Interpretative observation at a textile mill by Amanda Myers (AKA Lisa L.)

Working in a Lowell Textile Mill

February 3, 1845 - Monday

My name is Amanda Myers. My parents had left the area to go to the west. They say there was cheap land out west. My decision was to stay at home with my brother, Joseph Myers and my older sister, Annette Myers. The winter is almost over, and I am thinking of going to work in a Lowell, Massachusetts factory with my aunt, Elizabeth Walker and some of her friends. It gets kind of boring on a farm, and it's not all the time when a woman gets to have a job that will pay money. My cousins can work on the farm. They like chasing the chickens and giving water to the horses. I think I would like factory life. My aunt says working in a factory isn't going' to be so easy. She says it's going to be a lot of hard work and very tough but I think I'm tougher than any old factory work!

February 5, 1845 - Wednesday

I went to work at the factory. The people here told me that it was completed a few weeks ago. The windows are tightly closed shut and it is kind of stuffy in the work rooms. Working in a factory isn't so hard for me. Maybe it is because it was my first day. The rules in the factory are very strict. If anyone gets hurt by one of the machines, one would be able to move from her place. We are now living in one of the houses that belongs to the factory, while my cousins work on the farm with my uncle. Working in this factory has so many rules that I can't remember them all and they make the women here work like a horse. The ways and conditions we have to work in, is terrible but I don't want my aunt to think that I am complaining about the work, even if I am.

February 9, 1845 - Wednesday

For the last four days that I had gone to work, the ladies have been talking about going and talking to the boss about the way we are being treated and to talk about how much our salary is. I think something bad is going to happen if the boss starts to think about changing our pay or even makes us work more. I learned that in 1837 there was a depression. It was one of the town's most severe depressions. In Lowell, the people working in those mills must have been furious with their pay. Now we get paid three dollars a week. Just think how much they got then. This is how it is all year long at work:

        1. January 11/24
        2. February 12
        3. March 11/52
        4. April 13/31
        5. May 12/45
        6. June 12/45
        7. July 12/45
        8. August 12/45
        9. September 12/23
        10. October 12/10
        11. November 11/56
        12. December 11/24

I have to remember all my schedules because if I forget and do the wrong thing, the boss will make me work overtime or I'll get fired.

The boss says he doesn't mind if anyone gets fired because more and more people are coming from other countries to work here. He says he can get them to work for less pay then us. Sometimes I think the boss is nice and sometimes I think what he is telling everyone to do is silly. He tells us "Take care of yourself." Nothing is wrong with people taking care of themselves but if someone is bleeding and is in a great amount of pain, no one can go over to that person to help or else they will be fired.

February 13, 1845 - Thursday

Today at work the boss put up a flyer on the front door of factory. It said the following information:

To the worker of this Lowell mill,
There is a slight difference in the time that you are going to be working. You will not be working five days a week. From now and beyond this point, the worker of this Lowell mill will be working six a days a week because it seems to be when everyone is working five days a week, the work is not getting done. The hours of these days will not be increased if a change in the working effort is seen. Starting on Monday, this will be in full effect. Anybody, who has a problem with the new law, may come to my office and will be punished severely. Have a nice day.
Your boss,
N. Thornberry

When some of the older women read this letter and got angry, they started a riot outside the factory doors.

A lady yelled, "The boss is coming!"

Everybody rushed inside because they knew if the boss saw them making all that noise and protesting he would fire them on the spot. I think the ladies were showing their feelings about what that letter said.

After that happened there was a meeting schedule in Room Two on the second floor at lunchtime. The people who did the most talking at the meeting were Sara Ann White and Mary Jean Walker, two good friends of my aunt. Sara Ann and Mary Jean protested what might happen if we don't go to tell the boss that we are getting tired and angry about the way we are being treated here. They made a big speech and then someone from the back said that the boss was coming.

First I was frightened because I thought I was going to be fired but the boss didn't see me. I ducked down. There were so many people in the room that the boss could not get into the room. When the bell rang, everyone in the room rushed out and went to their post.

While everyone was coming out of the room, the boss got knocked over. He lay down on the floor for a while before he got up. No one went to help him up because they thought that if they helped him up, he would fire them. When he got up from the ground, he wanted to know what had just happened.

One lady said, "You fell down and hurt your head."

His answer was "Why didn't one of you people come and help me up?"

Her answer was, "You said no one can move from their post without permission."

Everyone knew. They wanted to laugh but didn't.

February 21, 1845 - Friday

Everything has been going okay ever since Mary Jean talked to the boss, Mr. Thornberry. There was a new book with articles by factory girls. I think I am beginning to become deaf because when my aunt was talking to me, I didn't even hear her until she started to scream at me.

February 25, 1845 - Tuesday

Today everybody in the mill was starting to faint because the air in the mill. Everyone was asking the boss could we please open the window but he would let us, he just kept going on about what the air would do to the thread. Mrs. Wakens passed out right next to me when she was fixing a bobbin. Then some more people started to fall down at first I thought they had died from all the work, and then I felt my throat starting to clog up and then I fell down. The next thing I remember is that I'm back at the machines working, then it's lunchtime. That was real strange.

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