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A Mill Girl Explains Why She Is Leaving Factory Life

Born on a Vermont farm, Sarah Rice left home at age 17 to make it on her own. Eventually she journeyed to Masonville, Connecticut to work in textile mills much like those of Lowell. Rice's first letter was written after she had been weaving in the factory for about four weeks. Her second letter was written after about nine months of mill life.

Sunday, Feb. 23, 1845

Dear Father:

...I like it quite well [here] as I expected but not as well as housework.  To be sure it is a noisy place and we are confined more than I like to be.  I do not wear out my clothes and shoes as I do when I do housework.  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 housework for nine shillings.  I mean for a year or two.  I should not want to spend my days in a mill unless they are short because I like a farm too much for that.  My health is good now.  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 since I began to work out [of the home]...

 

Sept. 14, 1845

Dear Father: 

...You surely cannot blame me for leaving the factory so long as I realized it was killing me to work in it.  I went to the factory because I expected to earn much more than I can at housework.  To be sure I might if I had my health.  Could you have seen me at the time or a week before I came away you would have advised me as many others did to leave immediately. 

Source | Sarah Rice, "Letter to Father (Hazelton Rice)," 23 February 1845 and 14 September 1845, (Vermont History Society, Hazelton Rice Papers), available from Center for Lowell History, University of Massachusetts at Lowell Libraries, http://library.uml.edu/clh/All/Ric.htm.
Creator | Sarah Rice
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | Sarah Rice, “A Mill Girl Explains Why She Is Leaving Factory Life,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed July 16, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1549.

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