Women Writers | The Revolutionary Power of Girl Talk
In an opinion by Mattie Kahn, in Time magazine, she opens with “It started like most revolutions do: with gossip.” Ms. Kahn has a new book out entitled Young and The Restless | The Girls Who Sparked America’s Revolutions. The textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts became the original “Gossip Girls” founding the first all-female-staffed magazine in American history, the Lowell Offering.
When Harriett Hanson was 11 years old, the 1836 strike (called a “turnout”) began. Cut wages and now the $1.25 allowance for clean, adequate room and board was going to have to be assumed by the workers. As workers leaving the Tremont Cotton Mill passed by, one ask Harriet if she was coming. She told her fellow workers that she was turning out. They could join if they wanted. They stood and followed her. “As I looked back at the long line that followed me, I was more proud than I shall ever be again…” The strike had no effect, with most returning to work until the company enacted more and more cuts and the majority returned home or found other employment.
The work conditions for the Tremont Mill workers differed from those of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Tremont workers lived in communal boarding houses with adequate food and social activities among themselves. Educated and well-respected within the community, many became famous in their own right. Whereas the Triangle girls, as described in my Prequel to Mission 1: All in a Day’s Work | Sophia Meets Pedro, were “illiterate immigrants” who spoke little English. They lived in filthy squalor, worked in dangerous conditions, were beaten and harassed during their strike, and served time in the Workhouse. The Triangle “Gossip Girls” aligned with the garment workers’ union to improve factory conditions for years in the future. The price for the Triangle One Forty-Seven, however, was a horrendous fiery death on March 25, 1911, which paved the way for many labor changes.