Employment and Wage Work

In the United States, mechanized spinning quickly caught on in New England, which had excellent sources of waterpower for the purpose. Power looms for weaving were introduced in 1814 in Waltham, Massachusetts. This was the first factory in America to integrate spinning and weaving under one roof. The displacement of household manufacture brought women and children into the factory to execute tasks they had always done at home, but with different equipment and on a much larger scale.

By 1850, there were 59,136 female "hands" employed in cotton manufactures and 33,150 males throughout the country, with the largest number of females employed in Massachusetts (19,437). Employment in woolen manufacturing was dominated by male "hands," with 22,678 men to 16,574 females. Average wages in both sectors were higher for men than for women in all states reporting (DeBow, 1854). According to Hooks, "by 1870, 104,080 women textile operatives and laborers were recorded in the census" (p. 103). During the 1900 census year, there were 298,867 men and 292,286 women, 16 years and over, employed in the different textile industries and more than 70,000 children under 16 years, with the largest number in cotton and silk manufactures (Twelfth Census, p. 12).

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