Victoria Bellamy

Many things transformed during the Industrial Revolution; one of them being the role of women in the labor force. Textile mill companies had expanded throughout the mid 1800s beginning in Rhode Island and New England. With the integration of the power loom into the mills, there became the need for taller workers. The Waltham-Lowell company decided to enlist single women from the countryside and offered monthly cash wages, which was more than they would ever get working on a farm. This led women to become more independent and rely less on their families. They became 75% of the mill workforce.

Because women became a key element in the work force, the size of families and family ideals shifted. People became concerned that young women wouldn’t want to follow in the footsteps of their family anymore and would gravitate towards a more urban lifestyle, which in most cases did happen. This changed the way people thought women should act and live their lives in the 19th century. Women also became involved in reform movements like the 1st union in the US,  the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association in 1845. A major reform they fought for was the lowering of the working hours from 12 a day to a maximum of 10. Although they were only able to get it lowered to 11 hours in 1853, the Lowell girls used notable practices and this union was instrumental in effecting how other labor organizing campaigns ran.

After women began working in the mills, the ideas of how they should behave changed and women helped reform conditions in the working environment that were severe and unsuitable. This all paved the way for the continuing feminist movement and women becoming more and more involved in the working class.