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History of Lowell: The Voice of Industry

Recruitment of Female Operatives

January 2, 1846

We were not aware, until within a few days, of the modus operandi of the factory powers in this village of forcing poor girls from their quiet homes to become their tools and, like the Southern slaves, to give up their life and liberty to the heartless tyrants and taskmasters.

Observing a singular-looking "long, low, black" wagon passing along the street, we made inquiries respecting it, and were informed that it was what we term a "slaver." She makes regular trips to the north of the state [Massachusetts], cruising around in Vermont and New Hampshire, with a "commander" whose heart must be as black as his craft, who is paid a dollar a head for all he brings to the market, and more in proportion to the distance--if they bring them from such a distance that they cannot easily get back.

This is done by "hoisting false colors," and representing to the girls that they can tend more machinery than is possible, and that the work is so very neat, and the wages such that they can dress in silks and spend half their time in reading. Now, is this true? Let those girls who have been thus deceived, answer.

Let us say a word in regard to the manner in which they are stowed in the wagon, which may find a similarity only in the manner in which slaves are fastened in the hold of a vessel. It is long, and the seats so close that it must be very inconvenient.

Is there any humanity in this? Philanthropists may talk of Negro slavery, but it would be well first to endeavor to emancipate the slaves at home. Let us not stretch our ears to catch the sound of the lash on the flesh of the oppressed black while the oppressed in our very midst are crying out in thunder tones, and calling upon us for assistance.


March 13, 1846

The Female Labor Reform Association will meet every Tuesday evening, at 8 o’clock, at their Reading Room, 76 Central Street, to transact all business pertaining to the Association, and to devise means by which to promote the common interests of all the Laboring Classes. Also to discuss all subjects which shall come before the meeting. Every Female who realizes the great necessity of a Reform and improvement in the condition of the worthy, toiling classes, and who would wish to place woman in that elevated status intellectually and morally, which a bountiful Creator designed her to occupy in the scale of being, is most cordially invited to attend and give her influence on the side of virtue and suffering humanity.”

Huldah J. Stone, Sec’y, The Female Department 

To the Female Labor Reform Association in Manchester

April 24, 1846

Sister Operatives:

As I am now in the "city of Spindles," out of employment, I have taken the liberty to occupy a few of your leisure moments in addressing the members of your Association, and pardon me for giving you few brief hints of my own experiences as a factory operative, before proceeding to make some remarks upon the glorious cause in which you are so arduously engaged.  It would be useless to attempt to portray the hardships and privations which are daily endured, for all that have toiled within the factory walls, and must be well acquainted with the present system of labor which can be properly termed slavery.

I am a peasant's daughter, and my lot has been cast in the society of the humble laborer.  I was drawn from the home of my childhood at an early age, and necessity obliged me to seek employment in the Factory. . .I have heard with the deeper interest, of your flourishing Association of which you are members, and it rejoices my heart to see so many of you contending for your rights, and making efforts to elevate the condition of your fellow brethren, and raising them from their oppressed and degraded condition, and seeing rights restored which god and Nature designed them to enjoy.  Do you possess the principles of Christianity?  Then do not remain silent; but seek to ameliorate the condition of every fellow being, engage laboriously and earnestly in the work, until you see your desires accomplished.  Let the proud aristocracy who has tyrannized over your rights with oppressive severity, see that there is ambition and enterprise among the "spindles," and show a determination to have your plans fully executed.  Use prudence and discretion in all your ways; act independently and no longer be a slave to petty tyrants, who, if they have an opportunity will encroach upon your privileges.

Some say that "Capital will take good care of labor," but don't believe it, don't trust them.  Is it not plain, that they are trying to deceive the public, by telling them that your task I easy and pleasant, and that there is no need of reform?  Too many are destitute of feeling and sympathy, and it is a great pity that they are not obliged to toil one year, and then they would be glad to see the "Ten Hour Petition" brought before the Legislature.  This is plain, but true language.

Probably you meet with many faithless and indifferent ones.  If you have a spark of philanthropy burning within your bosom, show them the errors of their ways; make them understand it; tell them that it is though the influence of the laboring community that these things are to be accomplished. . .

Read and patronize the Voice, and circulate the "Ten Hour Petition" among all classes, and may God strengthen you in your efforts: may you continue on in courage and perseverance until oppression and servitude may be entirely extinguished form our land, and thus, do honor to yourselves, and good to your country.

A Lowell Factory Girl