What was the Lowell System?
The Lowell System was a system of manufacturing textiles in which the entire process was completed under the roof of a single factory. Raw cotton went into the factory and finished cloth came out of the same factory. This was in marked contrast to the old system of "putting out" where a single step in manufacturing, say weaving, was completed at home by a weaver. (Under the putting out system, the entire manufacturing process involved relocation of materials to several different locations before processing was complete.) Under the Lowell System, power to operate mill machinery was furnished by water wheels which turned gears and thus delivered power to the mill. Manufacturing when power was readily available did not require a great deal of skill; and thus unskilled (and therefore inexpensive) labor was often used.
The Lowell system was developed in 1813 by the Boston Manufacturing Company of Waltham, Massachusetts. The system was named for a major investor in the company, Francis Cabot Lowell. Lowell was determined that an Industrial Society would be beneficial to the nation, contrary to Jefferson's belief that only an agrarian society could provide virtuous citizenry. Most of the workers in the plant were young ladies, known as "Lowell Girls," who worked six days a week, normally thirteen hours per day. When not working, they lived in dormitories staffed by matrons who acted as surrogate parents. Church attendance, temperance, and curfews were enforced strictly. Later, entire families worked in factories under the Lowell system.
The Lowell System was a plan developed in the early 19th century to promote and expand textile manufacturing. Textile mills relied heavily on a labor force of women and children. It expanded the idea of the factory system. It was all part of the Industrial System.