Student Research Projects

The Cult of True Womanhood in the Lowell Mills, 1800-1850

Student Caitlin Donlan
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department History
Course HIST 360: Junior Research Seminar


The Lowell Mills is considered to have been the center of industrialization in the United States and had a major impact on the lives of its workers. Through the creation of the mills, longstanding gender roles were redefined, though women remained challenged to maintain previously held gendered expectations in the face of such changes. In order to study how women wither maintained previous gender roles or accepted new ones, this paper examines letters written by the women workers, their diaries, and the newspapers that the women produced. Although the women did, at times, accept limited new roles, they still by and large adhered to the Cult of True Womanhood, which bundled a series of expectation about feminine behavior long before the creation of the mills. The women in Lowell, though, with access to different conditions of other mill workers, were able to both adhere to the Cult of True Womanhood while at the same time taking part in newer opportunities.