Thankfully we are now able to marry our lover without "amassing a dowry" or asking for permission, but this is not what the world was like in the late 1800s in Maine.

If you don't know what amassing a dowry means, don't worry I didn't either. But Google informed me that it is to gather an item, money, or property to give to their future husband. Are you kidding me?! You'd be lucky if I gave you a high five if I was arranged to marry.

Now, because the mill needed more workers, the population grew from 5,000 to 13,600 people from 1850 to 1870 according to The Maine Encyclopedia. This brought many single women to Lewiston from surrounding areas and Canada.

The labor force was in need of young women to work, so they were put in these Boarding Houses, specifically 269-271 Park Street in The Androscoggin Mill Block in Lewiston.

Just to remind you, this was during the time period of the Suffragettes, rights, and votes for women. So it sparks the question if we had suffragettes in Lewiston, working at the Mills. Dollars to donuts, we did.


 

Chris Curry via Unsplash

The oppression of women was strong during that time. Even though they were fit and able to work it was determined they weren't fit and able to live on their own. These young ladies were kept in the Mill Block building under the watchful eye of the "Director", I am assuming it was an older lady who looked stern and probably clutched onto a loud cane when she walked to announce herself in all scenarios to produce fear. This is just my imagination of how it was. It was said that the director kept a watchful eye on the virtue and righteousness of these women. Meaning, they probably were zero hanky panky parties happening.

Imagine yourself migrating to a new place with no family, no friends, no home. All you have are the clothes on your back and your wits and you are forced into a society where you are told how to live, where to sleep, and who to love.

These brave women worked in the mill houses and often sent the money they made back to their families. Most of them would travel back in the slow seasons and known to be transients.

Makes you think, how many other historical buildings have untold stories yearning to be uncovered about the struggles that occurred so long ago? You can learn a lot about your city if you look deeper. Happy hunting!

 

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