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Lowell National Historial Park

Lowell National Historical Park Illustration of Boott Cotton Mills, c. 1880
Courtesy of Lowell National Historical Park.

Lowell National Historical Park Historic Photo Residents of a Boott Mills Boardinghouse, c. 1880.
Courtesy of Lowell National Historical Park.

The Lowell National Historical Park, on the banks of the Merrimack River in Massachusetts, is one of many sites in the United States where the Industrial Revolution produced a new way of life for American women. In the 1820s, the Boston Association harnessed the power of the Merrimack river and built a series of mills and canals. By 1850, there were almost six miles of canals, 40 mill buildings, 320,000 spindles, and more than 10,000 workers. During that period the farmers of the newly settled west surpassed the New England farmers in productivity and the Boston Association tapped into that willing workforce. "Mill Girls," 18 to 35-year old women from rural farm families, were recruited and brought to Lowell to run spinning machines, looms, and dressers. The girls signed yearly contracts, lived in corporation owned and operated boardinghouses, such as the 1830s Boott corporation boardinghouse block. These young unmarried women worked 16-hour days, 6 days a week, with mandatory church services on Sunday and were paid once a month, earning $12 to $14 dollars. After paying $5 for room and board, the women had a disposable income of their own. The "Mill Girls" also formed an early labor organization-Lowell Female Labor Reform Association (LFLRA), and with mill worker Sarah Bagley petitioned the state legislature for a 10-hour workday. Most of the young women stayed for an average of three years, eventually leaving for marriage, a move west, or a job with better conditions. The era of the "Mill Girls" slowly came to an end in the mid-19th century with the influx of Polish, Irish and other immigrants willing to work for lower wages. Today, the Lowell National Historical Park uses the backdrop of historic mills and factories to interpret the early history of the women and men who worked and lived during America's Industrial Revolution.

The Visitor Center is open year round 9am until 5pm. The Boott Cotton Mills Museum and Working People Exhibit hours vary by season. For more information, call 978-970-5000, or click here.

Lowell National Historical Park is the subject of an online-lesson plan produced by Teaching with Historic Places, a National Register program that offers classroom-ready lesson plans on properties listed in the National Register. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.

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Last Modified: Monday, 30-Mar-98 15:42:58EST