Young women and girls from across America begged their parents for permission to go to cities like Lowell Massachusetts to become mill girls. Some stories describe horrid accidents and terrible living and working conditions caused by the mills, so why would anyone want to work there?
Farming was a major source of income during this time. It was often a struggle to produce a good harvest, therefore there was a very small income. Every extra amount of money helped. Mill workers could earn up to six dollars per month. Families were attracted to this wage because their daughters could send money home. The girls themselves liked the thought of this because after paying boarding dues and sending money home they still had a tiny bit of spending money for things like new shoes and dresses. Another reason young women were attracted to the life of a mill worker was because that had the opportunity to "see the world." The girls felt as though they had more independence in the city than they'd have at home on the farm with their fathers. The mill life appealed to many girls because of the money and freedom.
The girls who thought it would be a great idea to leave home may have changed their minds after working in the mills for a little while. Though there were great benefits, there was also some costs to the lifestyle they chose. The girls worked long, tiring hours in the dangerous mills where they put their health and safety on the line everyday. When they returned to the boarding house for the night, they were to follow very strict rules. Life at the mills wasn't always as wonderful as the girls assumed it would be.
The life of a mill girl had it's ups and downs, but their work helped change the attitude people had towards women in the 1800's. After many girls bravely left home at a young age to work, people no longer thought girls were meant to stay at home with their fathers until marriage. After the girls boycotted for increased wages they had more of a political position in society. People in the 1800's started to see women as the brave, strong, and independent people they truly are.