Monday, May 5, 2014

Charles Dickens and the Lowell Mill Girls

Cover design of the "Lowell Offering."
From Lowell: The story of an industrial
, National Park Service handbook,
The State Library of Massachusetts owns originals and reprints of The Lowell Offering, a publication by female mill workers or “mill girls” from Lowell. The mill workers wrote essays, poetry and fiction for the monthly magazine which was published from 1840-1845. Another publication about working in the Lowell mills is: Loom and spindle: or, Life among the early mill girls: with a sketch of "The Lowell offering" and some of its contributors. This book was written by Harriet Hanson Robinson in 1898 and it is about her experiences working in the Mills starting at the age of 10 in 1935. It is among other publications the library has about the Lowell Mills and its will workers.
Harriet Hanson Robinson.
From The Belles of New
, by William Moran, 2002

The Boston Globe recently featured an article (12/15/2013) about Charles Dickens reading and borrowing passages from the Lowell Offering, especially stories about ghosts, and turning them into A Christmas Carol. The two researchers Natalie McKnight, an English professor and a dean at Boston University and Chelsea Bray, a former BU undergraduate and current Boston College Graduate student came up with this theory. The two plan to publish their argument in a book about Dickens in Massachusetts. 

Some argue that A Christmas Carol was taken from the story of Lazarus in the bible or from Dickens own The Pickwick Papers. However, McKnight feels that A Christmas Carol is closer to The Lowell Offering in tone, structure, and theme. The article also points out that it was common in that time period to borrow from other people and not credit them.

The State Library has books by or about Charles Dickens. Books about Dickens visit to Massachusetts in 1842 include: 

The latter is a satire on the dinner given in Boston to Charles Dickens in 1842.

Other books by or about Dickens include: 

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian