Pepperell Workers, Biddeford, ca. 1900Item 23038 info
Dyer Library Archives / Saco Museum
At mid century, ongoing labor strife and rising tension between mill owners and their increasingly savvy female work force led to a shift in the composition of mill workers.
By 1860, the majority of factory girls were foreign born and the native Protestant middle class society was less concerned with their fates. Mill owners paid this work force less and demanded more work of them as the textile industry became less profitable.
Following the upheaval of the Civil War, native born, middle class young women found new opportunities that took them from their homes, delayed marriage, and worried their parents.
Once again sensational fiction moralized on the dire consequences of this latest quest: attending college.