Manufacturing and Urbanization

Because of the rise of industrialism in the nineteenth century, United States became an industrialized society. This change was sped up by transportation revolution as well as immigration. Urbanization, along with the need for a market economy, also contributed America’s industrialization. Industrialization changed the lives of everyone. The farmers had become workers in factories and mills. Agriculture became mechanized, and with technology, the food production increased. Coupled with fast production and mechanization, the farmers worked faster. Since the transportation network was also quite effective, goods were also transported throughout America, boosting commerce and industry throughout the regions. Urbanization also went hand in hand with industrialization as with the expansion of farming. The mechanization of the textile industry was not until mid-nineteenth century when the likes of Lowell Mills (in Massachusetts) sprouted. In fact, Lowell Mills was the most profitable mill in Massachusetts. In 1814, the Boston Manufacturing Company was established and it built a mill near the Charles River. It became the first integrated mill in the United States: it was the first mill to have had carding, spinning and weaving. For several years, the town of Lowell in Massachusetts became the default place for putting up mills in America as ten textile corporations opened more than thirty mills in Lowell. The city became world famous as the “center of efficient industry”. These mills had eight thousand workers, women between ages 16 to 35 as their workers and they were promised high wages by men who told them that these jobs were available to all social classes, since being a mill girl is considered being degrading. The Lowell Mills had a large-scale mechanization with the goal of improving the stature the women in the workforce. The mills usually hired employees for a year and they were renewed every year (the average employee lasts for four years). The new ones had a fixed wage while the older employees were paid by the piece. The workers usually worked for fourteen hours each day and their work averages for seventy three hours each week. The workers were overseen by two male managers. The rooms are hot with eighty workers to a room, and the windows are closed to maintain thread count and thread work. The workers were also housed in boarding houses that were provided by the company, with six workers in a bedroom. Because of the economic depression of the 1830s, the board of directors of the mills proposed a reduction in the women’s wages and the employees had strikes. The women lost and the employees left town, and this was seen as a “betrayal of femininity”. In 1845, the Lowell women started the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association. It demanded a ten hour work for the women of Lowell Mills. The movement became unsuccessful then but in 1847, their work hours were reduced by 30 minutes. In New Hampshire, however, the State Board passed a law for a ten hour workday. This development in the industrialization of America brought forth inequality in the working class, particularly in the lives of female white workers as exemplified by the working women of Lowell Mills. The inequality was not only sexist as it only affected women.

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