Origins of Female Millhands, Hamilton Manufacturing Company, Lowell, MA 1836.

Enticed by labor recruiters and granted permission by parents, many of the first operatives at industrial textile mills were young women from the distant countryside.  Their families might be in need of cash to settle debt, buy land, or send a son to college.  For the women, the mills offered a comparatively high wage (more so than teaching, the other main female occupation), relative independence (despite attentive presence of a boardinghouse keeper), as well as the lively culture of a bustling city. 

What does this map show about the geographic origins of so-called “mill girls”?  How far did they travel to take positions in the mills?  What do you think that journey was like at the time? 


Fig. 3.3. Origins of Female Millhands, map, in Thomas Dublin, Transforming New England Lives in the Industrial Revolution, 83. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994.