The Daring Ladies of Lowell

Interest Level: Mature/Adult

“But it is changing,” Benjamin Stanhope said. “None of us can hold things where we want them to be. It is all slipping and changing, Alice.”  Change is the theme in The Daring Ladies of Lowell. These daring ladies stepped off their family farms in hopes of changing their futures. Once in Lowell, they began to take steps to change their working conditions. As much as many of us despise change, we can’t deny that sometimes, it’s the only way  things can ever be different.

Alice Barrow left her father and their farm to find new opportunities and independence as a mill girl in Lowell, Massachusetts. There, she finds more than she bargained for. She is instantly drawn toward Lovey Cornell, a girl full of jokes and laughter. They spend their evening hours on the porch discussing life in general and life in the mill. It is on the porch steps that Alice learns of Lovey’s burning passion to fight for better working conditions.

In the weeks after her arrival, Alice is thrust into the hard life of a mill girl. With Lowell on the cusp of revolution, the Fiske family decides they must make a show of caring if they are going to squelch the fire of revolt. From all the girls, they extend an invitation to Alice to join them in their Boston home to discuss the issues at the mill. It is there she learns that Hiram Fiske really has no desire to hear her complaints but was merely making a show of it all. She does, however, find an ally in Samuel Fiske, the attractive and caring heir to the Fiske family fortune.

As the days drag on, Alice will soon find herself caught up in love and loss. She must fight for the life of the mill workers as well as fighting for her heart.

Cautions:

*Lovey is a bit of a flirt and will disappear for hours at a time. She will be found one morning hanging from a tree by the neck. It is this loss that Alice must face and find a way to gain justice for her dear friend. At the trial for the suspected murderer, we will learn that she was pregnant. The prosecution will paint her as a prostitute who hung herself out of shame.

*One of the mill worker’s husbands will barge in and attempt to take her child. There is a clear picture here of the lack of rights married women had.

*The Fiske family is portrayed as being selfish and out only for themselves at the expense of their workers.

*Toward the end there is a little unrest and people will begin tossing rocks at each other.

*This is a time of the revivalist community. The man accused of murder is a revivalist Methodist preacher. There is some attack on the Methodist church because of this.

Awesomeness:

*This is a wonderful book about the fight for independence for women and the changes in the American society up north.

*It paints a really good picture of class in America and the growing desire for equality among the genders.

*Alice and Lovey are strong leading ladies. (Neither have a strong desire to know the Lord, but they are good people who attempt to do the right thing.)

*The dialogue during the trial was taken from transcripts of a similar trial during this time in Lowell.

Lesson Ideas:

*Research the life of a mill girl. What did she do? Where did she live? Why would she move away from her family?

*Research the Industrial Revolution and the advancements of the textile machines.

*Look into Andrew Jackson’s policies on Industrialization.

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