I was involved in this years April A to Z Challenge. My theme? Women Writers in Literary History. I fell head over heels in love with the theme so I am continuing to write my brief primarily social biographies. I hope to write as many as two a week. ENJOY!
My friend Jared gave me the Poetry Edition from an old Children’s Encyclopedia last Christmas. He had found this series at a book sale and parceled the volumes to friends he knew would appreciate the content. I found a strangely feminist sounding poem tucked inside among what you might think would be in a poetry collection from the mid-1940’s. The intrigue led me to a google search where I found Lucy Larcom had been one of the Mill Girls in Lowell, living in the planned "Golden Experiment." for young girls to work in cotton mills in the 19th Century.
Lucy Larcom lived and worked in Lowell from age 11 to age 21. She started as a threader, meaning she delivered spools of thread to the women working the machines. She graduated quickly to working the loud, heavy machines. She and her friends would post their favorite poetry on the walls since books were not allowed in the mills. She read her “poetry library” throughout the day, sometimes challenging each other to recite from memory.
She and her sisters were valued both for their tenacity in the workplace, but also for their love of language. This love helped her to insure the machinery would not “make her its slave.” She continued, "(the machine’s incessant discords could not drown the music of my thoughts if I would let them fly
Until she was 15, she could attend school 3 months out of the year. She took full advantage of this opportunity for an education.
When the Mill Girls of Lowell began an experiment in publishing their work through a magazine for the workers called the Lowell Offering. Lucy was published repeatedly.
Through her poetry, she became one of the voices of the Mill Girls.
After she left Lowell, she started teaching school “out west” in Illinois, even though she had dropped out of school at age 10. She continued her education there, in Illinois, as she taught school, hoping to have enough credentials to eventually move back to Massachusetts and teach there, too. In 1849 she enrolled in the Monticello Female Seminary in Godfrey which had rigorous studies for women.
Lucy returned to Massachusetts once her education was complete. She took a job teaching at the Wheaton Seminary (now Wheaton College.) She maintained friendships with John Greenleaf Whittier (who wrote a poem about her), Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Louisa May Alcott among others and eventually left her teaching career to pursue writing and publishing full time.
Her 1889 autobiography, A New England Girlhood soon became a classic, a chronicle of the Mill Girl experience from a Mill Girl herself. She published fifteen other books, primarily poetry, in her lifetime.
So – next time you are planning your Christmas gift giving, consider each friend’s passion and gift accordingly. I am grateful Jared did!
I am working on a page with links to all my biographies. Watch for it, soon!
Julie Jordan Scott has been a Life & Creativity Coach, Writer, Facilitator and Teleclass Leader since 1999. She is also an award winning Actor, Director, Artist and Mother Extraordinaire. She was twice the StoryTelling Slam champion in Bakersfield. She teaches a teleclass/ecourse "Discover the Power of Writing & Telling Engaging, Enlightening Stories" which begins again May 24, 2012. Find details by clicking this link.
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