Friday, April 17, 2009

The 185-year-old mill girl

Lucy Larcom died 117 years ago today, and Mass Moments has a great summary of her life and work. She's still often referred to as a Lowell mill girl, and her descriptions of replacing bobbins on massive machines as an 11-year-old are important social history. But in her memoir A New England Girlhood, I'm more drawn to her deep nostalgia for her earliest years in Beverly.
But there is something in the place where we were born that holds us always by the heartstrings. A town that still has a great deal of the country in it, one that is rich in beautiful scenery and ancestral associations, is almost like a living being, with a body and a soul. We speak of such a town, if our birthplace, as of a mother, and think of ourselves as her sons and daughters.
Her chapter on Old New England is worth a read for any visitor to Salem, to temper the manufactured Witch City with the history of its having been a hub of 19th century foreign trade.

That's Lucy on the cover of The North Shore Literary Trail, too.

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