The Working Ladies Of Lowell

Proud and independent, the farm girls of New England helped build an industrial Eden, but its paternalistic innocence was not to last

Dusk fell over the city of Lawrence, Massachusetts, a few minutes before five o’clock on January 10, 1860. In the five-story brick textile factory owned by the Pemberlon Manufacturing Company, lamps began to flicker in the ritual of “lighting-up time.” The big building—nearly three hundred feet long and eighty-five wide—rumbled unceasingly with the noise of its hundreds of machines for turning cotton into cloth: its scutchers and spreaders, carders, drawing frames and speeders; its warpers and dressers; and its power looms for weaving the finished fabric.