Factory Operatives of Chicopee
The cotton mills initially hired female workers (operatives) from local communities such as Belchertown, Granby, and West Springfield as
there was not enough local labor to run the mill but eventually recruiters were sent further north and west to find enough labor. They recruited girls from their family farms in the states of New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire to work in the Chicopee mills. It is these first female factory workers and their lives as workers that
are the subject of this display.
The Chicopee factory girls worked 12 ½ hours a day and were paid between $3-$5.40 dollars per week, and were charged approximately $1.25 per week to live in overcrowded boarding houses in rooms with as many as six other girls. These boarding houses were owned by the cotton mills and run by matrons who would strictly reinforce the rules of the house including a 10pm curfew, temperance, and weekly church attendance.