The main story at Lowell National Historical Park is the story of working women. As you walk along the Merrimack Canal, or take a ranger-led canal boat tour, you can learn about Lowell's "Mill Girls"—early 19th century young women who left their homes on New England farms for jobs in the booming textile industry.
Passing by the now empty brick mill buildings, it is easy to imagine the hum of machinery coming from inside, as the women worked for 12 to 14 hours making cotton cloth, and then the ringing of the bell that signaled the end of the day when they would return to their boarding houses. Mill Girls were mostly between 15 and 25 years of age and were required to sign an agreement with the mill company that they would work for at least a year, stay in company housing, and attend church. They worked an average of 60 hours a week for two or three dollars.
At a time when women were expected to stay home and raise families, the Mill Girls gave up a life on the farm for a difficult and tiring job that allowed them the independence of earning their own pay. These women were the predecessors of the modern "working woman" and pioneers of independent spirit.
If You Go
Be sure to visit the Patrick J. Mogan Cultural Center, a renovated brick building that was once a block of boarding houses for the Mill Girls. There you can visit the "Mill Girls and Immigrants" exhibit for an in-depth study of these remarkable women.