What Were the Working Conditions Like in Lowell Mills?

People working in Lowell Mills had to operate at a rapid pace, with long hours, in a high-risk environment. Women who worked for Lowell Mills and were housed by them had to adhere to strict rules.

Between 1840 and 1900, the amount of machinery present in Lowell Mills increased. As such, workers found themselves operating increasingly faster machines at a faster pace, posing increased risk to their health. While the rate of work increased, hours decreased. In 1830s 70-hour weeks were common, but by 1912 mill owners could not make employees work more than 54 hours a week. In response to this, they cut wages, which prompted workers to strike.

Many of the women working for Lowell Mills also lived in its accommodation. The accommodation was overseen by house matrons, who ensured workers adhered to strict curfews. They also encouraged employees to follow moral behaviors, which they promoted through religious organizations.

While working conditions were tough, there were some benefits. Most mills paid women in store credits, but Lowell employees benefited from cash in hand. In addition, the company town featured access to education, churches and other services that could benefit mill workers. Conditions gradually declined between the middle of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.