Mill Girl, Teacher and Poetess
1826 – 1893 A.D.
Her birthplace was Beverly, Mass., by the sea. She was next to the youngest of eight sisters. Her father died when she was quite young, and the mother moved to Lowell, which was fast becoming a great mill town.
Here Mrs. Larcom kept a boarding house for the mill girls, her own daughters being among the operatives. But that was home, and quite unlike the mill-town boarding house of to-day.
When Lucy was still quite young, she entered one of the mills as a “doffer,” that is, taking off empty bobbins and putting on full ones.
She had learned to love good books before coming to Lowell, and this taste she cultivated as there was opportunity.
Some kind of a reading and literary club was formed among the mill girls and several of them wrote papers to be read at their meetings. The poet Whittier was then editing a paper in Lowell, and became interested in these young women who were seeking self-improvement.
When about twenty years of age she accompanied a married sister to Illinois, and taught school in vacated log building in a two mile neighborhood. She received forty dollars for three months’ [sic] work. The commiteeman [sic] remarked as he paid her, “That’s a lot o’money [sic] to pay a young woman for three months’ [sic] teachin’ [sic].”
She was enabled to attend the Monticello Female Seminary for three years and then went back to her beloved Beverly. After teaching private classes for a few years, she was called to a position in Wheaton Female Seminary, where she taught for six years with great success.
The strain upon her health was too great and she turned to literary work. For some time she edited Our Young Folks. She also wrote for many of the leading periodicals.
She was a poetess of friendship and nature. Her girlhood days at Beverly, with its seaside and roadsides, largely influenced the substance and style of her writing.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.