To Sarah With Love
Toot, toot! The whistle sounds, and I imagine you rolling out of your woolen sheets and blanket and placing your tired feet upon a cold bare wooden floor. The rooster has not yet crowed and you are already at the table with a hearty meal ready to start your day, except you do not eat an ordinary breakfast anymore. Your breakfast consists fried codfish, fried hash, fried potato balls, pumpkin mush with cream, buttered toast, apple pie coffee with brown sugar, and milk. Goodness! My stomach is inflating just thinking about what a hearty breakfast you eat. With tired fingers and aching bones you head off to work to start your day, but before you even leave your building you pass by your boss. In a very meek tone you wish him a good morning. It won't be long before you will see him looming over you, watching every move you make, and commenting on your mistakes. For he is not only your boss, Sarah, but a very poor replacement of me... your father.
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Sarah Bagely, your life is ruled by the bell and the whistle. What a life you are living. What a life you have lived. Your life today in the big city of Lowell, Massachusetts is a far cry from your former life on our farm in New Hampshire. How excited you were when you heard of this great city! I hear that your new home is quite a blossoming town. They are even calling Lowell the heart of an "Industrial Revolution" -- a rather strange term if you ask me. Henry David Thoreau was quoted in the same newspaper as saying that you "send your cotton around the globe." You must be meeting all kids of people. Everyone is flocking to Lowell. I lodged an Irish family who just arrived in North America and plan to join their family in Lowell in order to help build the canals from the Merrimack River that power the looms that you operate. It sounds all too exciting and I am certainly proud of you! That man that your new city is named after, Francis Cabot Lowell, was featured in the Massachusetts Sentinel in an article that your brother read to me. According to reports, in 1810 Mr. Lowell sailed to England and learned about power looms and introduced them to Boston. Unfortunately, Lowell died shortly after he started this enterprise and was not able to see the fruits of his labors.
I can only imagine how it must be like for you in Lowell. I understand that heavy demands are made of you at this factory. The $3.50 a week that you earn is rather handsome, but hardly compensatory for the labor you endure. Especially since close to $1.50 of that is deducted for your housing. I do wish that I could help you in some way other than the portions of food that I send you. You said in your last letter that you rise at 4 a.m. and you do not return to you bed until after 9 p.m.! Remember, here on the farm the rooster does not crow until 5:30 a.m. and supper is always at 7 p.m., and a good night's rest is a requirement at home. Never forget that you are always welcome to return at your own discretion. I know city life can seem quite alluring, especially coming from such humble beginnings. You are only 21 and have your whole life ahead of you.
It is here that I am forced to be honest with you. In case you have forgotten, John Caroll Smith, our neighbor, travels to Lowell quite often, and has reported on the declining state of labor conditions in the thriving town of Lowell. He mentioned your activism amongst the young women of the mills. I am told that you are striking for a 10-hour work day. How horrible that these greedy men should even dare make you work "sun up to sun down," let alone enact a wage cut. Please do not feel pressured to continue your labor for our sake. We gave you our blessing to leave because we are all too aware of your strong will and conviction. We would not be loving parents to stand in the way of your goal, and we have heard of many industrious young ladies who have made the same journey to Lowell for varying reasons. You have my full support. Your brother and I can work on letters of protest to the governor immediately! The mill workers in Lowell are the pride of Massachusetts and surely America. You have made America a strong competitor in any realm of business. We only pray that it will not become the death of you.
I shall conclude this letter with love and blessings. You bear the Bagley name and all of the courage and strength that comes along with it. I only fear for your safety. The new monsters known as industrialists solely seek money and surely feel threatened by the strong stance of my small framed beautiful daughter. Please be careful my love. Mills have sprung up around our town similar to yours, and I feel that you are fighting a battle which may already have been won by younger and stronger lions. Hopefully, Lowell will not become like those despicable factories in Europe where the conditions are horrible -- akin to slavery. Many workers are beaten, starved and forced to work long hours without adequate pay. It would surely be quite a shame for you to end up in that type of situation. We shall pray for you, and we love you my dear Sarah. Oh how your mother and I miss you so.
Your Loving Father,
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