NEW-ENGLAND. 1824. On the Proper Occupations of Women in America.
By the hand of fair Isabel, Waller, there is something noble and touching, in the universal and yet simple and unpretending homage with which these people treat the weaker sex. I am sure a woman here has only to respect herself in order to meet with universal deference. I now understand what Cadwallader meant when he said that America was the real Paradise of woman. The attention aud manliness which he exhibited for the Abigail of the little Isabel, is common to the meanest man, at least in New-England. I traversed the country in harvest time, and scarcely recollect to have seen six females in the fields, and even they appeared there only on the emergency of some passing shower. When one considers the price which labour bears, this solitary fact is in itself pregnant with meaning. A little boy whom I conveyed with his father in my wagon a dozen miles, (for I neglected no opportunity to mix with the people,) laughed aloud as he pointed with his father and cried, `' There is a woman at work among the men!" Had he seen her riding a warhorseen militaire, he could scarcely have been more amused. After all, what nobler or more convincing proof of high civilization can be given than this habitual respect of the strong for the weak? The condition of women in this country is solely owing to the elevation of its moral feeling. As she is never misplaced in society, her influence is only felt in the channels of ordinary and domestic life.
I have heard young and silly Europeans, whose vanity has probably been wounded in finding them selves objects of secondary interest, affect to ridicule the absorbed attention which the youthful American matron bestows on her family; and some have gone so far in my presence, as to assert that a lady of this country was no more than an upper servant in the house of her husband. They pay us of the eastern hemisphere but an indifferent compliment, when they assume that this beautiful devotion to the first, the highest, and most lovely oftice of the sex, is peculiar to the women of station in America only. I have ever repelled the insinuation as becomes a man but, alas! what is the testimony of one who can point to no fireside, or household of his own, but the dreaming reverie of a heated brain ? Imaginary or not, I think one might repose his affections on hundreds of the fair, artless creatures he meets with here, with an entire confidence that the world has not the first place in her thoughts. To me, woman appears to fill in America the very station for which she was designed by nature. In the lowest conditions of life she is treated with the tenderness and respect that is due to beings whom we believe to be the repositories of the better principles of our nature. Retired within the sacred precincts of her own abode, she is preserved from the destroying taint of excessive intercourse with the world. She makes no bargains beyond those which supply her own little personal wants, and her heart is not early corrupted by the harmful and unfeminine vice of selfishness; she is often the friend and adviser of her husband, but never his chapman. She must be sought in the haunts of her domestic privacy, and not amid the wranglings, deceptions, and heart-burnings of keen and sordid traffic. So true and general is this fact, that I have remarked a vast proportion of that class who frequent the markets, or vend trifles in the streets of this city, occupations that are not unsuited to the feebleness of the sex, are either foreigners, or females descended from certain insulated colonies of the Dutch, which still retain many of the habits of thier ancestors amidst the improvements that are throwing them among the forgotten usages of another century.
The effect of this natural and inestimable division of employment, is in itself enough to produce an impression on the characters of a whole people. It leaves the heart and principles of woman untainted by the dire temptations of strife with her fellows. The husband can retire from his own sordid struggles with the world to seek consolation and correction from one who is placed beyond their influence. The first impressions of the child are drawn from the purest sources known to our nature; and the son, even long after he has been compelled to enter on the thorny track of the father, preserves the memorial of the pure and unalloyed lessons that he has received from the lips, and, what is far better, from the example of the mother. Though in every picture of life in which these bright colours are made, the strongest must be deadened by deep and painful shadows, I do firmly believe that the undeniable truth I have just written may be applied with as much, if not with more justice, to the condition and influence of the sex in New-England as in any portion of the globe. I saw every where the utmost possible care to preserve the females from undue or unwomanly employments. If there was a burthen, it was in the arms or on the shoulders of the man. Even labours that seem properly to belong to the household, were often performed by the latter; and I never heard the voice of the wife calling on the husband for assistance, that it was not answered by a ready, manly, an cheerful compliance. The neatness of the cottage, the farm-house, and the inn; thc clean, tidy, healthful, and vigorous look of the children, united to attest the use fulness of this system. What renders all this more striking and more touching, is the circumstance that not only is labour in so great demand, but, contrary to the fact in all the rest of christendom, the women materially exceed the men in numbers. This seeming depature from what is almost an established law of nature is owing to the emigration westward. By the census of 1820, it appears, that in the six States of New-England there were rather more than thirteen females to every twelve males over the age of sixteen.
LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS. October 13, 1827. Development of the manufacturing town.
Yesterday we were up betimes and off at nine o'clock to the great manufacturing establishment at Lowell, which has grown up in the last five years. The journey was twenty-five miles, and we made it out by one o'clock. We went at once to the house of Mr. Kirke Boott under whose immediate superintendence the works are. We rather expected that we should have had time to visit the manufacturies before dinner, which by the way was somewhat young in us, considering the experience we have had of American hours, but we were not prepared to find (altho' we arrived at one) we had kept the family waiting beyond their usual dining hour. In ten minutes we were seated at table, and such is the capability of one's appetite to accommodate itself to any hour, that, dining at one or at six, I always feel equally hungry. We swallowed our dinner with somewhat of American speed, as the days are short now and we had a great deal to see before dark. Five years ago Mr. and Mrs Kirke Boott took up their residence at Lowell where there was then no building except one or two little hovels, but last night we went over very extensive cotton manufacturies that have sprung up since that time, and on every side fresh ones are starting into life. This State is so very bad for agricultural purposes that they are driven to manufactures to gain a livelihood, but as yet they have neither skill nor capital to attempt anything fine or expensive, and the finest cottons they make at Lowell (printed ones I mean) are not beyond the value of fifteen pence a yard I should think. But with time and their desire to improve they will soon advance the quality.
24 MILES SOUTH OF SAVANNAH, GEORGIA. Mrs. Fulton's Tavern. March 13, 1828 Receiving Company during the Day; Domestic Labor of Married Women.
I have mentioned more than once how much time morning visit occupies in this country owing to the bad habit the ladies have of never being ready to receive company. I have found this to be the practice exscept at Washington where company alone is their occupation. English persons who have lived many hears in this country say that they too have observed this want of being ready to be quite universal. Mrs. Wardrobe, of Savannah, whose experience of the ways of this country is great, says that when anyone calls the lady called upon is probably Iying down quite in dishabille and has to dress, from her stays inclusive. She also confirmed what I have before heard of the active part they take in kitchen and other menial duties. The other day, for instance, in Savannah we drove past a house where there had been a great dinner on the preceeding day, and thro' the windows saw the ladies, with their white aprons on, busy washing up the glasses and tea-cups. If this were really necessary it might be all very meritorious, although even in that case I should think a better plan would be not to give parties, but Mrs. Wardrobe says that it is only bad management and that she never finds it necessary to give herself so much trouble. Another opinion which she also confirms is the low estimation in which women are held. She says that when a man marries the only qualification he looks for in his wife is that she should be a good housekeeper. There appears to be no sort of sympathy between the sexes. They have no subjects of conversation in common and at a dinner table, for instance, instead of sitting alternately even if there be but three or four of them to a dozen gentlemen, all get together. This, I think, a very great bore and always take care to avoid as much as I can. Hitherto I have observed in the slaveholding States the most utter disregard to religion, more especially on the part of the gentlemen; not only to the spirit but even to outward forms and observances.
CINCINNATI, OHIO. 1828. Conditions of Domestic Service for Young Girls in America
The greatest difficulty in organizing a family establishment in Ohio, is getting servants, or, as it is there called, "getting help," for it is more than petty treason to the Republic to call a free citizen a servant. The whole class of young women, whose bread depends upon their labour, are taught to believe that the most abject poverty is preferable to domestic service. Hundreds of half-naked girls work in the paper mills, or in any other manufactory, for less than half the wages they would receive in service; but they think their equality is compromised by the latter, and nothing but the wish to obtain some particular article of finery will ever induce them to submit to it. A kind friend, however, exerted herself so effectually for me, that a tall stately lass soon presented herself, saying, " I be come to help you." The intelligence was very agreeable, and I welcomed her in the most gracious manner possible, and asked what I should give her by the year.
"Oh Gimini!" exclaimed the damsel, with a loud laugh, "you be a downright Englisher, sure enough. I should like to see a young lady engage by the year in America! I hope I shall get a husband before many months, or I expect I shall be an outright old maid, for I be most seventeen already; besides, mayhap I may want to go to school. You must just give me a dollar and half a week, and mother's slave, Phillis, must come over once a week, I expect, from t'other side the water to help me clean.
I agreed to the bargain, of course, with all dutiful submission; and seeing she was preparing to set to work in a yellow dress parseme with red roses, I gently hinted, that I thought it was a pity to spoil so fine a gown, and that she had better change it.
''Tis just my best and my worst," she answered, “for I've got no other."
And in truth I found that this young lady had left the paternal mansion with no more clothes of any kind than what she had on. I immediately gave her money to purchase what was necessary for cleanliness and decency, and set to work with my daughters to make her a gown. She grinned applause when our labour was completed, but never uttered the slightest expression of gratitude for that, or for any thing else we could do for her. She was constantly asking us to lend her different articles of dress, and when we declined it, she said, "Well, I never seed such grumpy folks as you be; there is several young ladies of my acquaintance what goes to live out now and then with the old women about the town, and they and their gurls always lends them what they asks for; I guess you Inglish thinks we should poison your things, just as bad as if we was Negurs." And here I beg to assure the reader, that whenever I give conversations they were not made a loisir, but were written down immediately after they occurred, with all the verbal fidelity my memory permitted.
This young lady left me at the end of two months, because I refused to lend her money enough to buy a silk dress to go to a ball, saying, "Then 'tis not worth my while to stay any longer."
I cannot imagine it possible that such a state of things can be desirable, or beneficial to any of the parties concerned. I might occupy a hundred pages on the subject, and yet fail to give an adequate idea of the sore, angry, ever wakeful pride that seemed to torment these poor wretches. In many of them it was so excessive, that all feeling of displeasure, or even of ridicule, was lost in pity. One of these was a pretty girl, whose natural disposition must have been gentle and kind; but her good feelings were soured, and her gentleness turned to morbid sensitiveness, by having heard a thousand and a thousand times that she was as good as any other lady, that all men were equal, and women too, and that it was a sin and a shame for a free-born American to be treated like a servant.
When she found she was to dine in the kitchen, she turned up her pretty lip, and said, " I guess that's cause you don't think I'm good enough to eat with you. You'll find that won't do here." I found afterwards that she rarely ate any dinner at all, and generally passed the time in tears. I did every thing in my power to conciliate and make her happy, but I am sure she hated me. I gave her very high wages, and she staid till she had obtained several expensive articles of dress, and then, un beau matin, she came to me full dressed, and said, "I must go."-- " When shall you return, Charlotte ?"--" I expect you'll see no more of me." And so we parted. Her sister was also living with me, but her wardrobe was not yet completed, and she remained some weeks longer, till it was.
I fear it may be called bad taste to say so much concerning my domestics, but, nevertheless, the circumstances are so characteristic of America that I must recount another history relating to them. A few days after the departure of my ambitious belle, my cries for "Help" had been so effectual that another young lady presented herself, with the usual preface "I'm come to help you." I had been cautioned never to ask for a reference for character, as it would not only rob me of that help, but entirely prevent my ever getting another; so, five minutes after she entered she was installed, bundle and akkm as a member of the family. She was by no means handsome, but there was an air of simple frankness in her manner that won us all. For my own part, I thought I had got a second Jeanie Deans; for she recounted to me histories of her early youth, wherein her plain good sense and strong mind had enabled her to win her way through a host of cruel step-mothers, faithless lovers, and cheating brothers. Among other things, she told me, with the appearance of much emotion, that she had found, since she came to town, a cure for all her sorrows. "Thanks and praise for it, I have got religion!" and then she asked if I would spare her to go to Meeting every Tuesday and Thursday evening; "You shall not have to want me, Mrs. Trollope, for our minister knows that we have all our duties to perform to man, as well as to God, and he makes the Meeting late in the evening that they may not cross one another." Who could refuse? Not I, and Nancy had leave to go to Meeting two evenings in the week, besides Sundays.
One night, that the mosquitos had found their way under my net, and prevented my all, as a member of the family. She was by no means handsome, but there was an air of simple frankness in her manner that won us all. For sleeping, I heard some one enter the house very late; I got up, went to the top of the stairs, and, by the help of a bright moon, recognised Nancy's best bonnet. I called to her; "You are very late," said I, "what is the reason of it ?" "Oh, Mrs. Trollope," she replied, "I am late, indeed! We have this night had seventeen souls added to our flock. May they live to bless this night! But it has been a long sitting, and very warm; I'll just take a drink of water, and get to bed; you shan't find me later in the morning for it." Nor did I. She was an excellent servant, and performed more than was expected from her; moreover, she always found time to read the Bible several times in the day, and I seldom saw her occupied about any thing without observing that she had placed it near her.
At last she fell sick with the cholera, and her life was despaired of. I nursed her with great care, and sat up the greatest part of two nights with her. She was often delirious, and all her wandering thoughts seemed to ramble to heaven. " I have been a sinner," she said, " but I am safe in the Lord Jesus." When she recovered, she asked me to let her go into the country for a few days, to change the air, and begged me to lend her three dollars.
While she was absent a lady called on me, and inquired, with some agitation, if my servant, Nancy Fletcher, were at home. I replied that she was gone in the country. "Thank God," she exclaimed, "never let her enter your doors again, she is the most abandoned woman in the town: a gentleman who knows you, has been told that she lives with you, and that she boasts of having the power of entering your house at any hour of the night." She told me many other circumstances, unnecessary to repeat, but all tending to prove that she was a very dangerous inmate.
I expected her home the next evening, and I believe I passed the interval in meditating how to get rid of her without an eclaircissement. At length she arrived, and all my study having failed to supply me with any other reason than the real one for dismissing her, I stated it at once. Not the slightest change passed over her countenance, but she looked steadily at me, and said, in a very civil tone, "I should like to know who told you." I replied that it could be of no advantage to her to know, and that I wished her to go immediately. "I am ready to go," she said, in the same quiet tone, "but what will you do for your three dollars?" "I must do without them, Nancy; good morning to you." "I must just put up my things," she said, and left the room. About half an hour afterwards, when we were all assembled at dinner, she entered with her usual civil composed air, "Well, I am come to wish you all good bye," and with a friendly goodhumoured smile she left us.
This adventure frightened me so heartily, that notwithstanding I had the dread of cooking my own dinner before my eyes, I would not take any more young ladies into my family without receiving some slight sketch of their former history. At length I met with a very worthy French woman, and soon after with a tidy English girl to assist her; and I had the good fortune to keep them till a short time before my departure: so, happily, I have no more misfortunes of this nature to relate.
NEW YORK CITY. 1834. Female Labour in America.
A short time before I left New York, several thousand females struck for an advance of wages, and the Sun American paper of March, 1834, observes, "The low rate of female labour (in America) is a grievance of the very first magnitude, and pregnant with the most mighty ills to society. It demands the most serious consideration of those whose situations in life give them influence upon manners & customs. This unjust arrangement of remuneration for services performed diminishes the importance of women in society-renders them more helpless & dependent-destroys in the lower walks of life much of the inducements to marriage-& of course in the same degree increases the temptations to licentiousness. It is difficult to conceive why, even in those branches, wherein both sexes are engaged, there should be such an extreme degree of disparity in the recompense of labor as every person acquainted with the subject knows to exist." I was told by several tailors that the reason why their labor was paid so badly was, a great many women were employed in the trade, who worked for next to nothing. None but the very best hands amongst the men could get what was called good wages.
LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS. 1834. Wages for Mill Work; Moral Instruction and Rules of Conduct; Comparison to Manchester, England
The making of cotton fabric in Lowell employs six thousand women. Of that number, close to five thousand are young girs from seventeen to twenty-four years old, daughters of farmers from many different New England states, and particularly from Massachusetts, from New Hampshire and from Vermont; they are far from their families, left to themselves. In the morning and in the evening and at the meal hours, one can see them crossing the streets, properly clothed; finding suspended on the walls of their rooms, between the vases of flowers and the plants they tend there, their scarves and their shawls, and the green silk hoods which they wrap around their heads when they leave, in order to protect themselves from the sun and from the rain which is so abundant in Lowell (they have not had the time to pave the town) it is not like in Manchester! Follow me, I say. When someone told me the schedule of salaries, I understood that it was decidedly not like Manchester. Here are the average salaries they they were paid, by the Marrimack Corporation, during the month of last may, by week, that is to say for six days of work: [one dollar is roughly equivalent to five and a half francs]
Diverse operations before the spinning: 15f.73c., 16f.7c.,14f.83c.
Spinning, properly said................................16
Weaving of diverse qualities........................16f.64c., 16f.75c.
Preparation of the weft and pasting............18f.40c.,21f.12c.
Measuring and cutting....................................16f.75c.
The numbers are, I repeat, averages. The salaries of the most able workers are at 25 fr. and even 30 fr. Note that last March, at the moment the crisis had brought the quarrels of the President with the Bank, there was a general reduction of 1 fr. 50 c. to 2 fr. each week. You know how the work of women is little compensated in comparison to that of men in Europe. There are few women on the European continent, except in some large towns, who earn 1 fr. each day or 6 fr. each week. It is also necessary to state that in the United States, the necessary objects are at a lower price not only than in England, but also than in France. Thus a large number of workers in Lowell are able to save up to a dollar and a half (8 fr.) each week. At the end of four years spent in manufacturing, their savings is able to accumulate to two hundred fifty to three hundred dollars (1333 fr. to 1600 fr.) They then have a dowry, quit the fabric industry and marry.
In France it is difficult to imagine the position of young girls, pretty for the most part, thrown twenty, thirty, forty leagues from their families, in a town where their their parents have no one to watch over them or help them with wise advice. It is a fact even so that up to this day, allowing a small number of exceptions which confirm the rule more than they destroy it, this state of things has not had deplorable effects in Lowell. The English race has other manners than our French. There are other habits, other accepted ideas. The Protestant education draws around each individual a circle difficult to step across; much more so than Catholic education. Here the result is greater coldness in social relations, a more or less absolute absence of effusiveness and outpouring; but in turn each is obligated to and accustomed to more respect for the otherÕs person. That which in our land would be a prank of a young man, a kindness, is severely reproved in England and in America, especially by the Americans of New England, who are as someone said, are intensified Englishmen. Also, no one in this country is astonished to see the daughters of landowners leave their town and their parents after having received a passable education, to travel alone fifty or a hundred leagues to inhabit a new town where they know no one, and spend three or four years in this state of isolation and independence. They are under the safeguard of the public faith. This assumes an extreme reserve in manners, and in the public opinion a vigilant and inexorable rigor. It's necessary to admit that, in this system there is, widespread in that society, a coloring of sadness and even boredom; but when one reflects on the dangers to which the opposite system exposes the poor girl who doesnÕt have anyone to watch over her, when one counts the victims, it is very difficult, no matter what the popular sympathies, not to recognize that the Anglo-American prudery is well worth the ease of our tolerant manners, all things considered, whether or not it has charm.
The manufacturing companies watch over these young girls with scrupulous care. Twelve years ago Lowell didnÕt exist. When they constructed the factories, it was also necessary to build lodging for the workers. Each company then built in its enclosure houses which each become a boarding house exclusively for their use. They are there under the supervision of matrons who receive a pension, to which the company pays salary of 1 dollar and a quarter each week. These matrons, who are generally widows, answer for their boarders, and are themselves under the control of the company for the administration of their small community. Each company has its rules, which are not only rules on paper, and of whose strict exectuion is guarateed by this perseverant vigilance which is one of the distinctive attributes of the Yankee. I will give a succint account , for they seem proper to know many essential traits of the physiognomy of the country. I take these from the Lawrence Corporation, which is the must recent of them all. This is a corrected and revised edition from the rules of other companies. They are dated May 21 1833.
The first general rule is thus conceived: All the persons employed by this company must attend assiduously to their work during work hours. They must be capable of completing the work they have been given, or to make all their efforts to that effect. In all occasions they must , in their speech, in their acts, appear full of a praiseworthy love of temperance and virtue, and animated by a sentiment of their moral and social obligations. The Agent of the company will do his best to set a good example. All persons who will be notoriously dissolute, lazy, dishonest or drunk, who will have a habit of absence from divine services, who will violate the Sabbath, or who will gamble, will be dismissed from the company.
Article 2. All types of spirits are forbidden on company property, except by order of a doctor. All games of chance, all playing of cards is prohibited on company property and in the boarding houses.
The following articles, from three to thirteen, determine the powers of the principal employees, superintendent, assistant director, watchmen, armed guards, firemen. Article 13 establishes that all workers must live in a company boarding house, attend church services in one of the town churches regularly, and strictly observe the rules of the sabbath. Article 14 and the last contain a passage on the necessity of subordination and on the compatibility of obedience with civil and religious liberty.
There is one special rule in the boarding houses. It is there told that the company did not build these houses out of regard for the workers. As a consequence, the company imposes special obligations on the persons to whom she leases. The company holds them responsible for the property and for the comfortable state of these houses, for the punctuality and the quality of meals, for the good order and good harmony among the boarders. The company demands that the matrons do not receive anyone not employed at its factories; it makes them accountable for the conduct of the young girls. This same article stipulates the closing of doors at ten oÕclock, and repeats the injunction to go to church services.
These rules, which in our country would stir a thousand complaints and would be in fact impracticable, are here regarded as the most simple and the most natural thing. They are observed without opposition and without difficulty. Those which concern Sunday, for example, which is in our country a day of celebration, of movement and of pleasure, here it is the custom to dedicate it to silence, to prayer, to contemplation. This is one of the aspects in which the French way most differs from the Anglo-American way. As far as morals and religion, in our country there is an abandon and a tolerance which matches the American laissez-faire attitude in politics: while the principal of political authority, which has been vigorously constituted in our country for all time and in all the forms of government, monarchy, empire, or republic, corresponds to the severe reserve in American manners, to the inelasticity of their habits of life, and to the religious rigidity which exists here among the multiplicity of sects. It is true that the necessity of order and that of liberty are two of the essentials to human nature, and that it is impossible to form a socity with one of the principles alone! If you leave a portion of social institutions to liberty exclusively, be certain that the principle of order is made a part not less exclusive on another point. If you allow liberty to be the champion of politics, without division, you are imperiously constrained to give the complete ownership of religion and manners to order. Grant religion and manners to liberty, and you will find yourself obligated, under threat of allowing the society to fall into dissolution, to reinforce the principle of order in politics. These are the universal laws which govern the nations and the world of worlds.
To date, the rules of the companies have been observed. Lowell, with its factories higher than the steeples, is like a Spanish village with its nunneries; there is this difference, that in Lowell one encounters neither rags nor madonnas, and that the nuns, in place of making sacred hearts, spin cotton and weave calico. Lowell is not enjoyable, but Lowell is proper and decent, peaceable and sensible. Will it be so always? Will it be so for a long time? They would have the temerity to say yes. Up to now the history of the factories has shown itself little inclined to the maintenance of a severe morality. This is verified in France as in England; in Germany and Switzerland as in France. I recall from one of my friends who had passed through Arau (canton of Argovie), the following lines: "I see the industry which overcomes the mountains, which stretches arms over the most fertile lands. I am able to see also how she frees and how she demoralizes. In passing near a stranger, the countryman and the worker do not greet eachother; the young girl does not murmur "God I greet you" but she watches steadily and smiles. Nevertheless, as there exists an intimate relationship betwen these two facts, morality and ease, it is possible to regard as very probable that, as long as the salaries will be raised in Lowell, the influence of a reasonable education, the sentiment of duty and the fear of public opinion will suffice to maintain the moral habits here. Now, will the salaries in Lowell stay as they are?
There are reasons they may fall; the protective tariff of American industry is going to decrease by degree; on July 1 1842, it will be reduced to 20 per 100 at maximum. But also the procedures will be perfected, the workers will become more able, the capitalists will be recovering their costs, with the result that they will no longer see the need to collect dividends of 10 to 12 for 100. A drop is strongly possible, even after that of last March, because the worker is paid, in the factories at Lowell, below their standard value in the in the neighboring towns; but it will be limited. In Europe, it happens often that the worker lacks work; here, to the contrary, it is the work which lacks workers. So long as the Americans will have the vast domain of the West, at the end of which each, in return for work, will be able to draw by himself and for himself a handsome inheritance, the depreciation of manual labor will not be a fear.
Note 29. The town of Lowell is one of those where Puritan standards have been pushed the farthest. The presence of the young girls who work in the factories there is the principal motive. In 1836, one man was placed under arrest in Lowell, for the sole reason that he was a common fiddler. He was treated as if he had outraged the public morality. The magistrates of Lowell fear that the pleasures of dancing will give occasion for disorder among the workers.
Note 32. On the Morality of the Manufacturers.
In his Essay on Wages, M.H. Carey cites the following letter from the director of one of the factories of Lowell:
"There have never been more than three cases of illicit relations in our establishment, and , in the three cases, the parties were immediately married, many months before the birth of the infant; thus we do not count any births which are positively illegitimate."
M. Carey adds that he was assured that in the big factoriy of Douvres (New-Hampshire), there was not even one sole case of illigitimate birth.
I do not think that an exemplary purity reigns in all the manufacturing centers of the United States; but I am convinced that the morality of the working class is altogether in harmony with that of the rest of the population. M. Baines (History of Cotton Manufacture) recounts the efforts of these recent times, to put the English fabric on the same footing as those of Lowell. "There are a good number of factories, he says, in Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, and in Ecosse, where one can see that the workrooms were well-ventilated, proper and nearly elegant, to the great honor of the master and the workers; where the severe rules prevent immorality and dishonest talk; where the schools are open to all the children employed in the establishment; where young girls learn sewing and knitting; where one finds libraries for the use of the workers; where rewards are distributed to the children who attend the Sunday schools; where societies of aid for illness and accident are organized." M. Baines cites, among others, the philanthropic efforts of M. Ashton, who employs twelve hundred workers at Hyde, in Chester County.
OCCUPATION. General Treatise on Duties of Wives; Unhealthy Habit of Young Married Couples Residing in Boarding Houses; Domestic Servants; Charity and Religious Work; Manufacturing Professions; Governesses.
The greater number of American women have home and its affairs, wherewith to occupy themselves. Wifely and motherly occupation may be called the sole business of woman there. If she has not that, she has nothing. The only alternative, as I have said, is making an occupation of either religion or dissipation; neither of which is fit to be so used: the one being a state of mind, the other altogether a negation when not taken in alternation with business.
It must happen that where all women have only one serious object, many of them will be unfit for that object. In the United States, as elsewhere, there are women no more fit to be wives and mothers than to be statesmen and generals; no more fit for any responsibility whatever, than for the maximum of responsibility. There is no need to describe such: they may be seen everywhere. I allude to them only for the purpose of mentioning that many of this class shirk some of their labours and cares, by taking refuge in boarding-houses. It is a circumstance very unfavourable to the character of some American women, that boardinghouse life has been rendered compulsory by the scarcity of labour, the difficulty of obtaining domestic service. The more I saw of boarding-house life, the worse I thought of it; though I saw none but the best. Indeed, the degrees of merit in such establishments weigh little in the consideration of the evil of their existence at all. In the best it is something to be secure of respectable company, of a good table, a well-mannered and courteous hostess, and comfort in the private apartments: but the mischiefs of the system throw all these objects into the back-ground.
To begin with young children. There can be no sufficient command of proper food for them; nor any security that they will eat it naturally at the table where fifty persons may be sitting, a dozen obsequious blacks waiting, and an array of tempting dishes within sight. The child is in imminent danger of being too shy and frightened to eat at all, or of becoming greedy to eat too much. Next, it is melancholy to see girls of twelve years old either slinking down beside their parents, and blushing painfully as often as any one of fifty strangers looks towards them ;or boldly staring at all that is going on, and serving themselves, like little women of the world. After tea, it is a common practice to hand the young ladies to the piano, to play and sing to a party, composed chiefly of gentlemen, and brought together on no principle of selection except mere respectability. Next comes the mischief to the young married ladies, the most numerous class of women found in boarding-houses. The uncertainty about domestic service is so great, and the economy of boarding- house life so tempting to people who have not provided themselves with house and furniture, that it is not to be wondered at that many young married people use the accommodation provided. But no sensible husband, who could beforehand become acquainted with the liabilities incurred, would willingly expose his domestic peace to the fearful risk. I saw enough when I saw the elegantly dressed ladies repair to the windows of the common drawing-room, on their husbands' departure to the counting-house, after breakfast. There the ladies sit for hours, doing nothing but gossiping with one another, with any gentlemen of the house who may happen to have no business, and with visitors. It is true that the sober-minded among the ladies can and do withdraw to their own apartments for the morning: but they complain that they cannot settle to regular employments as they could in a house of their own. Either they are not going to stay long; or they have not room for their books, or they are broken in upon by their acquaintances in the house. The common testimony is, that little can be done in boarding-houses: and if the more sober-minded find it so, the fate of the thoughtless, who have no real business to do, may be easily anticipated. They find a dear friend or two among the boarders, to whom they confide their husbands' secrets. A woman who would do this once would do it twice, or as often as she changes her boarding-house, and finds a new dear friend in each. I have been assured that there is no end to the difficulties in which gentlemen have been involved, both as to their commercial and domestic affairs, by the indiscretion of their thoughtless young wives, amidst the idleness and levities of boardinghouse life. As for the gentlemen, they are much to be pitied. Public meals, a noisy house, confinement to one or two private rooms, with the absence of all gratifications of their own peculiar convenience and taste, are but a poor solace to the man of business, after the toils and cares of the day. When to these are added the snares to which their wives are exposed, it may be imagined that men of sense and refinement would rather bear with any domestic inconvenience from the uncertainty and bad quality of help, than give up housekeeping. They would content themselves, if need were, with a bread and cheese dinner, light their own fire, and let their wives dust the furniture a few times in the year, rather than give up privacy, with its securities. I rather think that the gentlemen generally think and feel thus; and that when they break up housekeeping and go to boarding-houses, it is out of indulgence to the wishes of their wives; who, if they were as wise as they should be, would wish it seldomer and less than they do.
The study of the economy of domestic service was a continual amusement to me. What I saw would fill a volume. Many families are, and have for years been, as well off for domestics as any family in England; and I must say that among the loudest complainers there were many who, from fault of either judgment or temper, deserved whatever difficulty they met with. This is remarkably the case with English ladies settled in America. They carry with them habits of command, and expectations of obedience; and when these are found utterly to fail, they grow afraid of their servants. Even when they have learned the theory that domestic service is a matter of contract, an exchange of service for recompense, the authority of the employer extending no further than to require the performance of the service promised, when the ladies have learned to assent in words to this, they are still apt to be annoyed at things which in no way concern them. If one domestic chooses to wait at table with no cap over her scanty chevelure, and in spectacles, if another goes to church on Sunday morning, dressed exactly like her mistress, the lady is in no way answerable for the bad taste of her domestics. But English residents often cannot learn to acquiesce in these things; nor in the servants doing their work in their own way; nor in their dividing their time as they please between their mistress's work and their own. The consequence is, that they soon find it impossible to get American help at all, and they are consigned to the tender mercies of the low Irish; and every one knows what kind of servants they commonly are. Some few of them are the best domestics in America: those who know how to value a respectable home, a steady sufficient income, the honour of being trusted, and the security of valuable friends for life: but too many of them are unsettled, reckless, slovenly; some dishonest, and some intemperate.
The most fortunate housekeepers I found to be those who acted the most strenuously on principles of justice and kindness. Such housekeepers are careful, in the first place, that no part of the mutual duty shall pass unexplained; no opening be left for future dispute that can be avoided. The candidate is not only informed precisely what the work is, and shown the accommodations of the house, but consulted with about cases where the convenience of the two parties may clash. For instance, the employer stipulates to be informed some hours before, when her domestic intends to go out; and that such going out shall never take place when there is company. In return, she yields all she can to the wishes of her domestic about re creation, receiving the visits of her family, &c. Where a complete mutual understanding is arrived at, there is the best chance of the terms of the contract being faithfully adhered to, and liberally construed, on both sides: and I have seen instances of the parties having lived together in friendship and contentment for five, seven, eleven, and fourteen years. Others, again, I have seen who, without fault of their own, have changed their servants three times in a fortnight. Some, too, I have observed who will certainly never be comfortably settled, unless they can be taught the first principles of democracy.
Many ladies, in the country especially, take little girls to train; having them bound to a certain term of service. In such a case, the girl is taken at about eleven years old, and bound to remain till she is eighteen. Her mistress engages to clothe her; to give her Sunday-schooling, and a certain amount of weekday schooling in the year; and to present her at the end of the term (except in case of bad behaviour) with fifty dollars, or a cow, or some equivalent. Under a good mistress, this is an excellent bargain for the girl; but mistresses complain that as soon as the girls become really serviceable, by the time they are fourteen or fifteen, they begin to grow restless, having usually abundance of kind friends to tell them what good wages they might get if they were free. In several abodes in which I resided for a longer or shorter time, the routine of the house was as easy and agreeable as any Englishman's; elsewhere, the accounts of domestic difficulties were both edifying and amusing. At first, I heard but little of such things; there being a prevalent idea in America that English ladies concern themselves very little about household affairs. This injurious misapprehension the ladies of England owe, with many others, to the fashionable novels which deluge the country from New York to beyond the Mississippi. Though the Americans repeat and believe that these books are false pictures of manners, they cannot be wholly upon their guard against impressions derived from them. Too many of them involuntarily image to themselves the ladies of England as like the duchesses and countesses of those low books: and can scarcely believe that the wives of merchants, manufacturers, and shopkeepers, and of the greater number of professional men, buy their own provision, keep household accounts, look to the making and mending, the baking, making of preserves, &c., and sometimes cook, with their own hands, any dish of which their husbands may be fond. When it was found, from my revelations, that English and American ladies have, after all, much the same sort of things to do, the real state of household economy was laid open to me.
All American ladies should know how to clear- starch and iron: how to keep plate and glass: how to cook dainties: and, if they understand the making, of bread and soup likewise, so much the better. The gentlemen usually charge themselves with the business of marketing; which is very fair. A lady, highly accomplished and very literary, told me that she had lately been left entirely without help, in a country village where there was little hope of being speedily able to procure any. She and her daughter made the bread, for six weeks, and entirely kept the house, which might vie with any nobleman's for true luxury; perfect sufficiency and neatness. She mentioned one good result from the necessity: that she should never again put up with bad bread. She could now testify that bread might always be good, notwithstanding changes of weather, and all the excuses commonly given. I heard an anecdote from this lady which struck me. She was in the habit of employing, when she wanted extra help, a poor woman of colour, to do kitchen-work. The domestics had always appeared on perfectly good terms with this woman till, one day, when there was to be an evening party, the upper domestic declined waiting on the company; giving as a reason that she was offended at being required to sit down to table with the coloured woman. Her mistress gently rebuked her pride, saying " If you are above waiting on my company, my family are not. You will see my daughter carry the tea tray, and my niece the cake." The girl repented, and besought to be allowed to wait; but her assistance was declined; at which she cried heartily. The next day, she was very humble, and her mistress reasoned with her, quite successfully. The lady made one concession in silence. She had the coloured woman come after dinner, instead of before.
A country lady travelled thirty miles to a town where she thought she might intercept some Irish, coming down from Canada into the States, and supply herself with domestics from among them. She engaged to send them thirty miles to confession, twice a year, if they would live with her.CAnother country lady told me that her family suffered from want of water, because the man objected to bring it. The maids fetched it; and even the children, in their little cans. The man was sturdy on the point, and she could not dismiss him for such a reason, he was such a laughable servant; though he could not drive, from having only one eye, and always got drunk when his work was done. The same lady had her house pretty well kept, by dint of superintending everything herself: but, when she wanted her rooms papered, she thought she might leave that kind of work to the artist who undertook it. When it was done, she was summoned to look at it, and called upon to admire the way in which the man had " made every crease show." He had spent his ingenuity in contriving that the pattern should not join in any two strips.
The mother of a young bride of my acquaintance flattered herself that she had graced her daughter's new house, during the wedding journey, with two exemplary domestics. The day previous to the bride's return, before the women had seen either master or mistress, they gave notice that they were going away directly, in consequence of the receipt of some family news which had changed their plans. They were prevailed upon to stay for a week, when they persisted in going, though no successors had been obtained, and their young mistress was to receive her company the next day. That made the matter desperate was that the bride knew nothing of housekeeping. She made them cook as much provision, to be eaten cold, as would possibly keep; and when they had closed the door behind them, sat down and cried for a whole hour. How she got out of her troubles, I forget: but she was in excellent spirits when she told me the story.
Many anecdotes are current about the manners of the young people who come down from the retired parts of the country to domestic service in Boston. A simple country girl obeyed her instructions exactly about putting the dimmer upon the table, and then summoning the family. But they delayed a few minutes, from some cause; and when they entered the dining-room, found the domestic seated and eating. She had helped herself from a fowl, thinking that " the folk were so long a-coming, the things would get cold." A young man from Vermont was hired by a family who were in extreme want of a footman. He was a most friendly personage, as willing as he was free and easy; but he knew nothing of life out of a small farm-house. An evening or two after his arrival, there was a large party at the house. His mistress strove to impress upon him that all he had to do at tea-time was to follow, with the sugar and cream, the waiter who carried the tea; to see that every one had cream and sugar; and to hold his tongue. He did his part with an earnest face, stepping industriously from guest to guest. When he had made the circuit, and reached the door, a doubt struck him whether a group in the furthest part of the room had had the benefit of his attentions. He raised himself on his toes with, " I'll ask;" and shouted over the heads of the company, " I say, how are ye off for sweetenin' in that ere corner ?"
These extreme cases sound ridiculously and uncomfortably enough: but it must be remembered that they are extreme cases. For my own part, I had rather suffer any inconvenience from having to work occasionally in chambers and kitchen, and from having little hospitable designs frustrated, than witness the subservience in which the menial class is held in Europe. In England, servants have been so long accustomed to this subservience; it is so completely the established custom for the mistress to regulate their manners, their clothes, their intercourse with their friends, and many other things which they ought to manage for themselves, that it has become difficult to treat them any better. Mistresses who abstain from such regulation find that they are spoiling their servants; and heads of families who would make friends of their domestics find them little fitted to reciprocate the duty. In America it is otherwise: and may it ever be so! All but those who care for their selfish gratification more than for the welfare of those about them will be glad to have intelligent and disinterested friends in the domestics whom they may be able to attach, though there may be difficulty at first in retaining them; and some eccentricities of manner and dress may remain to be borne with.
One of the pleasures of travelling through a democratic country is the seeing no liveries. No such badge of menial service is to be met with throughout the States, except in the houses of the foreign ambassadors at Washington. Of how much higher a character American domestic service is than any which would endure to be distinguished by a badge, the following instance will show. I spent an evening at the house of the president of Harvard University. The party was waited on at tea by a domestic of the president's, who is also Major of the Horse. On cavalry days, when guests are invited to dine with the regiment, the major, in his regimentals, takes the head of the table, and has the president on his right hand. He plays the host as freely as if no other relation existed between them. The toasts being all transacted, he goes home, doffs his regimentals, and waits on the president's guests at tea.
As for the occupations with which American ladies fill up their leisure; what has been already said will show that there is no great weight or diversity of occupation. Many are largely engaged in charities, doing, good or harm according to the enlightenment of mind which is carried to the work. In New England, a vast deal of time is spent in attending preachings, and ether religious meetings: and in paying visits, for religious purposes, to the poor and sorrowful. The same results follow from this practice that may be witnessed wherever it is much pursued. In as far as sympathy is kept up, and acquaintanceship between different classes in society is occasioned, the practice is good. In as far as it unsettles the minds of the visitors, encourages a false craving for religious excitement, tempts to spiritual interference on the one hand, and cant on the other, and humours or oppresses those who need such offices least, while it alienates those who want them most, the practice is bad. I am disposed to think that much good is done, and much harm: and that, whenever women have a greater charge of indispensable business on their hands, so as to do good and reciprocate religious sympathy by laying hold of opportunities, instead of by making occupation, more than the present good will be done, without any of the harm.
All American ladies are more or less literary: and some are so to excellent purpose: to the saving of their minds from vacuity. Readers are plentiful: thinkers are rare. Minds are of a very passive character: and it follows that languages are much cultivated. If ever a woman was pointed out to me as distinguished for information, I might be sure beforehand that she was a linguist. I met with a great number of ladies who read Latin; some Greek; some Hebrew; some German. With the exception of the last, the learning did not seem to be of much use to them, except as a harmless exercise. I met with more intellectual activity, more general power, among many ladies who gave little time to books, than among those who are distinguished as being literary. I did not meet with a good artist among all the ladies in the States. I never had the pleasure of seeing a good drawing, except in one instance; or, except in two, of hearing good music. The entire failure of all attempts to draw is still a mystery to me. The attempts are incessant; but the results are below criticism. Natural philosophy is not pursued to any extent by women. There is some pretension to mental and moral philosophy; but the less that is said on that head the better.
This is a sad account of things. It may tempt some to ask 'what then are the American women?' They are better educated by Providence than by men. The lot of humanity is theirs: they have labour, probation, joy, and sorrow. They are good wives; and, under the teaching of nature, good mothers. They have, within the range of their activity, good sense, good temper, and good manners. Their beauty is very remarkable; and, I think, their wit no less. Their charity is overflowing, if it were but more enlightened: and it may be supposed that they could not exist without religion. It appears to superabound; but it is not usually of a healthy character. It may seem harsh to say this: but is it not the fact that religion emanates from the nature, from the moral state of the individual? Is it not therefore true that unless the nature be completely exercised, the moral state harmonised, the religion cannot be healthy ?
One consequence, mournful and injurious, of the ' chivalrous' taste and temper of a country with regard to its women is that it is difficult, where it is not impossible, for women to earn their bread. Where it is a boast that women do not labour, the encouragement and rewards of labour are not provided. It is so in America. In some parts, there are now so many women dependent on their own exertions for a maintenance, that the evil will give way before the force of circumstances. In the meantime, the lot of poor women is sad. Before the opening of the factories, there were but three resources; teaching, needle-work, and keeping hoarding-houses or hotels. Now, there are the mills; and women are employed in printing-offices; as compositors, as well as folders and stitchers.
I dare not trust myself to do more than touch on this topic. There would be little use in dwelling upon it; for the mischief lies in the system by which women are depressed, so as to have the greater number of objects of pursuit placed beyond their reach, more than in any minor arrangements which might be rectified by an exposure of particular evils. I would only ask of philanthropists of all countries to inquire of physicians what is the state of health of sempstresses; and to judge thence whether it is not inconsistent with common humanity that women should depend for bread upon such employment. Let them inquire what is the recompense of this kind of labour, and then wonder if they can that the pleasures of the licentious are chiefly supplied from that class. Let them reverence the strength of such as keep their virtue, when the toil which they know is slowly and surely destroying them will barely afford them bread, while the wages of sin are luxury and idleness. During the present interval between the feudal age and the coming time, when life and its occupations will be freely thrown open to women as to men, the condition of the female working classes is such that if its sufferings were but made known, emotions of horror and shame would tremble through the whole of society.
For women who shrink from the lot of the needle women, almost equally dreadful, from the fashionable milliner down to the humble stocking-darner, for those who shrink through pride, or fear of sickness, poverty, or temptation, there is little resource but pretension to teach. What office is there which involves more responsibility, which requires more qualifications, and which ought, therefore, to be more honourable, than that of teaching ? What work is there for which a decided bent, not to say a genius, is more requisite? Yet are governesses furnished, in America as elsewhere, from among those who teach because they want bread; and who certainly would not teach for any other reason. Teaching and training children is, to a few, a very few, a delightful employment, notwithstanding all its toils and cares. except to these few it is irksome; and, when accompanied with poverty and mortification, intolerable. Let philanthropists inquire into the proportion of governesses among the inmates of lunatic asylums. The answer to this question will be found to involve a world of rebuke and instruction. What can be the condition of the sex when such an occupation is overcrowded with candidates, qualified and unqualified ? What is to be hoped from the generation of children confided to the cares of a class, conscientious perhaps by and most, but reluctant, harassed, and depressed? The most accomplished governesses in the United States may obtain 600 dollars a-year in the families of southern planters; provided they will promise to teach everything. In the north they are paid less; and in neither case, is there a possibility of making provision for sickness and old age. Ladies who fully deserve the confidence of society may realise an independence in a few years by school-keeping in the north: but, on the whole, the scanty reward of female labour in America remains the reproach to the country which its philanthropists have for some years proclaimed it to be. I hope they will persevere in their proclamation, though special methods of charity will not avail to cure the evil. It lies deep; it lies in the subordination of the sex: and upon this the exposures and remonstrances of philanthropists may ultimately succeed in fixing the attention of society; particularly of women. The progression or emancipation of any class usually, if not always, takes place through the efforts of individuals of that class: and so it must be here. All women should inform themselves of the condition of their sex, and of their own position. It must necessarily follow that the noblest of them will, sooner or later, put forth a moral power which shall prostrate cant, and burst asunder the bonds, (silken to some, but cold iron to others,) of feudal prejudices and usages. In the meantime, is it to be understood that the principles of the Declaration of Independence bear no relation to half of the human race ? If so, what is the ground of the limitation ? If not so, how is the restricted and dependent state of women to be reconciled with the proclamation that " all are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ? "
LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS. Nov. 15, 1841 Wages in the Mills; Education in Lowell.
Went twenty-six miles to the north of Boston, by an excellent railway, to the manufacturing town of Lowell, which has sprung up entirely in the last sixteen years, and now contains about 20,000 inhabitants. The mills are remarkably clean, and weII warmed, and almost all for making cotton and woollen goods, which are exported to the west. The young women from the age of eighteen to twenty-five, who attend to the spinning-wheels, are good-looking and neatly dressed, chiefly the daughters of New England farmers, sometiines of the poorer clergy. They belong, therefore, to a very different class from our manufacturing population, and after remaining a few years in the factory, return to their homes, and usually marry.
We are told that, to work in these factories is considered far more eligible for a young woman than domestic service, as they can save more and have stated hours of work (twelve hours a day !), after which they are at liberty. Their moral character stands very high, and a girl is paid off, if the least doubt exists on that point. Boarding-houses, usually kept by widows, are attached to each mill, in which the operatives are required to board; the men and women being separate. This regard for the welfare and conduct of the workpeople when they are not on actual duty is comparatively rare in England, wherc the greater supply of labour would render such interference and kind superintendence much more practicable. Still we could not expect that the results would be equally satisfactory with us, on account of the lower grade of the operatives, and the ignorance of the lower classes in England. In regard to the order, dress, and cleanliness of the people, these merits are also exemplified in the rural districts of Lancashire, and it is usually in our large towns alone, that the work people are unhealthy and squalid, especially where a number of the poor Irish live crowded together in bad dwellings.
The factories at Lowell are not only on a great scale, but have been so managed as to yield high profits, a fact which should be impressed on the mind of every foreigner who visits them, lest, after admiring the gentility of manner and dress of the women and men employed, he should go away with the idea that he had been seeing a model mill, or a set of gentlemen and ladies playing at factory for their amusement. There are few children employed, and those under fifteen are compelled by law to go to school three months in the year, under penalty of a heavy fine. If this regulation is infringed, informers are not wanting, for there is a strong sympathy in the public mind with all acts of the legislature, enforcing education. The Bostonians submit to pay annually for public instruction in their city alone, the sum of 30,000l. sterling, which is about equal to the parliamentary grant of this year (1841) for the whole of England, while the sum raised for free schools in the state this year, by taxes for wages of teachers, and their board, and exclusive of funds for building, exceeds 100,000l. sterling.
The law ordains, that every district containing fifty families shall maintain one school, for the support of which the inhabitants are required to tax themselves, and to appoint committees annually for managing the funds, and choosing their own schoolmasters. The Bible is allowed to be read in all, and is actually read in nearly all the schools; but the law prohibits the use of books "calculated to favour the tenets of any particular sect of Christians;" Parents and guardians are expected to teach their own children, or to procure them to be taught, what they believe to be religious truth, and for this purpose besides family worship and the pulpit, there are Sunday-schools. The system works well among this church-building and churchgoing population.
LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS. July 30, 1841.Wages in the Mill; Morality of Mill Workers; Education; Literary and Charitable Societies
On the 30th, in company with JOHN G. WHITTIER and C. STEWART PENSNAW, I went over to Lowell, the chief seat of the woollen and cotton manufacture in America. Less than twenty years ago, there were not more than forty or fifty houses on the site of this flourishing city, which now contains upwards of twenty thousand inhabitants. Its numerous mills are all worked by water power, and belong to incorporated joint-stock companies. We were obligingly shown over two of the largest woollen and cotton factories, where every stage of the manufacture was in process, from the cotton, or sheep's wool, to the finished fabric. We also visited works, where the printing of cottons is executed in a superior style, besides a new process for dyeing cotton in the thread, invented by an Englishman, now in the establishment. The following abstract of the manufacturing statistics of Lowell, on the first of January, 1841, will show the great importance to which this new branch of industry has attained with such unprecedented rapidity.
"Ten joint-stock companies, with a capital of ten millions of dollars, having thirty-two woollen and cotton factories, besides print works, et cat., with one hundred and seventy-eight thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight spindles, and five thousand five hundred and eighty-eight looms, employing two thousand one hundred and seventy-two males, and six thousand nine hundred and twenty females; who made, in 1840, sixty-five millions eight hundred and two thousand four hundred yards of cotton and woollen cloths, in which were consumed twenty-one millions four hundred and twenty-four thousand pounds of cotton alone.
" The average amount earned by the male hands emploped, exclusive of their board, is four dollars and eighty cents, or about twenty shillings sterlings per week, and of the females two dollars, or about eight shillings and sixpence per week."
But the most striking and gratifying feature of Lowell, is the high moral and intellectual condition of iti working population. In looking over the books of the mills we visited, where the operatives entered their names, I observed very few that were not written by themselves; certainly not five per cent. of the whole number were signed with a mark, and many of these were evidently Irish. It was impossible to go through the mills, and notice the respectable appearance and becoming and modest deportment of the " factory girls," without forming a very favourable estimate of their character and position in society. But it would be difficult indeed for a passing observer to rate them so high as they are proved to be by the statistics of the place. The female operatives are generally boarded in houses built and owned by the " corporations" for whom they work, and which are placed under the superintendence of matrons of exemplary character, and skilled in housewifery, who pay a low rent for the houses, and provide all necessaries for their inmates, over whom they exercise a general oversight, receiving about one dollar and one-third from each per week. Each of these houses accommodates from thirty to fifty young women, and there is a wholesome rivalry among the mistresses which shall make their inmates most comfortable. We visited one of the boarding houses, and were highly plessed with its arrangement. A considerable number of the factory girls are farmers' daughters, and come hither from the distant States of Vermont and New Hampshire, et cet., to work for two, three, or four years, when they return to their native hills, dowered with a little capital of their own earnings. The factory operatives at Lowell form a commu- nity that commands the respect of the neighbourbood, and of all under whose observation they come. No female of an immoral character could remain a week in any of the mills. The superintendent of the Boote Corporation informed me, that, during the five and a half years of his superintendence of that factory, employing about nine hundred and fifty young women, he had known of but one case of an illegitimate birth-and the mother was an Irish " immigrant." Any male or female employed, who was known to be in a state of inebriety, would be at once dismissed.
At the suggestion of the benevolent and intelligent superintendent of the Boote Company, we waited to see the people turn out to dinner, at half-past twelve o'clock. We stood in a position where many hundreds passed under our review, whose dress, and quiet and orderly demeanour, would have done credit to any congregation breaking up from their place of worship. One of the gentlemen with me, who is from a slave State, where all labour is considered degrading, remarked, with emotion, " What would I give if-, (naming a near relative in the slave States,) could witness this only for a quarter of an hour !" We dined with one of our abolition friends at Lowell, who informed us that many hundreds of the factory girls were members of the Anti-slavery Society; and that, although activity in this cause has been pretty much suspended by the division in the ranks of its friends, yet there is no diminution of good feeling on the subject. The following extracts, from a pamphlet published by a respectable citizen of Lowell, in 1839, will further illustrate the moral statistics of the place, which, I believe, can be paralleled by no other manufacturing town in the world. The work is dated July, 1839:-
" How shall I go to work to satisfy the reader of the high standard of morals among the female part of our population? I know of but one method, and that is, avoiding as much as possible all loose generalities, to state all such settled, ascertained, undisputed facts as bear directly on the question.
"The amount of strictly religious influences will be best and most clearly shown, by the number of accessions to the several churches. The aggregate number of these I am not able to give, from want of the requisite materials. I have been able, however, to procure returns from nine of the fifteen churches in the city. These churches were organized at different times since the origin of the city, and the whole number of persons who have joined them by profession, amounts to five thousand five hundred and fifty nine. From eight to nine tenths of these were females, a large proportion of whom were employed in the mills.
"There are now in the city fourteen regularly organized religious societies, besides one or two others quite recently established. Ten of these societies constitute a Sabbath School Union. Their third annual report was made on the fourth of the present month, and it has been published within a few days. I derive from it the following facts. The number of scholars connected with the ten schools at the time of making the report, was four thousand nine hundred and thirty-six, and the number of teachers was four hundred and thirty-three, making an aggregate of five thousand three hundred and sixty-nine. The number who joined the schools during the year, was three thousand seven hundred and seventy, the number who left was three thousand one hundred and twenty-nine. About three-fourths of the scholars are females. A large proportion of the latter are over fifteen years of age, and consist of girls employed in the mills. More than five hundred of these scholars have, during the last year, become personally interested in practically piety, and more than six hundred have joined themselves to the several churches. Now let it be borne in mind, that there are four or five Sunday Schools in the city, some of which are large and flourishing, not included in this statement. Let it be borne in mind, too, that a great proportion of these scholars are the factory girls, and furthermore, that these most gratifying results just given, have nothing in them extraordinary-they are only the common, ordinary results of several of the past years. There has been no unusual excitement; no noise, no commotion. Silently, quietly, unobtrusively, from Sabbath to Sabbath, in these little nurseries of truth, duty and religion, has the good seed been sowing and springing up-watered by the dews, and warmed by the smiles of heaven-to everlasting life.
"I shall now proceed to enumerate some of the influences which have been most powerful in bringing about these results. Among these are the example and watchful care and oversight of the boarding house keepers, the superintendents, and the over-seers. But a power vastly more active, all pervading and efficient, than any and all of these, is to be found in the jealous and sleepless watchfulness, over each other, of the girls themselves. The strongest guardianship of their own character, as a class, is in their own hands, and they will not suffer either overseer or superintendent to be indifferent to this character with impunity.
'`The relationship which is here established between the Sunday school scholar and her teacher-between the member of the church and her pastor-the attachments which spring up between them, are rendered close and strong by the very circumstances in which these girls are placed. These relationships and these attachments take the place of the domestic ties and the home affections, and they have something of the strength and fervency of these."
The next extract shows their prosperity in a pecuniary point.
" The average wages, clear of board, amount to about two dollars a week. Many an aged father or mother, in the country, is made happy and comfortable, by the self-sacrificing contributions from the affectionate and dutiful daughter here. Many an old homestead has been cleared of its incumbrances, and thus saved to the family by these liberal and honest earnings. To the many and most gratifying and cheering facts, which, in the course of this examination, I have had occasion to state, I here add a few others relating to the matter now under discussion, furnished me by Mr. CARNEY, the treasurer of the Lowell Institution for Savings. The whole number of depositors in this institution, on the 23rd July, was nineteen hundred and seventy-six; the whole amount of deposits was three hundred and five thousand seven hundred and ninety-six dollars and seventy cents (about 60,000 pounds.) Of these depositors nine hundred and seventy- eight are factory girls, and the amount of their funds now in the bank, is estimated by Mr. CARNEY, in round numbers, at one hundred thousand dollars. It is a common thing for one of these girls to have five hundred dollars in deposit, and the only reason why she does not exceed this sum is the fact, that the institution pays no interest on any larger sum than this. After reaching this amount, she invests her remaining funds elsewhere."
In confirmation of this description of the state of the Lowell population, I have obtained, through the kindness of a friend in Massachussetts, the following parallel statistics to a recent date:-
" PUBLIC SCHOOLS.-BY the report of the school committee for the year ending on the 5th of Fourth Month (April) 1841, it appears that the whole number of pupils in the schools, who attended during the whole or part of the year, was 5,830. The whole amount expended by the city for these schools, during the year, was 18,106 dollars, 51 cents.
" SABBATH SCHOOLS.-The number of scholars and teachers in the Sabbath Schools, connected with the various religious societies in Lowell, during the year ending on the 5th of Seventh Month (July) 1841, was 5,493.
" SAVINGS' BANK.-The Lowell Institution for Savings, in its report of Fifth Month (May), 1840, acknowledges 328,395 dollars, 55 cents, deposits, from 2,137 persons; together with 16,093 dollars, 29 cents nett amount received for interest on loans and dividends in stocks, less expense and dividends paid- making in all, 344,488 dollars, 84 cents: net amount of interest, 24,714 dollars, 61 cents. Within the year, 120,175 dollars, 69 cents, had been deposited, and 70,384 dollars, 24 cents, drawn out.
" PAUPERS.-The whole expense of the city for the support of the poor, during the year ending on the 31st of Twelfth Month (December) 1840, was 2,698 dollars, 61 cents."
As a proof, slight yet significant, of the spread of intellectual cultivation, I ought not to-omit a notice of the " Lowell Offering," a little monthly magazine, consisting of original articles, written exclusively by the factory girls. The editor of the Boston Christian Examiner commends this little periodical to those who consider the factory system to be degrading and demoralizing; and expresses a doubt " whether a committee of young ladies, selected from the most refined and best educated families in any of our towns and cities, could make a fairer appearance in type than these hard-working factory girls." I have given, in the appendix, an article from this little periodical.
The city of Lowell has been distinguished by British tourists as the Manchester of the United States; but, in view of the facts above related, an American has declared it to be " not the Manchester of the United States."
APPENDIX M: Article from "The Lowell Offering, a Repository of Original Articles, written by Females employed in the Mills."
The following article from this miscellany has been selected without reference to literary merit, but as incidentally affording information respecting the origin, habits, manners, and tone of mind and morals of the "factory girls" of Lowell.
" THE SPIRIT OF DISCONTENT.
"'I will not stay in Lowell any longer; I am determined to give my notice this very day,' said Ellen Collins, as the earliest bell was tolling to remind us of the hour for labour.
"'Why, what is the matter, Ellen ? It seems to me you have dreamed out a new idea ? Where do you think of going ? and what for ?'
"'I am going home, where I shall not be obliged to rise so early in the morning, nor be dragged about by the ringing of a bell, nor confimed in a close noisy room from morning till night. I will not stay here; I am determined to go home in a fortnight.'
"'Such was our brief morning's conversation.
"' In the evening, as I sat alone, reading, my companions having gone out to public lectures or social meetings, Ellen entered. I saw that she still wore the same gloomy expression of countenance, which had been manifested in the morning; and I was disposed to remove from her mind the evil influence, by a plain common-sense conversation.
"'And so, Ellen,' said I, 'you think it unpleasant to rise so early in the morning, and be confined in the noisy mill so many hours during the day. And I think so, too. All this, and much more, is very annoying, no doubt. But we must not forget that there are advantages, as well as disadvantages, in this employment, as in every other. If we expect to find all sun-shine and flowers in any station in life, we shall most surely be disappointed. We are very busily engaged during the day; but then we have the evening to ourselves, with no one to dictate to or controul us. I have frequently heard you say, that you would not be confined to household duties, and that you disliked the millinery business altogether, because you could not have your evenings, for leisure. You know that in Lowell we have schools, lectures, and meetings of every description, for moral and intellectual improvement.'
"' All this is very true,' replied Ellen, 'but if we were to attend every public institution, and every evening school which offers itself for our improvement, we might spend every farthing of our earnings, and even more. Then if sickness should overtake us, what are the probable consequences ? Here we are, far from kindred and home; and if we have an empty purse, we shall be destitute of friends also.'
"'I do not think so, Ellen. I believe there is no place where there are so many advantages within the reach of the labouring class of people, as exist here; where there is so much equality, so few aristocratic distinctions, and such good fellowship, as may be found in this community. A person has only to be honest, industrious, and moral, to secure the respect of the virtuous and good, though he may not be worth a dollar; while, on the other hand, an immoral person, though he should possess wealth, is not respected.'
"' As to the morality of the place,' returned Ellen, 'I have no fault to find. I object to the constant hurry of every thing. We cannot have time to eat, drink, or sleep; we have only thirty minutes, or at most three quarters of an hour, allowed us to go from our work, partake of our food, and return to the noisy clatter of machinery. Up before day, at the clang of the bell-and out of the mill by the clang of the bell-into the mill, and at work, in obedience to that ding-dung of a bell-just as though we were so many living machines. I will give my notice to-morrow: go, I will- I won't stay here and be a white slave.'
"' Ellen,' said I, 'do you remember what is said of the bee, that it gathers honey even in a poisonous flower ? May we not, in like manner, if our hearts are rightly attuned, find many pleasures connected with our employment ? Why is it, then, that you so obstinately look altogether on the dark side of a factory Iife ? I think you thought differently while you were at home, on a visit, last summer-for you were glad to come back to the mill, in less than four weeks. Tell me, now-why were you so glad to return to the ringing of the bell, the clatter of the machinery, the early rising, the half- hour dinner, and so on ?'
" I saw that my discontented friend was not in a humour to give me an answer-and I therefore went on with my talk.
"'You are fully aware, Ellen, that a country life does not exclude people from labour-to say nothing of the inferior privileges of attending public worship-that people have often to go a distance to meeting of any kind-that books cannot be so easily obtained as they can here-that you cannot always have just such society as you wish-that you'-
"She interrupted me, by saying-' We have no bell, with its everlasting ding-dung.'
"'What difference does it make,' said I, 'whether you shall be awakened by a bell, or the noisy bustle of a farm-house ? For, you know, farmers are generally up as early in the morning as we are obliged to rise.'
"' But there,' said Ellen, 'country people have none of the clattering of machinery constantly dinning in their ears.'
"' True,' I replied, 'but they have what is worse-and that is, a dull, lifeless silence all around them. The hens may cackle sometimes, and the geese gabble, and the pigs squeal'-
"Ellen's hearty laugh interrupted my description-and presently we proceeded, very pleasantly, to compare a country life with a factory life in Lowell. Her scowl of discontent had departed, and she was prepared to consider the subject candidly. We agreed, that since we must work for a living, the mill, all things considered, is the most pleasant, and best calculated to promote our welfare; that we will work diligently during the hours of labour; improve our leisure to the best advantage, in the cultivation of the mind,-hoping thereby not only to increase our own plessure, but also to add to the happiness of those around us.
LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS. Winter 1842. General Appearance of Mill Workers; Boarding House Life; Labour in the Mills; the Lowell Offering, Newspaper of the Mill Workers.
There are several factories in Lowell, each of which belongs to what we should term a Company of Proprietors, but what they call in America a Corporation. I went over several of these; such as a woallen factory, a carpet factory, and a cotton factory examined them in every part; and saw them in their ordinary working aspect, with no preparation of any kind, or departure from their ordinary everyday proceedings. I may add that I am well acquainted with our manufacturing towns in England, and have visited many mills in Manchester and elsewhere in the same manner.
I happened to arrive at the first factory just as the dinner hour was over, and the girls were returning to their work; indeed the stairs of the mill were thronged with them as I ascended. They were all well dressed, but not to my thinking above their condition; for I like to see the humbler classes of society careful of their dress and appearance, and even, if they please, decorated with such little trinkets as come within the compass of their means. Supposing it confined within reasonable limits, I would always encourage this kind of pride, as a worthy element of self-respect, in any person I employed; and should no more be deterred from doing so, became some wretched female referred her fall to a love of dress, than I would allow my construction of the real intent and meaning of the Sabbath to be influenced by any warning to the welldisposed, founded on his backslidings on that particular day, which might emanate from the rather doubtful authority of a murderer in Newgate.
These girls, as I have said, were all well dressed: and that phrase necessarily includes extreme cleanliness. They had serviceable bonnets, good warm cloaks, and shawls; and were not above clogs and pattens. Moreover, there were places in the mill in which they could deposit these things without injury; and there were conveniences for washing. They were healthy in appearance, many of them remarkably so, and had the manners and deportment of young women: not of degraded brutes of burden. If I had seen in one of those mills (but I did not, though I looked for something of this kind with a sharp eye), the most lisping, mincing, affected, and ridiculous young creature that my imagination could suggest, I should have thought of the careless, moping, slatternly, degraded, dull reverse (I have seen that), and should have been still well pleased to look upon her.
The rooms in which they worked, were as well ordered as themselves. In the windows of some, there were green plants, which were trained to shade the glass; in all, there was as much fresh air, cleanliness, and comfort, as the nature of the occupation would possibly admit of. Out of so large a number of females, many of whom were only then just verging upon womanhood, it may be reasonably supposed that some were delicate and fragile in appearance: no doubt there were. But I solemnly declare, that from all the crowd I saw in the different factories that day, I cannot recall or separate one young face that gave me a painful impression; not one young girl whom, assuming it to be matter of necessity that she should gain her daily bread by the labour of her hands, I would have removed from those works if I had had the power.
They reside in various boarding-houses near at hand. The owners of the mills are particularly careful to allow no persons to enter upon the possession of these houses, whose characters have not undergone the most scorching and thorough inquiry. Any complaint that is made against them, by the boarders, or by any one else, is fully investigated; and if good ground of complaint be shown to exist against them, they are removed, and their occupation is handed over to some more deserving person. There are a few children employed in these factories, but not many. The laws of the State forbid their working more than nine months in the year, and require that they be educated during the other three. For this purpose there are schools in Lowell; and there are churches and chapels of various persuasions, in which the young women may observe that form of worship in which they have been educated.
At some distance from the factories, and on the highest and pleasantest ground in the neighbourhood, stands their hospital, or boarding-house for the sick: it is the best house in those parts, and was built by an eminent merchant for his own residence. Like that institution at Boston, which I have before described, it is not parcelled out into wards, but is divided into convenient chambers, each of which has all the comforts of a very comfortable home. The principal medical attendant resides under the same roof; and were the patients members of his own family, they could not be better cared for, or attended with greater tenderness and consideration. The weekly charge in this establishment for each female patient is three dollars, or twelve shillings English; but no girl employed by any of the corporations is ever excluded for want of dhe means of payment. That they do not very often want the means, may be gathered from the fact, that in July, 1841, no fewer than nine hundred and seventy-eight of these girls were depositors in the Lowell Savings Bank the amount of whose joint savings was estimated at one hundred thousand dollars, or twenty thousand English pounds.
I am now going to state three facts, which will startle a large class of readers on this side of the Atlantic, very much. Firstly, there is a joint-stock piano in a great many of the boarding-houses. Secondly, nearly all these young ladies subscribe to circulating libraries. Thirdly, they have got up among themselves a periodical called THE LOWELL OFFERING, "A repository of original articles, written exclusively by females actively employed in the mills,"-which is duly printed, published, and sold; and whereof I brought away from Lowell four hundred good solid pages, which I have read from beginning to end.
The large class of readers, startled by these facts, will exclaim, with one voice, "How very preposterous!" On my deferentially inquiring why, they will answer, "These things are above their station." In reply to that objection, I would beg to ask what their station is.
It is their station to work. And they do work. They labour in these mills, upon an average, twelve hours a day, which is unquestionably work, and pretty tight work too. Perhaps it is above their station to indulge in such amusements, on any terms. Are we quite sure that we in England have not formed our ideas of the "station" of working people, from accustoming ourselves to the contemplation of that doss as they are, and not as they might be? I think that if we examine our own feelings, we shall find that the pianos, and the circulating libraries, and even the Lowell Offering, startle us by their novelty, and not by their bearing upon any abstract question of right or wrong.
For myself, I know no station in which, the occupation of to-day cheerfully done and the occupation of to-morrow cheerfully looked to, any one of these pursuits is not most humanising and laudable. I knew no station which is rendered more endurable to the person in it, or more safe to dhe person out of it, by having ignorance for its associate. I know no station which has a right to monapolise the means of mutual instruction, improvement, and rational entertainment; or which has ever continued to be a station very long, after seeking to do so.
Of the merits of the Lowell Offering as a literary production, I will only observe, putting entirely out of sight the fact of the articles having been written by these girls after the arduous labours of the day, that it will compare advantageously with a great many English Annuals. It is pleasant to find that many of its Tales are of the Mills and of those who work in them; that they inculcate habits of self-denial and contentment, and teach good doctrines of enlarged benevolence. A strong feeling for the beauties of nature, as displayed in the solitudes the writers have left at home, breathes through its pages like wholesome village air; and though a circulating library is a favourable school for the study of such topics, it has very scant allusion to fine clothes, fine marriages, fine houses, or fine life. Some persons might object to the papers being signed occasionally with rather fine names, but this is an American fashion. One of the provinces of the state legislature of Massachusetts is to alter ugly names into pretty ones, as the children improve upon the tastes of their parents. These changes costing little or nothing, scores of Mary Annes are solemnly converted into Bevelinas every session.
It is said that on the occasion of a visit from General Jackson or General Harrison to this town (I forget which, but it is not to the purpose), he walked through three miles and a half of these young ladies all dressed out with parasols and silk stockings. But as I am not aware that any worse consequence ensued, than a sudden locking-up of all the parasols and silk stockings in the market; and perhaps the bankruptcy of some speculative New Englander who bought them all up at any price, in expectation of a demand that never came; I set no great store by the circumstance.
In this brief account of Lowell, and inadequate expression of the gratification it yielded me, and cannot fail to afford to any foreigner to whom the condition of such people at home is a subject of interest and anxious speculation, I have carefully abstained from drawing a comparison between these factories and those of our own land. Many of the circumstances whose strong influence has been at work for years in our manuLacturing towns have not arisen here; and there is no manufacturing population in Lowell, so to speak: for these girls (often the daughters of small farmers) come from other States, remain a few years in the mills, and then go home for good.