I love when the characters you are reading about become as comfortable as friends. When you let out a wistful sigh to see their story at an end. Such was the case with The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott ( a pseudonym for Patricia O’Brien).
From the first page of this novel, I was totally immersed in the 1830’s mill life of Lowell, Massachusetts. The main teller of this tale, Alice Barrow, newly arrived in the city, is determined to make her own way in the world. Boarding at Boott Boarding House Number Fifty Three, with five other mill girls, she quickly makes friends with them all. However she and the equally strong willed Lovey Cornell soon become best friends.
Alice soon throws herself into the daily life of a mill girl, determined to learn how to run the looms. As she begins to learn her work, her eyes are also opened to the hazards of her new profession. From hair getting caught in the machinery to cotton fibers floating in the factory and filling the worker’s lungs, Alice and Lovey both agree that working conditions at the mill must change.
Alice bravely speaks up about these conditions and soon finds herself being invited to Boston to discuss her concerns with the Fiskes, who own the mill. She is slowly immersed into their world, a world she had never before conceived of living in. Over dinner she catches the eye of Samuel Fiske, the mill owner’s son, much to the dismay of Samuel’s father Hiram.
When Alice returns to Lowell, she is shocked to find that Lovey has committed suicide. Except that Alice does not believe Lovey died as a result of her own hands. Alice’s investigation into her friend’s death and the trial that ensues, places the mill workers and the mill owners as well as Alice and Samuel on a collision course to change for everyone. A historical note here, Lovey’s death was based on an actual murder at the Lowell Mills in 1833, according to the author.
Being a native of Massachusetts, I thought I had a fairly complete knowledge of the history of the mills in Lowell. Through this book however, that time in history was opened up to me in a deeper way than I ever expected. The characters in this book were well written and well researched, letting the reader see the mill through their eyes, as they worked.
The Daring Ladies of Lowell is a not to be missed historical ride. I was mesmerized by the workings of the mill and it’s inhabitants to the very end. You Have To Read This Book! I find all of my Have To Read Books on the shelves of the public library, visit yours today!