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History of Lowell: The Voice of Industry

Preamble & Constitution of the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association

February 27, 1846


Before changing the name to the Lowell Female Industrial Reform and Mutual Aid Society in 1847, the Lowell women created the Lowell Female Reform Association, whose main purpose was to lobby for reform in the factories. This association was the first union in the factories, and its president was Sarah Bagley, perhaps the most influential factory woman. It allowed women to voice their opinions in a safe place and encouraged an atmosphere of change. Not only was the Association organized and each position is fully explained in detail, but it continued the attitude for full working reform that would influence female organizations in the future.

Preamble and Constitution of the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association

Whereas we, the Operatives of Lowell, believing that in the present age of improvement, nothing can escape the searching glances of reform; and when men begin to inquire why the Laborer does not hold that place in the social, moral and intellectual world, which a bountiful Creator designed him to occupy, the reason is obvious. He is a slave to a false and debasing state of society. Our merciful Father in his infinite wisdom surely, has not bestowed all his blessings, both mental and moral on a few, on whom also he has showered all of pecuniary gifts. No! to us all has he given minds capable of eternal progression and improvement! It now only remains for us to throw off the shackles which are binding us in ignorance and servitude and which prevent us from rising to that scale of being for which God designed us. But how shall this be done? How shall the mass become educated? With the present system of labor it is impossible. There must be reasonable hours for manual labor, and a just portion of time allowed for the cultivation of the mental and moral faculties and no other way can the great work be accomplished. We know no employment is respectable only as long as these employed are such, and no farther than they are intelligent and moral, can they merit the companionship and esteem of their fellow-beings. It is evident, that with the present system of labor, the minds of the mass must remain uncultivated, their morals unimproved and our country be flooded with vice and misery! Shall we, Operatives of America, the land where Democracy claims to be the principle by which we live and by which we live and by which we are governed, see the evil daily increasing which separates more widely and more effectually be favored few and the unfortunate many, without one exertion to stay the progress?- God forbid! Let the daughters of New England kindle the spark of philanthropy on every heart till its brightness shall fill the whole earth! In consideration of which we adopt the following Constitution: 

ART. 1st. This Association shall be called the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association.

ART. 2d. This Association shall be governed by the following officers: President, two Vice Presidents, a Secretary, Treasurer and board of Directors, consisting of eight in number.

ART. 3d. It shall be the duty of the President to preside at the meetings of the Association and board of Directors, and call especial meetings whenever any three members of the same shall request it.

ART. 4th. It shall be the duty of the Vice Presidents to preside in case of the absence of the President.

ART. 5th. It shall be the duty of the Secretary to be present at all meetings of the Association, and be prepared to read the proceedings of the last meeting, if requested. Also, to keep a correct account of the business of the Association.

ART. 6th. It shall be the duty of the Treasurer to receive all money paid into the treasury, and keep a correct account of the same also, to pay all bills presented by the Association, and signed by the President and Secretary.

ART. 7th. It shall be the duty of the Directors to present all plans of operation to the Association, and to assist in all labors of the same.

ART. 8th. Any person signing this Constitution, shall literally pledge herself to labor actively for Reform in the present system of labor.

ART. 9th. The members of this Association disapprove of all hostile measures, strikes and turn outs until all pacific measures prove abortive, and then that is the imperious duty of every one to assert and maintain that independence which our brave ancestors bequeathed to us, and sealed with their blood. 

ART. 10th. This Constitution may be altered and amended by a vote of two thirds of the members present, provided the amendment be proposed at a previous meeting. It shall be the duty of the Board of Directors to revise the Constitution at the time of the Annual meeting for choosing Officers, which shall be holden on the first Tuesday of January. 

The following Officers were chosen Jan. 1846.

SARAH G. BAGLEY, President 
HULDAH J. STONE, Rec'g. Sec'y. 
SARAH A. YOUNG, Cor. Sec'y. 
MARY A. K. TARLTON, Treasurer.