22 June 2010
A Mill Worker Describes Her Work and Life (1844)
The life of a mill worker in the 1840’s was not what you think it would be. At first you would think that a mill worker would be a boy, but it was actually mostly young girls. Susan goes on to describe about the work area, and all of the different jobs that took part to make the mill function. She does a very good job at giving detail as to what it was like to work at a very young age in a mill. It is a very informative letter and it also shows how little Susan is.
At the beginning of the letter Susan talks about how clean and spacious everything is. Along with how much light there is, and she mentions all of the plants that are throughout the whole mill. Even though there is light and lots of room there is still some downs to the mill. In one part of the passage she talks about all of the sounds from the machines, she refers to them as “thunder of Nigeria in the ears.” Susan also talks about all of the standing that they have to do in order to watch all of the machines. They have to stand so much that their feet swell. Girls that have worked at the mill for about two years have had to buy shoes two or three sizes bigger. The girls that work with the looms end up with a bigger hand that they use to stop the loom with.
The life of a mill worker sounds good and pleasant working surroundings, with the plants and all of the pretty girls. Even though there are not very many guys that work at the mill there are still quite a few marriages. The girls all have the Yankee spirit of pride, independence, and penetration. They are also well behaved and there are very few punishments or scolding. The girls are very close to their overseers, they go to their overseers for advice and assistance with personal things. Even though they start work at 5, have breakfast at 7 for a half hour, and at 12:30 they go home the girls still manage to talk and spend time together. You would think with working that much they would not have very much time to meet new people and things. But as mentioned before a lot of courting does go on and the girls do make very good wives. The girls have many skills that they learn from working in the mill. They learn good manners, orderly and very neat. Many of the girls are thrilled to get their own house to take care of.
The girls learn their skills from working in one of six areas in the mill. The first place they can work in is called the Carding-Room. This is the dirtiest but is easy, this is where the cotton flies but the girls are allowed to go out of the mill more that the other girls. The Spinning-Room is very neat and pretty. This is where the girls watch the frames, fix the threads, and clean the machines. These girls have tons of free time. The Weavers have the hardest job in the mill; they have three to four looms to watch over and are constantly confined to their unusual work. The Weavers work with the Spinners and Dressers because they keep the Weavers supplied, and the Dressers never work before breakfast. The Dressing-Room is very neat with plants. Here the girls are tall and learn to work with care and attention because the frames move. Susan chose to be a Weaver because the longer they work the more skilled they become and can take on more looms and therefore get paid more.
This was an interesting letter and it did a really good job of showing what life was like as a Mill Worker. It had the ups and the downs and even talked about the girls’ life from when they start work up to when they get married. Even though mostly girls work in the Mill she also could have mentioned the work that the boys do. Besides the swelling of the feet and hands working in the Mill doesn’t seem like to bad of a job.