I am fortunate to live in an area of New England where there is a rich history in textile manufacturing and development. Lowell, MA is an area which at one time was home to 55 textile mills - that is an incredible figure if you consider the size of each of these buildings and the required energy needed to run them efficiently. Lowell was built as a factory city around the Merrimack River to take advantage of the water power generated by the nearby Pawtucket Falls.
While Lowell is extraordinary in terms of it's contribution to the Industrial Revolution, the mill owners were also viewed as somewhat progressive in their thinking by hiring a very large number of women employees. The vast majority of mill workers in the early to mid 1800's were young single women from small rural farms. A factory job promised a brighter future - a chance for independence. What's not to like? A cash paying job, room and board, not to mention the excitement of living on their own in "the big city" This combination was a huge lure for these women whose only other prospect was a hard life working in the fields.
As part of my tour, I was able to view some of the large looms in operation. The first floor loom room consist of close to 100 machines. At the time of my visit, only 12 machines were actually running - the noise was deafening. I can not imagine what conditions were like for "The Mill Girls" - not only was the noise unbearable, add in the inherent dust and lint generated in the manufacturing process - what a horrible environment!
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the mill as well as at the Mill Girls Boarding House and would encourage anyone to take the time to schedule a visit.