JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
The Lowell Offering is an extraordinary publication, featuring in its editorial and production and writing staff the women who worked in the many factories in Lowell, Massachusetts. It didn't start out that way--it was an ordinary-ish journal begun by Reverend Abel Charles Thomas (1807-1880, and pastor of the First Universalist Church) in 1840 and filled with popular notions and polite works by the locals. The tables changed in 1842/3, and the writing was switched, the stories and fictions and observations made by the women of the factory, and the journal stayed that way until it folded in 1845. Women had been working in the mills of Lowell since it was Lowell, created by Francis Cabot Lowell, who got the place up and running in about 1823 as a model working community that hummed with hundreds of looms, making the area one of the leading textile producers in the world. Actually, "hummed" is a poor selection of words--it was really more like a noisy bedlam, a cacophony of metal and leather, the background radiation so to speak of several generations of workers in America.
"Lowell Massachusetts was founded in the 1820s as a planned manufacturing center for textiles and is located along the rapids of the Merrimack River, 25 miles northwest of Boston. By the 1850s Lowell had the largest industrial complex in the United States. The textile industry wove cotton produced in the South. In 1860, there were more cotton spindles in Lowell than in all eleven states combined that would form the Confederacy. Mind Amongst the Spindles is a selection of works from the Lowell Offering, a monthly periodical collecting contributed works of poetry and fiction by the female workers of the textile mills. The Lowell Mill Girls, as the workers were known, were young women aged 15-35. The Offering began in 1840 and lasted until 1845. As its popularity grew, workers contributed poems, ballads, essays and fiction. The authors often used their characters to report on conditions and situations in their lives and their works alternated between serious and farcical..."
To the Factory Girls
"We cordially invite the Factory Girls of Lowell, and the operatives and working people generally, whether they agree with us or not, to make the Voice a medium of communication; for it is your paper, through which you should be heard and command attention. The Press has been too long monopolized by the capitalist non-producer, party demagogues and speculators, to the exclusion of the people, whose rights are as dear and valid."1845.11.07 Source: Industrialrevolution.org, which has MUCH else of interest.
A good introductory selection from The Lowell Offering is TALES OF FACTORY LIFE, No. 1 [from Lowell Offering, 1841], here.
Workingmen Publishing a Paper?
“What! Those Workingmen Publishing a Paper?—Yes, friends, as strange as it may seem, “Those ignorant Workingmen” have come to the singular conclusion, to do some of their own thinking, reading, and talking. We have lived long upon the dear bought teachings of those who measure cut their knowledge according to our goal, and as this is getting rather scarce we think duty demands, that we should stir up our ideas, and see what things we have stowed up rusting away, which may be of some little value to ourselves and a portion of the community. Will you allow it?" Source: Industrialrevolution.org, again, 1845.05.29
A very useful index with occasional links to articles can be found at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell
And Life Among the Spindles, located here. And also here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/37471/37471-h/37471-h.htm
It is interesting reading, if not syrupy at times, and very highly sentimental (Dickens, in his tour of America in 1842, commented “Of the merits of the Lowell Offering as a literary production, I will observe…that it will compare advantageously with a great many English Annuals.”)--nevertheless there's much in there to give an idea of what it was like as a lower-middle-class working stiff woman. Bottom line, it is a fabulous thing.