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Lowell Documents - C HAPTER 7 AWAY FROM HOME T HE WORKING G...

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CHAPTER 7 AWAY FROM HOME: THE WORKING GIRLS OF LOWELL lem involves a clash: a conflict be- tween ideas (the cult) and reality (the factory system). Go through the evi- dence again, this time trying to recon- struct what it was really like for the young women who lived and worked in Lowell. Ask yourself to what degree and in what ways they might have de- viated from the ideal of "true" women. Also ask whether they could have achieved this ideal goal-and whether they really wanted to-while working and living in Lowell. In other words, try to clarify in your own mind the forms of the conflict and the reactions (of both society and the young women) to that conflict. jf THE EVTDENCE jt Source 1 from Orestes A. Brownson, Boston QuarterLy Reuiew 3 (July 1840): 368-370. 1. Slave Labor Versus Free Labor, 1840. In regard to labor, two systems obtain: one that of slave labor, the other that of free labor. Of the two, the first is, in our judgment, except so far as the feelings are concerned, decidedly the least oppressive. If the slave has never been a free man, we think, as a genelal rule, his sufferings are less than those of the free laborer at wages.As to actual freedom, one has just about as much as the other. The laborer at wages has all the disadvantages of freedom and none of its blessings, while the slave, if denied the blessings, is freed from the disadvantages. It is said there is no want in this country. There may be less in some other countries. But death by actual starvation in this country is, we apprehend, no uncommon occurrence. The sufferings of a quiet, unassuming but useful classof females in our cities, in general seamstresses, too proud to beg or to apply to the almshouse, are not easily told. They are industrious; they do all that they can find to do. But yet the little there is for them to do, and the miserable pittance they receive for it, is hardly sufficient to keep soul and body together. . . . The average life-working life, we mean-of the girls that come to Low- ell, for instance, from Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, we have been assured, is only about three years. what becomes of them then? Few of them ever marryo; fewer still ever return to their native places with repu- 6. According to historian Thomas Dublin in Women at Worh (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), the working women of'Lowell tended to marry in about the same proportion as f1521
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THE E\'IDENCE tations unimpaired.,,She damn to infamy the most has worked in a factory" is almost enough to worthy and virtuous girl. . . . Source 2 from Reverend Heryy A. Mills, Lowell, As It Was, and As1l Is (Lowell, Mass.: Powers, Bagley, and Dayton, 1g46). 2. A Lowell Boardinghouse, 1g45. lReuerend Milrs began by.describing the rong brocks of boardinghouses, each three stories high, which were .built in a style reml.niscent os "ountryior*houses.
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