The young mill workers were paid only a dollar or two, perhaps three, for a week’s work, and at least half of that went to pay for food and lodging in the mill company’s boardinghouses.
In the mid-1830s, when the mill owners tried to cut the workers’ wages, the women protested.
In Lowell, Massachusetts, they formed the Factory Girls’ Association in 1836. Angered by new pay cuts, about 1,500 young mill workers walked off their jobs.
They marched through town and sang, “Oh! isn’t it a pity, such a pretty girl as I / Should be sent to the factory to pine away and die?”
Although they did not win higher wages, they inspired other women to try again later.