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Mill Workers

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Second from the left, back row is Louis St. Jean



Each worker was responsible for up to 100 bobbins at a time. Many injures occurred during the long, hectic days. Losing a finger was a common injury which often meant the end of a career.


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Factory work was considered a very respectable job, the first profession in which a woman could achieve some degree of financial independence. Workers were attracted by the mills’ advantages, not driven there by force of circumstances. Mill work had a great degree of sociability with new friends in a dormitory atmosphere, an opportunity for further education, an honorable way to earn a dowry, and a dignified way to be self-supporting. That’s not to say that conditions were not hazardous. The hours were long and head and eye injuries from flying shuttles were frequent. Light was insufficient and the machinery noise was deafening. And as mill windows were kept closed to promote humidity, stuffy lint-filled air heightened the likelihood of respiratory diseases and lung infections. Still, when girls when home to their farms on vacations, as likely as not they brought friends back with them to join the working class in the cotton mills.

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Two drivers for the Cocheco Mill Company loading their cart with cotton at the old warehouse on Chestnut Street.

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Two men outside Cocheco Mill, facing Central Avenue, approximately 1880.

 

 

 

 

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