[LMB] OT: weaving and women's rights

Paula Lieberman paal at filker.org
Fri Oct 3 13:51:00 BST 2014

The textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, originally employed mostly young 
women who flocked to the industrial cities to earn money of their own.  Over 
time it became more "economical" (read "use cheap abundant immigrant labor") 
to hire immigrants, entire families of them, rather than recruiting young 
women who had grown up on farms in more rural areas (also, the numbers of 
such young women may have been decreasing, as the productivity per person of 
farms went up, the share of the population living on farms dropped, and the 
number of people the factories were employing, increased.)

Industrialization and mutation of the culture into one of concentration of 
production in factories, with factories producing goods in volume, proceeded 
rapidly in the US North, with New England having sequentially the largest 
factory complexes in the world (Lowell or Lawrence at the time of the Bread 
and Roses strike early in the 20th century, and Manchester, New Hampshire 
(originally named Amoskeag, and the mill complex had the name Amoskeag 
Mills) somewhat earlier, "two miles long, half a mile wide, twenty thousand 
men and women living inside" More people were working in that single mill 
complex, that lived in most urbanized areas!

Dickens visiting factories in a US mill city in his time, was favorably 
impressed with the working conditions and lives the factory workers had. 
The conditions effecting strikes due to being abusive/seen as abusive 
conditions,, came decades later.

(The Governor of Massachusetts with the best of intentions mandated a cut in 
the work week, but did not commensurately mandate measure to prevent factory 
owners from cutting worker income (fewer hours for paid by the hour workers 
means reduced income) and from imposing higher quotas of production per hour 
to get the same level of work per worker as opposed to production per 
hour--the owners kept the production requirement per worker the same, in the 
reduced number of hours of workers work weeks.  The end results were worse, 
more dangerous working conditions (trying to meet increased production rates 
when conditions were already unsafe at the speed workers had been working 
at], unpresages pay cuts, and the workers' revolt. )

The United States did not have the long history and heritage and culture of 
independent crofters spinning and weaving commercially. In fact one of the 
contributors to the rebellion of the colonies which became the USA, was a 
formal policy from London of blocking commercial textile production and 
development of commercial textile production, in the colonies.  The 
colonists wanted to produce textiles in volume locally and less expensively 
for purchase than being a forced market for British textile mill production, 
weeks away on a cost-increasing voyage from the other side of the Atlantics.

Anyway, the resistance to industrialization which happened on the other side 
of the Atlantic in the UK and Europe, did not happen in the northern USA. 
(The Southern USA with the plantation system and slavery, wasn's so much 
factory averse by individuals losing their way of life and livelihood to 
volume production factories, as protective of the plantation system and the 
slavery economy underlying/powering it.

Industrial revolution factories relied upon free, if often exploited, 
workers for providing labor, who particularly relocated off farms  into 
urban areas.  They also depended upon division of labor and transportation 
of goods from volume production facilities outside the factory into the 
factories--canals and then railheads provided the transportation services 
for hauling the volume of raw, partially finished, and finished materials 

Businesses which produced tools and machinery for constructing machinery, 
for maintaining machinery, for installing machinery, and for making volume 
quantities of products, sprang up in proimity to the volume production 
factories.  That produced skilled trades people and independent business 
people, and workers who were mobile with their skills to go to other such 
businesses, or start up their own.   Slave economies, though, have the 
continuing issue of -preventing- self-determination and keeping the slaves 
subjugated and in thrall.

A growing economy with demand for skilled workers who change employers, 
involves a degree of mobility incompatible with the controls imposed in 
slave economies.  Plantation systems with intensive agriculture using lots 
of agriculatural  workers, wants lots of workers, particlarly if they are 
slaves, tied to the plantation.  Factories of newly industrializing areas 
employing free labor also wants lots of workers, but unless the factory is 
in a "factory town" where the factory controls all the house, the food 
supply, etc. in additon to te workplace,  the employer has control of 
workers only at  the place of employment, during working hours...  and the 
economy involves the factory paying the worker, and the workerr having 
self-determination over other areas of life.

--Paula Lieberman
-----Original Message----- 
From: catherine muir
Sent: Friday, October 03, 2014 07:55 AM
To: LMB Mailing List
Subject: [LMB] OT: weaving and women's rights

I visited the old mill in Dundee a couple of years ago which is now a 
working museum of Jute production; the work force there was predominantly 
female and males becoming primary child carers was an unusual (for the time) 
side-effect; capitalism again, of course; the women could be paid less, so 
were employed, but when the men reached an age to have full wages paid, they 
were let go (i.e. fired).

But the women were seen as empowered, for their time. (and exploited - see 
the "jute mill song" - same old, same old...)

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