Labor vs Management Relations


As in many workplaces, the relations between labor and management at the mills were consistently strained. Early on, the mill owners had tried to create a moral and pure environment for the girls working there. In Europe, the mills were known as disreputable and unprincipled places. Seeing this, the owners of the new American mills set up boarding houses with strict curfews and other  rules to keep unscrupulous behavior absent from their utopias. Eventually, however, so many mills opened up that supply was much higher than demand. The mill girls already had hard, unthankful jobs, working 12-14 hours every weekday, with a "short" eight hour day on Saturday. The imbalance of supply and demand caused the mill owners to increase the speed of the machines while at the same time lowering the mill girls wages. Some of the girls were let go of, leaving the remaining workers to cover their machines.These actions caused discontent among the mill girls, who retaliated in many different forums. 

The Voice Of Industry

Click on the picture to be taken to info on The Voice Of Industry
The Voice Of Industry was a pro labor newspaper in Lowell. It was written, edited and published by the mill girls of Lowell. It argued for labor reforms and wage increases for the mill workers. It also exposed what actually happened in the mills, without censorship from management.


Sarah Bagley, First LFLRA President
Formed in 1844 the LFLRA was one of the first labor organizations devoted to women in America. The name stands for the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association. It's first president was Sarah Bagley, a mill girl, who ended up testifying before the Massachusetts legislature about the conditions in the mills. The group pushed for wage increases, and better living and working conditions. Eventually, when their efforts proved fruitless, they were absorbed into the New England Workingmen's Association.

The Ten Hour Movement

The Ten Hour Movement was an attempt to make the Massachusetts legislature pass a law limiting the work day to ten hours. Needles to say, the mill owners opposed this law tremendously. This would mean losing about 15 hours every week from each worker. By the law was passed in 1874, the mill girls had been replaced by European immigrants.