This letter from an unidentified mill worker describes early Lawrence (plank sidewalks, factory buildings, etc.), a typical mill girl’s room (two beds per room, dresses hung up, six trunks, bandboxes & carpetbags, looking glasses and chairs), fashions of the time (with an allusion to “bloomers”) and a bit about her friends and family.
**Note: This is a low image resolution of only the 1st page, the original document can be found at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts, however the complete transcription is included here.
Lawrence June 9th, 54
Dear friends at home,
It is Monday morning & raining dreadfully so hard that I cannot get to the shop until it holds up for I have nearly a half a mile to go, & it pours instead of raining, our sidewalks are plank1, instead of brick as in other places, & make it very bad for long dresses in rainy weather.
Imagine to yourselves a girl just entered her twenty fifth year seated at a small light stand with writing materials before her & endeavoring2 to write a few of her uppermost thoughts near a window that overlooks the principal street of Lawrence, in the fourth story of a long brick factory boarding block3, with two beds situated on the east side of the room with a lot of old drapes4 & skirts hung up behind them & somewhere in the vicinity of six trunks on the west & south side & a closet filled to overflowing, say nothing about the band boxes & carpet bags5 there with a couple of looking glasses6 & a chair comprise the contents that contained your daughter & sister
Ann, the writer. To mother, you say, you would like a dress & I will get it for you, but I want to go up to Lowell & get it. For I can get it cheaper there than here, (&) I am going up to Lowell (on) the fourth of July & that is not far distant. If you can wait as well as not—I will not send the box, until then brothers, B & John, are coming up to Lowell then & we shall meet there together as we were last year . But I hope I will not be obliged7 to go home so soon after it as I was last year. Especially under the same circumstances that I did then. I have not been up to Lowell since I left there, but I think I should have gone up if Nancy had been there, but she is at Quincy keeping school & has five dollars per week & pays nine shillings for board8. I should like her pay, but I should not care about her occupation. I had a letter from the boys last week, they wrote that they had not heard from any of you, or at least had not had a letter from you since I saw them & they were at a loss to know what the reason was. Pa wrote me that he had become a little more acquainted with the Eatons’ & I have no objection my‐self, he wanted my approval and he has it for I think her to be a fine girl. She has a good education, has taught school some, is a dress maker &c **** I was with her considerable while I was at Newton. It does not rain much now & I will leave off & finish some other time Tuesday, & it is quite pleasant only very windy as usual there is more wind here in one week than I ever knew any where else in a month. It seemed very queer when I first came
1 Plank = wooden
2 Eadeavoring = trying
3 Boarding block = boarding house where mill girls lived together
4 Drapes = curtains
5 Band boxes & carpet bags = boxes and bags used like suitcases
6 Looking glasses = mirrors
7 Obliged = required
8 Board = “room & board” – for a place to stay and for meals
Here but I have got(ten) used to it now & use(d to it) you know (it) is second nature & the cold east winds off the salt water trouble us exceedingly. The weather will change twenty degrees in half as many minutes seemingly, it seems as different as any place that I was ever in before that I do not feel at home but can make my self contented most any where.
I was surprised to hear that Cousin Hannah had gave (sic) in to the mill but I don’t believe she will do house work any more, if it agrees with her in the mill. I suppose you would like to hear all the news, so prepare for something awfull only think B & J both of us there. I don’t want to tell you, but I suppose I must & I might as well come to the subject at once so here you will have it. Well one day I took it into my head I would have me a‐a‐a white crape9 shawl, that’s it. So I got it and paid eight & a half dollars. Tis a beauty. Ha ha ha ha You asked me if I had heard from Hampton Falls. I have written Martha a few weeks since, but as yet have received no answer. The lady that I work for has recently got married & it is uncertain how long I shall remain here for she will sell out as soon as she can. Folks say her shop is an awfull place for girls. She can’t or couldn’t keep a girl, but a few weeks or months at least before they would get married & now she has gone for herself, but I could make a stand by for them. If you could only see how the boys at twenty‐five try to shine, but I guess (***?) they will have to shine a good while before they will come (to) it. It seems as though I might get a beau10 for there are no less than
Forty of them where I board11, but there is not one of them that I would touch with the tongs12.
I am pretty well only the nettle sprays or springs13, something of the kind, trouble me extremely & have more or less ever since I have been here.
I wonder if the new costume for dresses14 has reached your town yet, it is raging greatly among the lower & less sensible class, but those of a firm decided mind cast it aside at once my‐self for instance, I think it contemptible for ladies to wear such a dress but for little children it might answer.
I suppose you know what the dress is. If you don’t I will tell you, it is tunic‐like (and) comes to the knees with one thin nice skirt. It is open in front clear down & (has) pants cut like gents –pants only larger and fill’d in to a binding at the ankle,(ladies wear it with) hats & canes & high heel’d boots.
I believe I have written nearly all the news that I can think of & hope I shall get as long a letter from you soon, for it is the greatest treat – I have is to get letters from you & the boys. I believe I shan’t write any longer for it is almost breakfast time, so good bye, give my love to all. This is from our Ann.
9 Crape = textured woolen fabric
10 Beau = boyfriend
11 Board = live
12 “Touch with the tongs” = would be acceptable
13 Nettle sprays or springs = hayfever
14 New costume for dresses = “bloomers” came out at this time, see info from other centers
“Ann” Letter” (Lawrence, 1854). American Textile Museum, Lowell, MA.
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