February 20, 2020
An upcoming presentation on the history of Maine’s textile mills by UNE Professor of History Elizabeth DeWolfe, Ph.D., will be held at the Lithgow Public Library in Augusta as part of an ongoing celebration of Maine’s bicentennial.
DeWolfe, co-founder of the Women’s and Gender Studies program, will present “The Great Turn-out of 1841: Maine’s Textile Workers on Strike” at 6:30 p.m. on March 4. The talk will focus on the 1841 worker strike in Biddeford’s textile mills led by the young women who staffed them.
“The Turn-out in Biddeford was, as far as we know, the first labor strike in Maine, and it was led by young women,” DeWolfe said.
Maine became a state on March 15, 1820. DeWolfe said the Industrial Revolution, including the mills in Biddeford, played an enormous role in allowing Maine to sustain itself as a state.
DeWolfe said she hopes the audience can see that women have been using their voices for advocacy for centuries. This year also marks the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage and the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
“The women who advocated for themselves in 1841 were taking the first step down that road of securing their right to cast a ballot,” she said. “No one gave women the right to vote. Women earned the right to vote by hard-fought battles over centuries.”
According to DeWolfe, her research explores “ordinary women who find themselves in extraordinary situations.”
In 2003, DeWolfe’s study of an anti-Shaker activist, “Shaking the Faith,” won the Outstanding Book Award from the Communal Studies Association. Her 2007 book about the life and death of a textile mill girl, “The Murder of Mary Bean,” received awards from the New England Historical Association and the Northeast Popular Culture Association.
Her talk on March 4 is sponsored by the Maine Humanities Council as part of the “World in Your Library” speaker series.