sought legal redress in the State Legislature to address their issues. They signed petitions to the Massachusetts General Court to demand a reduction in the number of working hours to ten. The female workers also advocated for the employment of more male employees to take up responsibilities in the firms. The textile industry was rapidly expanding, and more people were required to fill the new jobs. The demands of the female workers and legal petitions compelled the company executives to give in to some of their applications to improve the working conditions in the textile factories.

In conclusion, the regulations initiated in the company attempted to influence the lives of the employees. Some of these regulations influenced the freedom of worship of the employees. The regulations relating to the boarding facilities restricted family relations since the workers were not allowed to host anybody who was not an employee of the company. Moreover, the chambers were congested since each hosted over 26 female employees. Men who are working at the factory felt discriminated since the management barred them from residing in the boarding facilities. The female employees worked in unfriendly working environments which was not appropriate for their gender. They were prompted to join various labor organizations to champion their grievances to the company executive or board members. The employees used strike and other industrial labor resolution techniques to ensure that their grievances were heard.

  • [1] Abbott, Edith. A Sister’s Memories: The Life and Work of Grace Abbott from the Writings of Her Sister, Edith Abbott. University of Chicago Press, 2015
  • [2] Abbott, Edith. A Sister’s Memories: The Life and Work of Grace Abbott from the Writings of Her Sister, Edith Abbott. University of Chicago Press, 2015
  • [3] Abbott, Edith. A Sister’s Memories: The Life and Work of Grace Abbott from the Writings of Her Sister, Edith Abbott. University of Chicago Press, 2015
  • [4] Baxandall, R. F., Gordon, L., & Reverby, S. (Eds.). (1995). America’s working women: A documentary history, 1600 to the present. WW Norton & Company
  • [5] Baxandall, R. F., Gordon, L., & Reverby, S. (Eds.). (1995). America’s working women: A documentary history, 1600 to the present. WW Norton & Company
  • [6] Baxandall, R. F., Gordon, L., & Reverby, S. (Eds.). (1995). America’s working women: A documentary history, 1600 to the present. WW Norton & Company
  • [7] Baxandall, R. F., Gordon, L., & Reverby, S. (Eds.). (1995). America’s working women: A documentary history, 1600 to the present. WW Norton & Company
  • [8] Abbott, Edith. A Sister’s Memories: The Life and Work of Grace Abbott from the Writings of Her Sister, Edith Abbott. University of Chicago Press, 2015.

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