TS 209-236 - Did the Industrial Revolution Provide More...

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Did the Industrial Revolution Provide More Economic Opportunities for Women in the 1830s? Women, Work, and Protest in the Early Lowell Mills: “The Oppressing Hand of Avarice Would Enslave Us” by Thomas Dublin - Before Lowell textile mills, MA was a celebrated economic and cultural attraction - Visitors struck by the newness of both mills and city as well as by the culture of the female operatives - In 1821, someone bought land and water rights along the Merrimack River and built a textile manufacturing center - Then additional mills were constructed - Lowell expanded, became the nation’s largest textile manufacturing center, pressure of competition began - Overproduction became a problem, prices decreased, wages reduced - in 1834 and 1836, women went on strike to protest wage cuts - petition campaigns aimed at reducing the hours of labor in the mills 1843-1836 - development of a close-knit community among women working in the mills - mill women created the mutual bonds which made possible united action in times of crisis - the women are considered a “community” because of the development of bonds of mutual dependence among them - the mutual dependence among women in early Lowell was rooted in the structure of mill work itself. - Women only became proficient and felt satisfaction in their work after several months in the mill - Through this system of job training, the textile corporations contributed to the development of community among female operatives - The first months in the mill were the most important - Many women worked in pairs - Informal sharing of work often went on among regular operatives - Paid on a piece rate basis
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- Living conditions also contributed to the development of community among female operatives, lived in boarding houses - Recruitment of newcomers into the mills and their initial hiring was mediated through the boarding house system - Women usually came because they knew someone who’d already worked at Lowell - Initial hiring was a personal process, once settled in the boarding house a newcomer had to find a job in the mill - Upon entering the boarding house, the newcomer came under pressure to conform with the standards of the community of operatives - Boarding houses centers of social life - Power of the peer group extreme - One should not conclude, however, that women always enforced a moral code agreeable to Lowell’s clergy, or to the mill agents and overseers for that matter. - Group pressure to conform played a significant role in the response of women to changing mill conditions - The homogeneity of the mill workforce also contributed to the development of community - Men and women had completely different jobs, worked separately - Ethnically homogeneous - In Feb. 1834, 800 Lowell women went on strike to protest a proposed reduction in
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This note was uploaded on 03/25/2010 for the course HIST h105 taught by Professor Heath during the Summer '09 term at Indiana Kokomo.

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TS 209-236 - Did the Industrial Revolution Provide More...

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