…The following article has come to notice. Of itself, it tells the melancholy tale.
The annual statistics of several factories show the following facts:
The above statement shows that the capital of $11,000,000 employed in Lowell gives employment to only 7,000 females at $1,75 per week. That although the quantity of cloth manufactured per week is largely increased, the number of operatives are diminished. This is effected by the improvements which have been made in machinery.
The dividends in 1845 are almost 200 per cent greater than in 1844, whilst the wages of the females are 12 1/2 percent less. This is the natural result of the state of things in New England – the more wealth becomes concentrated in a few hands, the poorer the great mass becomes.
It is worthy of remark that the enaction of manufactories for a time increased the price of labor by the increased demand it caused for laborers, yet from this it cannot be inferred that the profits of the employer implies a high or even a fair price for labor, as the increased profits and decreased wages in the above table proves. – The prices of labor as of merchandise are governed by the relative proportion between supply and demand, and in the case of Lowell, the supply must exceed the demand, as we think the poor girl can have but little of her $1,75 per week left to clothe herself with after paying for her board and washing.
It is not many years of since I recollect boasts that the wages of the Factory districts were from three to six dollars a week, and that, too, when Paper Money was less expanded than now in the proportion to the population, (and this expansion of Paper Money, or charitable agreement of the poor to make the rich richer by paying them interest on what they once, must always be kept in mind when speaking of the prices of wages.)
Now, poor men’s daughters, being more plenty in consequence of the natural increase of the landless population; are enticed or necessitated to go to the factories, and toil there twelve or fourteen hours a day for $1.75 a week; and the daughters of those girls would, inevitable, under the operation of the present system, be compelled to labor for two-thirds or half that amount.
But this monstrous system must be changed. The “Operatives” will claim the right to go back to the green earth; the right will be acceded; and then the capitalists and laborer, each standing on his own soil, can make a much more amicable and far more equitable arrangement than subsists between them at present. All short of this is mere palliative.
Voice of the Sufferers
It is a subject of comment and general complaint, among the operatives, that while they tend three or four looms, where they used to tend but two, making nearly twice the number of yards of cloth, the pay is not increased to them, while the increase, to the owners is very great. Is this just? Twenty-five cents per week for each week, additional pay, would not increase the cost of the cloth, one mill a yard; no, not the half of a mill.
Now while I am penning this paragraph, a young lady enters my room with "Oh dear! Jane, I am sick and what shall I do? I have worked for three years, and never gave out, before. I stuck to my work, until I fainted at my loom. The Doctor says I must quit work and run about and amuse myself; but I have nowhere to go, and do not know what to do with myself." I have given the language, as it struck my ear; the conversation going on behind me. It is but the feelings of a thousand homeless, suffering females, this moment chanting "the Voice of Industry in this wilderness of sin."
—One of the Vast Army of Sufferers
Voice of Industry, March 13, 1846
The question you proposed, on wages being raised, the past year, is that the companies do not pay more for the same amount of work; but the operatives do more work than formerly. A few years ago, no girl was required to tend more than two looms. Now they tend four, and some five; and because they make a few cents more than they did on two, it is trumpeted all over the country, that their wages have been raised. This is a true statement of the case, as it exists in our midst; and, yet, men here have the audacity to send out statements, as false as they are, to the interest of the operative;— and Heaven knows that is false indeed.
No. of Spindles
No. of Females
Wages per week
Yards per week