I’ll readily admit I’m in the middle of a historical fiction binge session. I cannot get enough of period pieces, especially ones involving female characters fighting for their right to be considered contributing members of society.
With that in mind, when I came across The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott (the New York Times Bestselling author of The Dressmaker) at a local bookstore, I couldn’t wait to dive into it.
Alcott bases her premise for the book on an actual murder of a Lowell mill girl and subsequent trial. And though this event sparked her book and serves as a key driver of our protagonist’s fight for justice, The Daring Ladies of Lowell presents so much more to women still fighting for equality in the working world today.
Alice Barrow, our protagonist, joins the ranks of working women searching for independence during the Industrial Revolution at the Lowell Mills in Lowell, Mass. The mills offer women the opportunity to work for their own money, without permission from a man, for one of the first time in American history. Alice meets incredible women who work side-by-side with her, but none who impact like Lovey Cornell.
It’s Lovey’s murder, and sham of a trial, which spark Alice’s desire to become a voice of empowerment for the mill girls. Throughout her story, we see her lead the charge to demand justice for her deceased friend, but also justice for herself and her fellow workers. She demands shorter working days (13 hours was the norm), safer conditions (many of the girls suffered lung issues from inhaling cotton all day), and the same pay as the men (yea… 200 years later and we’re still asking for that).
I loved everything about this book. I loved seeing Alice find strength in who she was and become a leader for her friends. I loved seeing men stand by her side and support her fight. And, I loved the ease of which Alcott’s words flowed from the page.
Unfortunately, the story also brought to light so many issues women still fight today. Though Alice has support from many of her female counterparts, she had just as much descent. Why is it women can be our best friends and worst enemies?
And the inner fighting seems to continue to lead to our lack of equal pay for equal work. This story took place in 1832!!! Women are still fighting to be paid the same as men. I have to believe our lack of sisterhood plays some role in our lack of pay.
Women, we have to do better. We have had strong women fighting our fights for years and it’s our turn to support each other. To encourage each other. To make sure our daughters finally, finally, finally are given the due we’ve all be owed for hundreds of years.
The Daring Ladies of Lowell wanted the same things we do. Let’s show our foremothers their efforts were not in vain: Link arms and be strong together.