Before viewing "The Lowell System," read and view the following materials. They represent a selection made by the professor based on the readings available to the onscreen teachers. For additional primary source readings, go to Resources.
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Primary Sources: Documents
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The Lowell Offering:
The following three selections are from the Lowell Offering, a publication which grew out of the Lowell Experiment's women's literary clubs.
"A Week in the Mill," Anonymous, Lowell Offering, Volume V, 1845
An anonymous writer describes a mill girl's typical week as neither idyllic nor terrible.
"Editorial: Two Suicides," Harriet Farley, Lowell Offering, Volume IV, 1844
This document responds to newspaper reports of two suicides committed by female millworkers.
"Letters from Susan," Harriet Farley, Lowell Offering, Volume IV, 1844
These articles describe factory life in the form of fictitious letters from a new mill girl to a friend at home.
Mary Paul Letter, November 5, 1848
Mary Paul, who works on and off in the Lowell factories, writes this letter to her father upon her return to Lowell after some time away.
Harriet H. Robinson, "Early Factory Labor in New England," 1883
Harriet H. Robinson, a worker in the Lowell factories from age 10 to 23, describes the changes brought about by women's ability to earn a more substantial income and about the strike of 1836, which followed a decrease in wages.
"Female Workers of Lowell," The Harbinger, November 14, 1836
A magazine report investigates the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, and Manchester, New Hampshire.
Charles Dickens, "General Appearance of Mill Workers," from American Notes, 1842
In the following selection, Charles Dickens describes his visit to Lowell, which was part of his four-month-long tour of America in 1842.
Lucy Larcom, A New England Girlhood, 1889
Lucy Larcom, a millworker and contributor to the Lowell Offering, describes some of her observations about the mills and the mill girls' lives.
A Biography of America: Video Series (optional)
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Program 7: The Rise of Capitalism (26:46)
Individual enterprise merges with technological innovation to launch the Commercial Revolution—the seedbed of American industry. The program features the ideas of Adam Smith, the efforts of entrepreneurs in New England and Chicago, the Lowell Mills Experiment, and the engineering feats involved in Chicago's early transformation from marsh to metropolis.
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