The invention of the sewing machine in 1846 forced many women who did sewing work at home to take factory jobs.
There they toiled sixteen hours a day for a couple of dollars a week.
Some women sewers in New York and Philadelphia rented space together, bought their own equipment, and shared their profits, but these cooperatives lasted only a few years.
Another invention, of a machine that stitched leather, moved many women shoemakers out of the home and into the factory in the early 1850s. The bad pay sparked a memorable, but unsuccessful, strike for higher wages in 1860.
Holding signs that declared “American Ladies Will Not Be Slaves,” nearly a thousand women marched with several thousand male workers through the streets of Lynn, Massachusetts, during a blizzard.
During the 1860s in Troy, New York, Kate Mullaney led several successful strikes for higher pay by women who spent twelve to fourteen hours a day washing and ironing men’s detachable collars.
In 1869, however, the collar workers lost a bitter strike and their union fell apart.