I was excited to read this title, having lived near Lowell and being very familiar with the textile mill history of the area. Established from an ‘eyes on, all in one” perspective from Francis Cabot Lowell, the lower Middlesex River area from Lowell eastwards to Lawrence and beyond was the epicenter of textile production from 1820ish through the early 20th century, with the heyday of the Mill Girls culture almost entirely pre-Civil war, with several labor movements and actions occurring in 1845 and beyond in protest of low wages and rough treatment.
Mill girls came from the outlying farms and rural areas, first recruited from the ‘better off’ families, but soon the draw to earn a wage and help out your family encouraged many to travel in HOPE of a position, with nothing guaranteed. Alcott does a nice job of showing the different conditions faced by the women: housing, work hours and even the difficulties that they were encountering in social interactions. Using the fictional suppositions about Alice Barrows, a young woman who left farm life to pursue opportunity and was later murdered, although little notice was made of the event. Alcott uses the factual information and builds an Alice around it, with plenty of supposition to bring the reader to her end, and search for the possible culprit.
Additionally and quite skillfully, Alcott mixes in the political and societal tensions and gives us insight into the issues of the day, with the resultant possible reactions from the people. From using the slow growing labor rights movement and contrasting that with a tentative romance that crosses class lines in a way that wouldn’t have been possible even a few years earlier, readers are given a sense of the day and time, which should serve to encourage further research.
While less informative on the whole as to the actual historic context of these early adopters and pioneers into women in the ‘recognized’ workforce, there is a solid feel for their issues, questions and the steady desire for growth and independence: not a 1960-spurned concept.
Title: The Daring Ladies of Lowell
Author: Kate Alcott
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Suspense
Published by: Doubleday
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 39 minutes
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Determined to forge her own destiny, Alice Barrow joins the legions of spirited young women better known as the Mill Girls. From dawn until dusk, these ladies work the looms, but the thrill of independence, change in their pockets, and friendships formed along the way mostly make the backbreaking labor worthwhile. In fact, Hiram Fiske, the steely-eyed titan of industry, has banked on that. But the working conditions are becoming increasingly dangerous and after one too many accidents, Alice finds herself unexpectedly acting as an emissary to address the factory workers' mounting list of grievances.
After traveling to the Fiske family's Beacon Hill mansion, Alice enters a world she's never even dared to dream about: exquisite silk gowns, sumptuous dinners, grand sitting parlors, and uniformed maids operating with an invisible efficiency. Of course, there's also a chilliness in the air as Alice presents her case. But with her wide, intelligent eyes and rosy-hued cheeks, Alice manages to capture the attention of Hiram's eldest son, the handsome and reserved Samuel Fiske.
Their chemistry is undeniable, soon progressing from mutual respect and shy flirtation into an unforgettable romance. But when Alice's best friend, Lovey, is found strangled in a field, Alice and Samuel are torn between loyalty to "their kind" and a chance for true love.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.