In the mid-19th century factories became an integral
part of the economy of Connecticut and the rest of New England.
Self-sufficient agricultural systems, for example family farms,
gave way to manufacturing systems that depended on labor. Women
took advantage of this demand for labor by going to work in factories
for wages. Some factories even educated the women by providing
them with classes and libraries. Women who worked in the factories
played a major role in the struggle for labor rights.
Chapin Plane Factory:
Four Women Workers
(New Hartford), ca. 1890
Photo CD: 0539 File: Img0070. pcd
A desire for
greater independence away from the control of fathers and brothers
and the promise of a steady wage led many girls to work and sometimes
live in factories. However, there are many accounts of the less
than ideal living conditions, including cramped quarters, long
hours, and low wages. These women in the picture might have stood
for ten or eleven hours a day, six days a week.
Interior of Mill:
Women Grading Silk
Manchester, ca. 1918
Photo CD: 3153 File: Img0073.pcd
Despite the fact that these jobs offered some independence
and opportunity for education, the jobs themselves were unskilled.
As the anonymity of this photograph suggests the workers were
interchangeable and there was little job security if the factorys
owner found cheaper labor. The Cheney Mills, unlike most factories
where job security was minimal, were very secure until the Great
Depression in the 1930s.
Women Tobacco Workers
Hartford County, ca. 1920
Photo CD: 0552 File: Img0087.pcd
The tobacco industry was very important in Connecticut.
It was in many ways similarly to factory work, with long hours
and low wages. Owners often hired women to work on tobacco farms
during harvest seasons to earn extra money for their families.
Women At Work
Women on Farms
Church and Charities
Women as Educators
Improved Educational Opportunities for Women
White Collar Employment
Women in War
Women in Music, Art, Literature
Suggestions for further reading