Lowell Mill Girl Letters

August 19, 1838

VERMONT HISTORICAL SOCIETY 
MONTPELIER, VERMONT 
HAZELTON RICE PAPERS

LETTER WRITTEN BY 
SARAH “SALLY” H. RICE1  
EXCERPT2 

                                                                     Union Village3 Aug. 19th 1838

Honored Parents, Brother Sisters & Friends

It is with pleasure that I now seat myself to converse a few moments with you, we received your letter the 15th, was glad to here that you was all able to work. My health is very good indeed, & has been ever since I came here except one evening I went to meeting. They preach a great deal of Slavery here and I swalowed so many it made me sick but I went out and puked them up and felt better. I like living here very much indeed. I live with very nice people have enough to eat and drink and enough to do and I think if I am not contented here I never shall be eny where. There is 7 in the family, Mr. Holmes & wife 3 children there other hired girl & myself. We have 3 cows now, our folks have all been to meting to day but my self I think I shall go this evening. I have the privelage of going to meting half the day Sunday, & Sunday eve. There has been several deaths of the small pox in this village sinse I came here, but I don’t know of any case now…I should  
like to see y[ou a]ll, but I don’t know when. I have been to meting this evening and saw Mary she is well. My best respects to all. It is getting late and I must close, 

Sally Rice

I must just you see what I have bought: 1 bonnet ready made 1.25, 1 pare seal skin shoes 1/25, 8 yards calico 12 ½ cts yard 1 dollar. I will send you apeice of my dress, also a piece like a dress Mrs Holmes gave me. So good bye.

  1Sarah “Sally” H. Rice b: 23 Jan 1821, Somerset, VT  
    d: 15 Jul 1904, Rochdale, MA; parents: Hazelton Rice  
    and Rhoda Stone; married 1847: James M. Alger b: 1818,  
    Worcester, MA; James worked: Railroad engineer. 
    At the age of seventeen, Sally Rice left the small farm in Dover,  
    Vermont, on which she had been raised, to strike out on her  
    own. Over the next several years, her letters to her family tell  
    us, she supported herself and tried to save a little money working  
    as a domestic “help,” doing housework and, at least for a short  
    time, in a textile mill. 
  2Excerpted by Old Sturbridge Village. 
  3Union Village, New York.

1839

VERMONT HISTORICAL SOCIETY 
MONTPELIER, VERMONT 
HAZELTON RICE PAPERS

LETTER WRITTEN BY 
SARAH “SALLY” H. RICE1 
EXCERPT2

                                                                    Union Village3 1839

Dear Father & Mother.

I am well. I found good crossing the mountain. Got to Arlington about 8 in the eve. Staid over night, and the next morning started for home. Arrived at Cambridge about one. Stoped at Comstocks hotel. I found a man there that was going directly to UV. With him I rode here and I was never so glad to see eny place as I was to see my old home and friends, I found [them a]ll well except Mr. Salisbury. . .Elem Knight and I got up monday morning at one oclock to wash. He helpt me some and we got done before light and I should be willing to get up every morning at one if it would make you willing that I should stay here. I can have a home here as long as I will stay and am steady. They are very anxious that I should live with them as long as I work out* enywhere. . .I have one of the best homes and good society which is a good deal better than I can have there [at parents’ home]. Not but that I have a good Father & Mother but look at the company I  
should be with a profane Sabbath breaking set. I cannot bare the thoughts of going there to live. No one knows how much I suffered the ten weeks that I was at home. I never can be happy there in among so many mountains…I think it would be more consistent to save my strength to raise my boys [children she expects to have in the future]. . .I shall need all I have got and as for mayyring and settling in that wilderness I wont, and if a person ever expects to take comfort it is while they are young I feel so. . .I have got so that by next summer if I could stay I could begin to lay up something. . .I am now most 19 years old I must of course have something of my own before many more years have passed over my head and where is that something coming from if I go home and earn nothing. What can we of of Rocky farm only 2 or 3 cows. it would be another thing if you kept 9 or 10 cows and could raise corn to sell. It surely would be cheper for you to hire a girl 
that can do your work one that would be contented to stay in the desert than for me to come home and live in trouble all the time. . .If you lived within 5 or 10 miles of here I would not say eny thing against living with you but I have lived amonst desent people so long that I don’t want to go home. You may think me unkind but how can you blame me for wanting to stay here? I have but one life to live and I want to enjoy myself as well as I can while I live. . .If I go home I can not have the privelage of going to meting [church] nor eny thing else. Do come away. Dont lay your bones in that place I beg you.

I want you should write me an answer directly and let me know my fate.

My love to all who inquire after SR. . . 
 

1Sarah “Sally” H. Rice b: 23 Jan 1821, Somerset, VT  
    d: 15 Jul 1904, Rochdale, MA; parents: Hazelton Rice  
    and Rhoda Stone; married 1847: James M. Alger b: 1818,  
    Worcester, MA; James worked: Railroad engineer. 
    At the age of seventeen, Sally Rice left the small farm in Dover,  
    Vermont, on which she had been raised, to strike out on her  
    own. Over the next several years, her letters to her family tell  
    us, she supported herself and tried to save a little money working  
    as a domestic “help,” doing housework and, at least for a short  
    time, in a textile mill. 
  2Excerpted by Old Sturbridge Village. 
  3Union Village, New York.

February 23, 1845

VERMONT HISTORICAL SOCIETY 
MONTPELIER, VERMONT 
HAZELTON RICE PAPERS

LETTER WRITTEN BY 
SARAH “SALLY” H. RICE1  
EXCERPT2 

                                             Sunday Masonville3 Feb 23d 1845 

Dear Father  
  
I now take my pen in hand to let you know where I am and how I came here and how my health is. I have been waiting perhaps longer than I ought to without letting you know where I am yet I had a reason for so doing. Well knowing that you were dolefully prejudiced against a cotton factory, and being no less prejudiced myself I thought it best to wait and see how I prospered & also see whether I was going stay or not. I well knew that if I could not make more in the mill than I can doing house work I should not stay. Now I will tell you how I happened to come. The Saturday after New Years I came to Masonville in Thompson Connecticut with James Alger4 on a visit to see his sister who weave in the mill. We came Saturday and returned to Millbury on Monday. While here I was asked to come back and learn to weave. I did not fall in with the idea at all because I well knew that I should not like as well as housework and Knowing that you would now approve of my working in the mill. But when I considered that I had got myself to take care of, I knew I ought to do that way that I can make the most and save the most. I concluded to come and try promising Mrs. Waters that if I did not like I would return the 1st of April.

I have wove 4 weeks and have wove 6,89 yds. We have one dollar and 10 cents for a hundred yards. I wove with Olive Alger one week to learn and I took 2 looms 2 weeks and now I have 3 looms. I get along as well as eny one could expect. I think very likely that before the year is out I shall be able to tend 4 looms and then I can make more. 0 and P Alger make three dollars a week besides their board. We pay 1,25 for our board. We 3 girls board with a Widow Whitemore. She is a first rate homespun woman. I like it quite as well as I expected but not as well as I do house work. To be sure it is a noisy place and we are confined more than I like to be but I do not wear out my clothes and shoes as I do when I do house work. If I can make 2 dollars per week besides my board and save my clothes and shoes I think it will be better than to do house work for nine shillings5 I mean for a year or two. I should not like to spend my days in a mill not by a good deal unless they are short because I like a Farm too well for that. My health is good now. I wrote a letter to Levi and Nancy the week before I came her with a strict command not to tell any mortal that I was coming because if I did not stay I wanted nothing said about it. And I say now that if it does not agree with my health I shall give it up at once. I have been blessed with good health always ever since I began to work out. I have not been cofined to my bed but one day since I was sick with mumps at the time Grandmother Rice died. I was very sick one day when I was at Mrs. Waters. 

Dear Father, in my last letter I told you I had morally reformed. Yes I trust I have and bless God that he unsealed my eyes to see where I was standing, and where I have been since I became a backslider. The name haunts me. It all seems like a dream. Pray for me, Father, that if I ever enjoyed Religion I may enjoy it again and do as much good as I have hurt in the cause and the great God assisting me I will try to pray for myself. I feel I am perfectly willing to give up all into the hands of God and will try to lead a better life than I have done.

I want you to write as soon as you get this. Address your letter to Masonville, Thompson, Conn. Give my love to Mother & to all our folks. Tell Brother to write. I have not written to Hiram yet. I want to know where Ephraim is and what he is doing and what you are all about and howyou all do Father

Good bye 

Sarah Rice 
  
 1Sarah “Sally” H. Rice b: 23 Jan 1821, Somerset, VT  
    d: 15 Jul 1904, Rochdale, MA; parents: Hazelton Rice  
    and Rhoda Stone; married 1847: James M. Alger b: 1818,  
    Worcester, MA; James worked: Railroad engineer. 
    At the age of seventeen, Sally Rice left the small farm in Dover,  
    Vermont, on which she had been raised, to strike out on her  
    own. Over the next several years, her letters to her family tell  
    us, she supported herself and tried to save a little money working  
    as a domestic “help,” doing housework and, at least for a short  
    time, in a textile mill. 
  2Excerpted by Old Sturbridge Village. 
  3Masonville,Connecticut. 
  4Husband to be – James M. Alger.  
  9Nine shillings [English] is equal to $1.12 ½ (American.

September 14, 1845

VERMONT HISTORICAL SOCIETY 
MONTPELIER, VERMONT 
HAZELTON RICE PAPERS

LETTER WRITTEN BY 
SARAH “SALLY” H. RICE1  
EXCERPT2 

                                                                 Millbury3 Sept 14th 1845 

Dear Father Mother Brother & Sister 

I have waited a long time for a letter from some of you. . .and now I ask the reason why. I fear you are sick—if you are why do you not let me know it. I have written you 2 letters before this since I have heard from you. 

My health is very good indeed. My work is very hard and I get some tired. Mr. Waters is building a house this summer which makes the family much larger than usual. You surely cannot blame me for leaving the factory so long as I realized that it was killing me to work in it. I went to the factory because I expected to earn more than I can at housework. To be sure I might if I had my health. Could you have seen me att the time or a week before I came away you would advised me as many others did to leave immediately. I realize that if I lose my health which is all I possess on earth or have eny reason to expect to posess that I shall be in a sad condition. I want to see you all and proberbly shall in the course of a month or two. I want you should write immediately and tell all the news you can think of. What is Haselton up to? Henry told me that Daniel is married. There is one case of the small pox in this part of town and we shall think it very strange if there is no more. We have very dry weather here. It rains to day and is very cold. There was some frost on the ground Saturday morning…God grant that I may be steadfast, unmovable, and meet you all in heaven.  
  
Sarah H. Rice 
    
  
1Sarah “Sally” H. Rice b: 23 Jan 1821, Somerset, VT  
    d: 15 Jul 1904, Rochdale, MA; parents: Hazelton Rice  
    and Rhoda Stone; married 1847: James M. Alger b: 1818,  
    Worcester, MA; James worked: Railroad engineer. 
    At the age of seventeen, Sally Rice left the small farm in Dover,  
    Vermont, on which she had been raised, to strike out on her  
    own. Over the next several years, her letters to her family tell  
    us, she supported herself and tried to save a little money working  
    as a domestic “help,” doing housework and, at least for a short  
    time, in a textile mill. 
  2Excerpted by Old Sturbridge Village. 
  3Millbury, Massachusetts.