Saturday, July 25, 2015

Road Trip - Lowell, MASS

This was a week for road trips!  On Tuesday, we went to Lowell, MA to the New England Quilt Museum to see the SAQA exhibit called Seasonal Palette.  The museum is located within a complex of buildings that are part of the Lowell National Historic Park.  We made a stop in the Visitor's Center before heading to the quilt museum, and watched a 15 minute film on the history of the Lowell textile mills as well as browsing the gift shop.   After the museum exhibit and lunch, we visited one of the Mill Girls' boarding houses and enjoyed a leisurely walk along the canal back to the parking lot.

We learned that there were over 50 large mills and many smaller ones in Lowell and that is was really the first "company" town, where workers lived in housing supported by their employer.  It was the blueprint for many other cities during the industrial revolution.

The New England Quilt Museum is located in a building that was formerly the Lowell Institution for Savings (or bank) where most of the mill girls deposited their earnings.  This is the building today.
The Seasonal Palette exhibit was exceptional, and we're glad we made the trip to see it.  Unfortunately, only non-flash photography was allowed and only for personal use, not publication.  But you CAN see the pieces online at the SAQA website - well worth taking a look.  This exhibit was unusual in that the artists were juried in, and after being selected, were assigned their season and then created their work.  The techniques were interesting and varied and the workmanship exceptional.  In addition, each artist kept a journal of their progress, so you could see the work progress from concept to completion.   If you get a chance to see this exhibit, by all means go!

Above is a shot of the gift shop, but we didn't spend much time browsing because the AC was really cold, and we were ready for the warmth of the sun.  (But we did take time to get their Row pattern and license plate.)  We enjoyed lunch outdoors at an organic vegetarian restaurant across the street.

After lunch we decided to visit the Mill Girls' Boardinghouse.  It was about 2 blocks from the museum.

In the beginning, most of the mill girls came from New England farms to work in the factories.  It was the first time many of them had left the farm.  They had to be between the ages of 15 and 35 to be employed.  They worked from 7 AM to 7 PM, paid for their room & board out of their wages, and may have had about $2 left out of their weeks wages, which was a lot in the late 1800's.  But it was also a hard life and some unfair working conditions led to the first labor strike organized by women.
They had 3 meals a day at their boarding house, lots of bread, potatoes, beans for energy for the long work days.
There were 4 to a room, and sometimes maybe more.  It was a hard life, but also these women's first taste of earning their own money and supporting themselves, even helping their families.
 A series of canals were built to power the mills.  This was taken along the walk by the canal.
These engraved stairs were also along the canals.  It says, "Try again!  Industry, not servitude!  As is woman, so is the race."  Our first women's libbers!
A lovely garden graced the outside of this building.  It was a lovely, inspirational and educational day.

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