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The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott

The Daring Ladies of Lowell (2013)

by Kate Alcott

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3293052,181 (3.64)32
Moving to the mill city of Lowell in 1832 to escape farm life, young Alice is disillusioned by the local factory's harsh working conditions and struggles to advocate on their behalf while recklessly falling in love with the mill owner's son, a situation that is complicated by a murder and sensational trial.… (more)
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    The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: The life of mill girls in Lowell, Massachusetts
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    Triangle by Katharine Weber (vwinsloe)

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Working as a mill girl offered women unprecedented freedom, but had terrible downsides. The work could be deadly and mill girls weren’t really part of their communities. The official search for justice for Alice’s friend devolves into a power play/blame game- wealth vs. religion, rich vs. poor. The characters are well developed and heartbreaking. Alice’s cynical dreamer friend Lovey, a company doctor with a cautious conscience, and others leave an impression. Alice’s and Samuel’s developing connection is sweet but tense with the weights of conflicting loyalties. The ending was thought provoking because I had mixed feelings about it and then pondered it.
  Roxanne_Reading | Mar 10, 2019 |
When Alice arrives in Lowell in 1832, she's left her family's farm behind and dreams of making a new life for herself in the mills. When she arrives at the dormitory, Lovey and the other girls take her under their wing and she soon starts to see the harsh conditions, long hours, and dangerous work they do on the looms. Meanwhile, the owner, Hiram Fiske, is most worried about the bottom line. His son Samuel, however, sees the value in making changes and may have a bit of an interest in Alice herself. Then one of the mill girls is murdered, and the careful balance of power at the factory may shift dramatically.

There were aspects of this that were well done and interesting explorations in power struggles between mill owners, religious leaders, and the workers themselves but I kept wanting more somehow. Alice was a likable enough character, but I never quite "got" how she and Lovey became friends. The author tells more than shows, so I often reacted with a "But why?" when I was told a character felt a certain way, for example. Details about mill work were inserted somewhat awkwardly in conversation at times, as if the author wanted the readers to know a certain list of things but then get on with the story she wanted to tell. I was interested knowing that this was based on a true story - an actual murder trial that occurred in a mill town - and would have liked to have more information in the author's note at the back, which gave very little additional information and no bibliography. ( )
  bell7 | Jan 5, 2019 |
This was another BOM for my book club and it was a pleasant surprise. I wasn't sure if I was going to like it, but I did. It was definitely one of those book club picks that I'm glad was chosen.

The pacing was steady, not quick or slow, and because the story was based on true events, I was intrigued. Even though Lovey's death was a part of the synopsis for the novel, it caught me off guard. The way it was described in just the right amount of detail and just out of nowhere. I think my jaw just dropped to the floor and I had to pick it up to keep on reading.

There were some really sad moments that made me tear up a little bit towards the end. I loved the relationship the women formed working together at the mill. They became each other's family and looked out for one another. It was sweet and endearing and I loved reading about their day-to-day interactions.

There was a sort of disconnect though. I feel like a chunk of the story was removed to keep the story flowing and that part I would have liked. Alice's relationship goes from being the outsider and the new girl to one of the most trusted mill girls overnight, or so it seems. Really, time passed and the relationships grew, but I would have personally liked to have a little more detail of it. It felt like one day Alice was new and the next she was the leader and that kind of things doesn't happen as quickly as it felt like it did.

The other part that really ruined it for me was the predictable love. I saw it coming a mile away and part of me really wanted to be wrong. The first time Alice and Samuel meet I could tell that was going to be the central focus of the story from that point on and sure enough, that's what happened. It was cute and romantic, but just wasn't what I was wanting to read at the time. I wanted to have more about the mill girls and their relationships instead of Alice and Samuel's.

I loved the characters though. Lovey broke my heart on so many levels, Hiram Fiske made me so angry with his arrogance, and I wanted to sit and lunch with Samuel's grandmother.

It all felt real and that's what I loved. I was in the mill with the girls breathing in cotton fibers. I joined them on a daily basis fighting sickness and exhaustion to earn a wage and make their own way in life. I heard their laughter at night and the piano playing to keep them entertained and I felt their grief when they lost one of their own and no one seemed to care. For me, this is how historical fiction should be. It's still a story being told with real events woven through seamlessly.

I look forward to reading more of Alcott's work. ( )
  CJ82487 | Mar 20, 2018 |
This was something like I have never read before. This era that is so often romanticised murder? Just the right combination. I definitely mourned the loss of Lovey because I really liked her, but it was because I loved her character that I was so invested in the outcome of the trial, and the twists and plot reveals that went along with it. I almost wish there was a sequel just to read another book with these characters. I would definitely recommend. ( )
  erinla | Oct 31, 2017 |
In 1832 Massachusetts, there are not a lot of opportunities for young women. Alice is young and headstrong. She works hard on the family farm but her father controls her life and her future. Alice wants more. She moves to the mill town of Lowell where young women can find employment in the cotton mills and freedom from their families. Alice loves her new independence, ability to hold her own money, and the sudden expansion of her social circle. She quickly befriends the boardinghouse rebel, Lovey Cornell, a strong willed and vibrant girl who shows her the ropes. When health and safety issues start to surface, Alice inadvertently speaks up in front of the mill owners. She is invited to their home to discuss her concerns which sets her on the complicated path of split loyalties. This beautifully written novel takes us through budding romance, brutal murder, a sensational trial, and women's and worker's rights.

Bettina P. / Marathon County Public Library
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( )
  mcpl.wausau | Sep 25, 2017 |
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