By Stephan Anstey
As she entered the noisy, bustling factory floor of the textile mill, she already felt the exhaustion creeping up on her. After nearly a year working there, leaving her family's farm in Maine, the work was almost as hard as farm work, and the hours were nearly as long, but the exhaustion... the exhaustion might have been even more. Like all of the other girls in the mill, she was on her feet for twelve hours a day, in the deafening noise, and air thick with cotton dust. She was bending over the looms and spindles, helping them churn out dozens of yards of cloth, determined to make the best of her situation. She'd heard about the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association, a group of girls who worked in the mills fighting for better treatment and working conditions. She'd read the "Lowell Offering," which featured stories and poems written by girls like her and been inspired to put her own thoughts on paper. She even attended a meeting, though she was nervous. She quickly connected with so many other girls as they talked about the long hours, the low pay, and life in the boarding houses where they were housed. But whether they knew or not, she knew they were silly to imagine a society where all people were treated with respect and dignity — she knew they were silly to think a woman could be treated fairly. But oh, how she loved to imagine a world that could never be.