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Sarah Bagley and Early Feminism


“[I]n the mill we see displays of the wonderful power of the mind. Who can closely examine all the movements of the complicated, curious machinery, and not be led to the reflection, that the mind is boundless, and is destined to rise higher and still higher; and that it can accomplish almost any thing on which it fixes its attention!” (1). Sarah Bagley penned this quote in her “Pleasures of Factory Life” article published in “The Lowell Offering” in 1840. Her fiery attempts to rally laboring women in a new feminist movement sparked the rebellion that would release women from their confinement within a patriarchal economy (2). In a nation in which it was expected that women were solely dependent on men, these factory girls of the mid nineteenth century found the political grounds to unite and voice their opinions (3). Although often neglected from the forefront of history, these women were influential figures that deserve to be recognized for their achievements and contributions. 



(1) “From-Pleasures-of-Factory-Life-Classzone.” Accessed September 22, 2019. 1.

(2)  Freeman, Elizabeth. 1994. “What Factory Girls Had Power to Do": The Techno-Logic of Working-Class Feminine Publicity in ‘The Lowell Offering.’” Arizona Quarterly 50 (2): 116.

(3) Stansell, Christine. City of Women Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987, 21.