Author Angie Dicken-Factory Life-The Yellow Lantern Summer Blog Series
I am beyond thrilled to have Author Angie Dicken on the blog today sharing about her newest novel, The Yellow Lantern out in August with Barbour Publishing.
Factory Life: TYL Summer Blog Series
“These girls, as I have said, were all well-dressed: and that phrase necessarily includes extreme cleanliness. They have serviceable bonnets, good warm cloaks, and shawls…Moreover, there were places in the mill in which they could deposit these things without injury…[They] had the manners and deportment of young women: not of degraded brutes of burden.” –Charles Dickens, American Notes.
About a year before I began research for The Yellow Lantern, I was writing a different kind of story, set about twenty years later. Charles Dickens’ first visit to America was a vital piece of research, and I devoured his observations. Although my story at the time had little to do with the mill girls, I was intrigued by his thoughts and comparisons of the women to factory life in England. It didn’t take me long to incorporate a cotton mill in The Yellow Lantern when I discovered that it was a new industry of 1820’s Massachusetts.
You are the oldest sister of two brothers, and your family’s small working farm has been your entire world for eighteen years. With no husband, your parents insist you leave to work in a new cotton mill to provide money for your brothers’ education. Leaving the only home you’ve ever known for work you’ve never done, would be a frightening venture indeed.
“My life is a tool for my brother’s success,” you might think as you pack up your belongings to take with you on a lonely carriage ride. Might you have resentment? Probably not. You’ve been taught your submissive place in your family from the time you could speak.
However, once you arrive at the large buildings and the orderly boardinghouse, freedom is sparked by the different ideas and voices you come across. A new friend is ecstatic to get away from her family and become an independent woman. Another friend dives into the educational opportunities provided by the mill—enjoying books and study that she never received in her rural life at home.
Your day begins before the sun is up, and you’ve worked a couple hours before the first meal. The work is not too difficult, but it is loud, and twelve hours of standing amidst machinery and cotton dust is tiring. Another operative, Josie Clay (the heroine of The Yellow Lantern) observes the work like this:
“The ruckus of knocking parts and spinning spindles vibrated through her body as if she were not just a woman in the mill but a part of the machinery. The overseer explained to her the parts of the machine she was to manage. It was powered by steam, chomping down on the cotton with its lathes’ steady blows. Josie was certain that she was, indeed, a part of a whole.”
Imagine if you find yourself part of a community of women, who discover within the bounds of strict moral code and dutiful work, a chance to flourish apart from family and farm life—would this adventure be worth giving up the wages for someone else?
History would say yes. The Mill Girls became influential to Charles Dickens, American workforce reform, and women’s rights throughout the 19th century…and they set the stage for a certain American Crime novel in 2019. ;)
More info on The Yellow Lantern: angiedicken.com/tyl-summer-series
Images and articles about the Mill Girls: https://www.pinterest.com/agdicken/the-tyl-summer-blog-series/