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The Belles of New England: The Women of the…
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The Belles of New England: The Women of the Textile Mills and the Families…

by William Moran

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Although there are some very interesting tidbits to learn about the New England cotton mills written in Moran's Belles of New England, there was very little about the GIRLS themselves. The author takes you way beyond the life of the girls and digresses heavily into the realms of the mill owners, and of the many immigrants who traveled from Europe for various reasons, coming to America to gain jobs in the textile industry. Briefly mentioning why the immigrants were important would have been plenty, but the reader must endure long paragraphs of the history of Ellis Island and that immigrant story as well. You find unending pages regarding why the Irish immigrants came to the mills after leaving their homeland out of desperation caused by the potato famine crisis. Another chapter with ongoing descriptions on why the French Canadians similarly crossed the border at a time when their economic status sent people scurrying for mill jobs, was also very tedious to read. All of this could have been condensed down to a few passages explaining why this was essential to the story of the mills, not a hundred pages of it!

This historic account takes place before the Civil War when issues of slavery in the South played a great part for the cotton mill factories. But again, the author spent way too much time informing the reader of the New England views on slavery, and how this effected local areas who were either for or against abolition including personal views from the local people questioning the right to use slaves to pick the cotton they wove. Some of this is of course relevant to the importance and history of the mills, but not to the extent the author injects into this book.

I was greatly disappointed in this book due to all the other miscellaneous historical facts I wasn't expecting to get. I really was looking for a book full of quotes, memoirs and descriptive details pertaining to the thousands of women who worked 14 hour days by the sweat of their brow running the machines and living in communal boarding houses. The initial plan from the fore founders was to provide a society for female self improvement that would allow the ladies to become financially independent and in turn help them to move on to going to school to better their lives. I did not get very much of that at all. I found that these pages and pages, chapters and chapters filled with nonpertinent trivial history more than enough for anyone interested in the women's part of this story.

I also feel the need to comment on the hundreds of typing errors in this book. It was truly deplorable how many mistakes there were! The book needed severe editing! If you are a woman, or researcher who is looking for a good deal of information on the women in the mills, I can't say I'd recommend this book at all. If you want a book full of just plain history of the people and the places where the mills are located, and how these people affected New England manufacturing, politics and society, you might get something out of it. I believe the title was very misleading and can't say on the whole I enjoyed this book. ( )
  vernefan | Aug 11, 2010 |
Consider this book like taking a history class and wade your way through it and your'll be better off for the experience. ( )
  nepejwster | Sep 17, 2008 |
This book looks into the role played by women during the industrial revoloution in New England. It shows how immigration patterns and the labour movement impacted the textile industry. It also shows the role played by women in gaining minimum wage laws, forty hour work weeks, medical benefits and child labour laws. For anyone interested in the developement of modern labour practices or the history of the Industrial Revoloution this is excellent ( )
  arelenriel | Jul 29, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312326009, Paperback)

This is a masterful, definitive, and eloquent look at the enormous cultural and economic impact on America of New England's textile mills. The author, an award-winning CBS producer, traces the history of American textile manufacturing back to the ingenuity of Francis Cabot Lodge. The early mills were an experiment in benevolent enlightened social responsibility on the part of the wealthy owners, who belonged to many of Boston's finest families. But the fledgling industry's ever-increasing profits were inextricably bound to the issues of slavery, immigration, and workers' rights.

William Moran brings a newsman's eye for the telling detail to this fascinating saga that is equally compelling when dealing with rags and when dealing with riches. In part a microcosm of America's social development during the period, The Belles of New England casts a new and finer light on this rich tapestry of vast wealth, greed, discrimination, and courage.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:46 -0400)

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