Women and the Economy

By: Nick C. and Madison


Farm women and girls played an important role in preindustrial economy. When these new factories such as textile mills came into play they offered employment to very you women in place of older women who were making things such as soap, butter and cheese because these could be made at home. These girls worked from dark to dark six days a week at their textile mill in Lowell, Massachusetts. Because these girls were younger they were less likely to gruel over working conditions. During this time teaching also because a feminized occupation. Only about 10% of white women were working outside their homes in 1850. Majority of workingwomen were single because once they got married they left their paying jobs and took up the work of a wife and mother. Families became closer knit and smaller leading to child-centered families where parents could care for children individually. During this time the outline of the modern family became clear.

A woman working a loom in a textile mill.

Textile mills

The main workers of textile mills were New England farm girls. They worked about 6 days a week for about 12-13 hours a day. They made very little money for all this work, but it helped women become more independent. This was the most common job for poor farm girls until they got married. It was the main occupation for women that were single and young. A very popular mill was the one in Lowell, Massachusetts. It had recruited over 8,000 women, nearly 75% of the textile mill work force.

Catharine Beecher

Catharine Beecher

Catharine Beecher was an important women during the 1800’s who sought to educate women in the United States. She tirelessly urged many women to enter into the world of the teaching profession. Beecher viewed women as natural teachers due to the domestic role they played at home. Finally when men left teaching for other types of work schoolteaching became a “feminized” occupation leading Catharine Beecher to succeed in her work. Eventually Beecher opened the Hartford Female Seminary which was a private girls’ school in Hartford Connecticut which she taught at for 9 years.

Primary Source

A woman worker in the Lowell mills wrote a

friend in 1844:

“You wish to know minutely of our hours of

labor. We go in [to the mill] at five o’clock; at

seven we come out to breakfast; at half-past

seven we return to our work, and stay until

half-past twelve. At one, or quarter-past one

four months in the year, we return to our

work, and stay until seven at night. Then the

evening is all our own, which is more than

some laboring girls can say, who think

nothing is more tedious than a factory life.’’

Another worker wrote in 1845:

“I am here, among strangers—a factory girl

—yes, a factory girl; that name which is

thought so degrading by many, though, in

truth, I neither see nor feel its degradation.

But here I am. I toil day after day in the noisy

mill. When the bell calls I must go: and must

I always stay here, and spend my days within

these pent-up walls, with this ceaseless din

my only music?’’

This primary source was from two women who were working at the Lowell mills in Lowell Massachusetts in 1844 & 1845. We chose this primary source because it told of the tedious everyday factory work the women do. These two women in this source tell of the tiring never ending cycle of their daily work. This source tells how they went into the mill at 5am and did not finish until 7pm and felt degraded by the name they were called “a factory girl.”

Quiz Questions

1.All of the following are true about women in the early 18th century economy except:

A. In 1850 only 10% of white women were working outside the home

B. 1 in 5 white family employed servants

C. 20% of women had been employed sometime prior to marriage

D. Factory jobs were unusual for women

E. American parents began to enforce rules upon their children

2. How did women shape the way the modern household is?

A. Parents broke the will of their children

B. Households became a place where strict rules were enforced

C. Households were solely child-centered environments

D. Women became independent in their decision making for the household

E. All fathers went to work while mothers were stay at home moms


Catharine Beecher. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/library/alumni/online_exhibits/digital/2001/beecher/catherine.htm>.

"Lowell Mill Girls." Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.

Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <http://www.theglasgowstory.com/image.php?inum=TGSE00933>.

Kennedy, David M., Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas A. Bailey. The American Pageant. 13th. Boston, MA: Charles Hartford, Print.

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