Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Daring Ladies of Lowell: A Novel

Title:  The Daring Ladies of Lowell:  A Novel
Author:  Kate Alcott
Publication Information:  Doubleday Books. 2014. 243 pages.
ISBN:  0385536496 / 978-0385536493

Book Source:  I read this book based on the title and description.

Favorite Quote:  "Perhaps you're too young yet to see how the tides go in and out. For all the wealth and luxury in this house, there's nothing magical about it. One generation toils away so they can wear fine clothes and eat off silver dishes. The next drifts along, barely bothering to paddle the boat. And then it is up or down."

The year is 1832. Alice Barrow flees her home in New Hampshire in search of independence and a better life. This search brings her to the textile factory in Lowell, Massachusetts and Boarding House #52, Dormitory A.

Historically, at the time, Lowell was growing as a manufacturing center. Retrospectively, it is in fact considered one of the hubs of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. The mill and surrounding town were one of the first planned industrial city constructions in the country. Even today, the National Park Service has preserved many of the sites as historical landmarks.

Many men, including many immigrants escaping the Irish potato famine, worked on constructing the factories and canals. A key workforce in the factories were the Mill girls, young single women coming from the farm communities in Massachusetts and surrounding states. The "single" was a requirement of the factory owners. The "young" was due to shorter life-spans, the difficult work, and the requirement to be single.

Alice comes to become one of the Mill girls. In Dormitory A, she meets a group of women, each with their own story and their own reason for being there. The stories are all different but similar in one respect - most of these women do not have the option of returning to the home they have left.

The book follows three story lines - the working conditions of the factories and efforts to change those, the death of one of Alice's friends and the pursuit for justice, and a romance for Alice. The historical discussion of the Mill girls and the factory conditions is the most interesting aspect of the book for me. The fact that one young girl wrote a "Mill Girl Manifesto" demanding rights represents the courage of these young women. The story of the death of Alice's friend ties into that. That death is based on the actual case of Sarah Cornell's death in 1832.

I could have done without the romance aspect of the book. For me, it does not add to the story. I would rather that the focus have remained on the strong and independent woman that Alice was. Aside from that, the book is an enjoyable read, an interesting history, and a very quick read.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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