|Date(s):||January 1, 1840 to December 31, 1845|
|Tag(s):||Labor, Art/Leisure, mid-nineteenth century, female factory workers, women's writings|
|Course:||“U.S. Women, 1790-1890,” Wheaton College|
Published in the January 1843 edition of "The Lowell Offering and Magazine" is a poem entitled "On A Young Man Lost At Sea" by an author credited as "M.G.B." The mournful poem reads like a funeral dirge and expresses the sorrow of a sister who has lost her dear brother. The author writes of how this young man's voice will never again be heard nor will his presence be seen around the family hearth. Instead, her brother lies sleeping in his "ocean tomb" without an ornate stone to mark his final resting place. Instead, she writes, a monument is raised for him in every mourning heart and in every “bitter fountain” expelled.
She describes how mournful their familial house has grown, as if cast in a shade of sadness. A place that was filled with happy memories now serves as a constant reminder of a lost brother. The author writes of her brother's spirit, the essence of which lives on in all those who knew him. She comforts herself in the thought of reuniting again with her brother in death, as it is only then that their souls and spirits will reunite.
The Lowell Offering, a literary magazine,was established in 1840 by the women of the Lowell Mills as a response to an increasingly negative public perception of the conditions in which the women were made to work. The women used the Lowell Offering as a platform by which to share their self-penned poetry, stories, and essays. The subject matter of these writings ranged from retrospectives on their childhood homes to the working conditions of the mills as well as the topic of death. Death was an especially omnipresent entity for all people of the era, but especially for the factory workers. From accidents within the factory to the loss of a loved one on a sea-faring journey, the women coped by expressing their emotions in poetry and prose.
While the Offering provided a unique and unparalleled means by which the women could both express and share their thoughts and musings, it was heavily criticized for being far too optimistic. This condemnation was based in the belief that the increasingly long hours and speed with which the women were made to work adversely affected all aspects of their health, both physical and mental. Moreover, the Offering was criticized as an unrealistically optimistic “mouthpiece for the corporations,” implying that the Lowell Operative owners ultimately had their own monetary interests at heart and exploited the bodies and minds of their young female workers. In 1845, the Offering faced dwindling subscribers and in the face of increased opposition, put out its final issue.