The Lowell Offering, 1840s
The Lowell Offering is a publication produced by the women of the Lowell Mills for the purpose of uplifting and supporting themselves, and its self-described goals are to “cultivate talent, to preserve such articles as are deemed worthy of preservation, and to correct an erroneous idea which generally prevails in relation to the intelligence of persons employed in the mills.” The women of the Lowell Mills, who are the first documented women laborers to form their own union, also had an invested interest in bettering themselves intellectually. While all content creators were female operatives of the mill, the nature of the pieces range from poetry to prose to petitions. Within the Offering, there is a scathing letter written to defend the honor of the women working within the mill, a piece on the necessity of old maids within society, and deep philosophical pondering about death, beauty, and life. The magazine is not a news source, it is an academic and artistic avenue for expression. They address factory life as well—within these documents is a complete healthcare plan proposed by the women of the mill to ensure affordable access to care. Although these women are linked by occupation, the diversity of their literature serves to display the diversity of the women themselves. The viewpoints within the articles often conflict, and the writing styles are not cohesive; this forces contemporary readers to acknowledge differences amongst the women rather than generalize their experience. The Lowell Offering is an invaluable tool in studying the personhood of the women of the Lowell Mills, based on how they chose to present themselves.