Factory Maids: The Millworkers of New England
Concert Hall A -- 11:30am to 12:30pm Saturday April 24 EF
In the early 1800s, the invention of the power loom disrupted the way fabric had always been made, and who had made it. Diane Taraz explores the revolutionary changes millwork brought to the lives of women who seized new options for better pay and independence, flocking to the mills to "weave by steam." She illuminates their story with songs from the time, played on authentic instruments.The initial promise of "the Lowell system" in the 1830s soured into abuse and poverty. Mill companies filled their workrooms with immigrants, some as young as ten. We hear of the "Bread and Roses" strike of 1912, which united workers who spoke dozens of languages in a common quest for respect, adequate pay, and decent working conditions. As a descendant of immigrant millworkers on both sides of her family, Diane is honored to present songs that capture both despair and hope as newcomers sought a better life.