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Labor and Unions in America

Uploaded by Admin on Jan 22, 1999

The Industrial Revolution was dawning in the United States. At Lowell, Massachusetts, the construction of a big cotton mill began in 1821. It was the first of several that would be built there in the next 10 years. The machinery to spin and weave cotton into cloth would be driven by water power. All that the factory owners needed was a dependable supply of labor to tend the machines. As most jobs in cotton factories required neither great strength nor special skills, the owners thought women could do the work as well as or better than men. In addition, they were more compliant. The New England region was home to many young, single farm girls who might be recruited. But would stern New England farmers allow their daughters to work in factories? The great majority of them would not. They believed that sooner or later factory workers would be exploited and would sink into hopeless poverty. Economic "laws" would force them to work harder and harder for less and less pay. THE LOWELL EXPERIMENT How, then, were the factory owners able to recruit farm girls as laborers? They did it by building decent houses in which the girls could live. These houses were supervised by older women who made sure that the girls lived by strict moral standards. The girls were encouraged to go to church, to read, to write and to attend lectures. They saved part of their earnings to help their families at home or to use when they got married. The young factory workers did not earn high wages; the average pay was about $3.50 a week. But in those times, a half-dozen eggs cost five cents and a whole chicken cost 15 cents. The hours worked in the factories were long. Generally, the girls worked 11 to 13 hours a day, six days a week. But most people in the 1830s worked from dawn until dusk, and farm girls were used to getting up early and working until bedtime at nine o'clock. The factory owners at Lowell believed that machines would bring progress as well as profit. Workers and capitalists would both benefit from the wealth created by mass production. For a while, the factory system at Lowell worked very well. The population of the town grew from 200 in 1820 to 30,000 in 1845. But conditions in Lowell's factories had already started to change. Faced with...

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Uploaded by:   Admin

Date:   01/22/1999

Category:   American History

Length:   23 pages (5,096 words)

Views:   992

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