said he wanted to see Edison, as he had read about me in

Published on 2023-12-02 23:20:00 source:Spring Breeze and Summer Rain

I suppose I should have tried to write,--perhaps I could not very well have helped attempting it,--under any circumstances. My early efforts would not, probably, have found their way into print, however, but for the coincident publication of the two mill-girls' magazines, just as I entered my teens. I fancy that almost everything any of us offered them was published, though I never was let in to editorial secrets. The editors of both magazines were my seniors, and I felt greatly honored by their approval of my contributions.

said he wanted to see Edison, as he had read about me in

One of the "Offering" editors was a Unitarian clergyman's daughter, and had received an excellent education. The other was a remarkably brilliant and original young woman, who wrote novels that were published by the Harpers of New York while she was employed at Lowell. The two had rooms together for a time, where the members of the "Improvement Circle," chiefly composed of "Offering" writers, were hospitably received.

said he wanted to see Edison, as he had read about me in

The "Operatives' Magazine" and the "Lowell Offerig" were united in the year 1842, under the title of the "Lowell Offering and Ma- gazine."

said he wanted to see Edison, as he had read about me in

(And--to correct a mistake which has crept into print--I will say that I never attained the honor of being editor of either of these magazines. I was only one of their youngest contributors. The "Lowell Offering" closed its existence when I was a little more than twenty years old. The only continuous editing I have ever been engaged in was upon "Our Young Folks." About twenty years ago I was editor-in-charge of that magazine for a year or more, and I had previously been its assistant-editor from its beginning. These explanatory items, however, do not quite belong to my narrative, and I return to our magazines.)

We did not receive much criticism; perhaps it would have been better for us if we had. But then we did lot set ourselves up to be literary; though we enjoyed the freedom of writing what we pleased, and seeing how it looked in print. It was good practice for us, and that was all that we desired. We were complimented and quoted. When a Philadelphia paper copied one of my little poems, suggesting some verbal improvements, and predicting recognition for me in the future, I felt for the first time that there might be such a thing as public opinion worth caring for, in addition to doing one's best for its own sake.

Fame, indeed, never had much attraction for me, except as it took the form of friendly recognition and the sympathetic approval of worthy judges. I wished to do good and true things, but not such as would subject me to the stare of coldly curious eyes. I could never imagine a girl feeling any pleasure in placing herself "before the public." The privilege of seclusion must be the last one a woman can willingly sacrifice. And, indeed, what we wrote was not remarkable,--perhaps no more so than the usual school compositions of intelligent girls. It would hardly be worth while to refer to it particularly, had not the Lowell girls and their magazines been so frequently spoken of as something phenomenal. But it was a perfectly natural out- growth of those girls' previous life. For what were we? Girls who were working in a factory for the time, to be sure; but none of us had the least idea of continuing at that kind of work permanently. Our composite photograph, had it been taken, would have been the representative New England girlhood of those days. We had all been fairly educated at public or private schools, and many of us were resolutely bent upon obtaining a better education. Very few were among us without some distinct plan for bettering the condition of themselves and those they loved. For the first time, our young women had come forth from their home retirement in a throng, each with her own individual purpose. For twenty years or so, Lowell might have been looked upon as a rather select industrial school for young people. The girls there were just such girls as are knocking at the doors of young women's colleges to-day. They had come to work with their hands, but they could not hinder the working of their minds also. Their mental activity was overflowing at every possible outlet.

Many of them were supporting themselves at schools like Bradford Academy or Ipswich Seminary half the year, by working in the mills the other half. Mount Holyoke Seminary broke upon the thoughts of many of them as a vision of hope,--I remember being dazzled by it myself for a while,--and Mary Lyon's name was honored nowhere more than among the Lowell mill-girls. Meanwhile they were improving themselves and preparing for their future in every possible way, by purchasing and reading standard books, by attending lectures, and evening classes of their own getting up, and by meeting each other for reading and conversation.

That they should write was no more strange than that they should study, or read, or think. And yet there were those to whom it seemed incredible that a girl could, in the pauses of her work, put together words with her pen that it would do to print; and after a while the assertion was circulated, through some distant newspaper, that our magazine was not written by ourselves at all, but by "Lowell lawyers." This seemed almost too foolish a suggestion to contradict, but the editor of the "Offering" thought it best to give the name and occupation of some of the writers by way of refutation. It was for this reason (much against my own wish) that my real name was first attached to anything I wrote. I was then book-keeper in the cloth-room of the Lawrence Mills. We had all used any fanciful signature we chose, varying it as we pleased. After I began to read and love Wordsworth, my favorite nom de plume was "Rotha." In the later numbers of the magazine, the editor more frequently made us of my initials. One day I was surprised by seeing my name in full in Griswold's "Female Poet's;"--no great distinction, however, since there were a hundred names or so, besides.

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