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Primary Sources - Workshop in American History The Lowell Systemhomesitemap
Introduction -Link Before You Watch Lectures and Activities - Link Classroom and Applications - Link

Workshop 3
Before You Watch


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.
Documents | A Biography of America Videos

  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.


image of a generic historical document"A Week in the Mill," Anonymous, Lowell Offering, Volume V, 1845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.


image of a generic historical document"Editorial: Two Suicides," Harriet Farley, Lowell Offering, Volume IV, 1844

This document responds to newspaper reports of two suicides committed by female millworkers.


image of a generic historical document"Letters from Susan," Harriet Farley, Lowell Offering, Volume IV, 1844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.


image of a generic historical documentMary 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.


image of a generic historical documentHarriet 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.


image of a generic historical document"Female Workers of Lowell," The Harbinger, November 14, 1836

A magazine report investigates the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, and Manchester, New Hampshire.


image of a generic historical documentCharles 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.


image of a generic historical documentLucy 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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image of a starProgram 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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