Lucy Larcom’s family moved to Lowell from Beverly when she was eleven years old and where she worked in a mill until she was 21. Her early writing appeared in the Operative Magazine and in The Lowell Offering, periodicals run by female factory workers. Impressed by her work, the poet John Greenleaf Whittier encouraged Larcom, and later became her literary mentor. Although she continued to write, Larcom taught for many years, first in Illinois and then at Wheaton Seminary in Norton. She finally started writing full-time 1865 when she became the editor of Our Young Folks, where she worked until 1873. Her autobiography, A New England Girlhood
(1889), serves as the quintessential story of a young girl’s experience while growing up in the cotton mills of Lowell.
The volume is open to “The River”, one of the first poems Larcom wrote when she was a “Lowell mill girl.”
Larcom presented this copy of A New England Girlhood to Ada Elise Locke, who within its pages pressed leaves that she had gathered when she and Larcom spent time together in 1888.
A writer of countless poems, magazine articles, and children’s stories, Larcom was deeply religious and toward the end of her life wrote three books about her Christian beliefs.
Sarah Wyman Whitman designed this lovely book cover.
An independent woman with a strong sense of autonomy, Larcom cherished her freedom. She also acknowledged its drawbacks--her frequent movements left her without a permanent home.
The first of October I expect to venture back! I shall be in Beverly this autumn, but do not know where I shall be the winter; probably not in Boston. I may have to spend the rest of my life looking for a home.
Larcom made many literary contributions in her lifetime; but, as she hoped, it is A New England Girlhood that has remained her most memorable and valued work:
I thought you would be interested in my childhood. I am not quite sure whether it was well to write it; but if it will be of service to anybody, I suppose it was well! Perhaps it will have some value as a history of times now rapidly changing. And I wrote of myself as if I were some other child - the time is so far away.