Uses of Liberty Rhetoric Among Lowell Mill Girls

For the young women who left home to work in the Lowell Mills, liberty rhetoric came to define the nature of their identities within the mills. When women felt that the work was undiginified, or feared that people might see them as coarse because they did it, they drew on liberty rhetoric to defend themselves. As the paternal, parental conditions of mill life gave way to the industrial time and culture of the marketplace, women workers often resisted. In 1834 and 1836, Lowell mill workers went on strike, using liberty rhetoric to make their case against their employers.

Lives of Lowell Mill Girls

Lowell and the Mills

"A Plan of Sundry Farm &c. of Patucket in the Town of Chelmsford, 1821." (Lowell Historical Society).

"Plan of the City of Lowell, 1845." (Lowell Historical Society).

Pictorial Map of the Merrimack Company, Lowell, Massachusetts, c. 1850. (Lowell Historical Society).

Fabric Label for Merrimack Power Loom Jeans Yardage, c. 1830. (Merrimack Valley Textile Museum)

Images of Lowell Mill Girls

Drawing of a Mill Girl, from the Cover of the Lowell Offering, 1840.
Questions to Ponder

Tintype of Two Woman Weavers, 1860 (Merrimack Valley Textile Museum)
Questions to Ponder

The Contours of Lowell Mill Girls' Working Days

"Drawing In," an illustration from A History of Wonderful Inventions (New York: Harper, n.d.) (Merrimack Valley Textile Museum)
Questions to Ponder

Time Table of the Lowell Mills (Merrimack Valley Textile Museum)
Questions to Ponder

The Culture of the Mill Girls

Title Page of the Lowell Offering, 1840 (Merrimack Valley Textile Museum)
Questions to Ponder

"Song of the Spinners" from the Lowell Offering, 1841 (Merrimack Valley Textile Museum)
Questions to Ponder

Letter from Delia Page, a Lowell Mill Girl, 1861

The Lowell Mill Strikes of 1834 and 1836:

1834 Boston Transcript reports on the Strike
Questions to Ponder

Liberty Rhetoric in the Lowell Mill Strikes of 1834 and 1836:

Poem that Concluded Lowell Women Workers' 1834 Petition to the Manufacturers
Questions to Ponder

1836 Song Lyrics Sung by Protesting Workers at Lowell
Questions to Ponder

Go to the Lowell Mill Girls Picture Gallery

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