Item #7259 The Lowell Factory Girl.

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The Lowell Factory Girl.

[Lowell, Mass.?, ca. 1835]. Broadside (8.75” x 6.5”), with title above text in two columns, ornamental border. CONDITION: Good, old folds and creases, .25” closed tear at center left edge, various stains and soiling, old bits of red wax adhesive on verso.

A rare broadside printing of a song bemoaning the difficult life of a female factory-worker in Lowell, Mass., a variation of the folk song “The Factory Girl’s Song.”

The verses are written in the voice of a dissatisfied worker who describes the daily tasks of the mill girls:

The factory bell begins to ring,
And we must all obey,
And to our employment go,
Or else be turned away.

No more I’ll lay my bobins up,
No more I’ll take them down;
No more I’ll clean my dirty work;
For I’m going out of town.

No more I’ll oil my picker rods,
No more I’ll brush my loom,
No more I’ll scour my dirty floor
All in the Weaving room.

The speaker announces her intended departure from factory life in Lowell—giving up the difficulties of laboring for insufficient pay under the watch of an overseer, and her intention to marry back home:

Come all ye weary factory girls,
I’ll have you understand,
I’m going to leave the factory
And return to my native land.

No more I’ll draw these threads
All through the harness eye;
No more I’ll say to my overseer,
Oh! dear me, I shall die.

Then since they’ve cut my wages down
To nine shillings per week,
If I cannot better wages make,
Some other place I’ll seek.

Now soon you’ll see me married
To a handsome little man,
‘Tis then I’ll say to you factory girls,
Come and see me when you can.
Chorus—Then sing hit-re-i re-a-re-e,
Then sing hit-re-i-re-a.

“The Factory Girl’s Song” dates back to the 1830s. Several iterations are known, including the present version as well as “The Factory Girl’s Come-All-Ye” (from Lewiston, Maine), and versions with the more generalized title “Factory Girl.” The Smithsonian notes that the song “may have originated in Lowell, Massachusetts, but some scholars suggest that the reference to wages earned in ‘shillings’ instead of dollars may mean it had connections to Canadian immigrants to the Lowell textile mills.” The “nine shilling” wage the singer complains of aligns with the average weekly earnings of $2.25 paid to New England cotton-factory laborers in 1830.

In the 1915 article, "Some Types of American Folk Song" (Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 28), musicologist John Lomax (1867–1948) records a song containing several identifiable stanzas of "The Lowell Factory Girl," to which he adds the following note: "I heard [this song] sung by a wandering singer plying her minstrel trade by the roadside in Fort Worth, during an annual meeting of the Texas Cattle Raisers Association. It is the song of the girl factory-worker, and the singer told me she picked it up in Florida." In this Southern version of the song collected by Lomax, the descriptive list of working conditions drawn from the original New England song is framed by two new stanzas that invoke the worker's own physical condition in a muted humorous mode.

Rare. Not in WorldCat. The only institutional copy we’ve been able to locate is in the Harris Collection in the John Hay Library at Brown.

REFERENCES: Cohen, Norm. Where is the Lowell Factory Girl? A Tangled Yarn from the Textile Mills (2005) at; DeNatale, Doug and Glenn Hinson. “The Southern Textile Song Tradition Reconsidered.” Journal of Folklore Research Vol. 28, (1991), p. 113; John Lomax quoted in Greenway, John. American Folksongs of Protest (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1953), p. 125; “Factory Girl’s Song” at

Item #7259


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