Daily Life

Merrimack Mills and Boarding-Houses

"Mill and Boardinghouse"

Mill life encompassed more than just the lengthy hours spent working at the mills. While working, many women used the time as an opportunity to cultivate richness in thought, hence the oft-repeated phrase "mind among the spindles." Female factory workers maintained a busy daily life outside of their working hours as a result of their close living quarters and the structured nature of factory work. Bells would sound wakeup times, meal times, and sleeping times. 

A typical day for mill girls might include a wakeup bell and a quick first meal, followed by several hours of work, a lunch bell, and work until the evening dinner bell. After work, the girls had a few hours of relative freedom before the boarding house’s curfew. Free time could be taken up by numerous hobbies, such as writing letters to family and friends, going on walks, shopping, or pursuing creative projects. The girls would often go on outings as groups, especially to church on Sundays. The boarding houses, like the one pictured in the lithograph, became communal social centers that facilitated creative collaboration and advocacy for reform.