1845 · Boston
Founded in the 1820s, the factory city of Lowell, MA, boasted its own monthly literary periodical, filled with poems and stories written by the "factory girls" — the working-class women of the textile mills. This collection of highlights from the magazine, which identifies the authors by initials or first names only, largely focuses on the virtues of dedication, hard work, thrift, self-improvement, and patriotism, with special emphasis on the importance of enduring hardship patiently.
The work was first published in London in 1844, with an informative introduction by its editor, Harriet Martineau; this Boston printing, including that contextualizing introduction, is => the first U.S. appearance of a significant and uncommon expression of the thoughts and dreams of women laborers in the early 19th-century American factory system.
Provenance: Bookplate of the Wilmington Institute Free Library (originally incorporated in 1754).
Goldsmiths'-Kress 34077; Sabin 49192. Publisher's straight-grained brown cloth, covers framed in triple blind fillets surrounding central blind-stamped foliate medallions, spine with gilt-stamped title and foliate motifs; extremities rubbed, spine with paper hand-inked shelving label and with affixed letter "S" partially obscuring title. Front pastedown with bookplate as noted; back free endpaper with affixed library slip noting the book was "not for circulation," with offsetting to back pastedown. Last text page with early inked initials and with pencilled purchase note. Scattered mild foxing. A nice example of this pioneering collection, in its original publisher's binding, and => once held by a public library designed to support exactly the kind of working-class self-improvement on which the volume focuses. (Inventory #: 38169)