The invention of the power loom in the early 1800s greatly increased the number of women working in textile mills, weaving cloth.
Beginning in the 1830s in New England, many teenage girls (some only 11 years old) and young women went to work in these mills while their brothers and fathers stayed at home to run the farms.
The women lived together in boardinghouses set up by the mill owners.
Many enjoyed their independence away from home and formed close friendships. But they had to work hard, spending twelve to sixteen hours a day at their machines.
The 1861 cover of Godey’s Lady’s Book portrayed several ways women could help the Civil War effort: by nursing the sick, visiting prisoners, and keeping a happy home in a husband’s absence.