To honor of Lucy Larcom’s birthday on this day – March 5, 1824 – this exerpt from her memoir – “A New England Girlhood’ – seems appropriate. Larcom was reflecting on her days in the sisterhood we know as the Lowell mill girls:
In recalling those years of my girlhood at Lowell, I often think that I knew then what real society is better perhaps than ever since. For in that large gathering together of young womanhood there were many choice natures — some of the choicest in all our excellent New England, and there were no false social standards to hold them apart. It is the best society when people meet sincerely, on the ground of their deepest sympathies and highest aspirations, without conventionality or cliques or affectation; and it was in that way that these young girls met and became acquainted with each other, almost of necessity.
There were all varieties of woman-nature among them, all degrees of refinement and cultivation, and, of course, many sharp contrasts of agreeable and disagreeable. It was not always the most cultivated, however, who were the most companionable. There were gentle, untaught girls, as fresh and simple as wild flowers, whose unpretending goodness of heart was better to have than bookishness; girls who loved everybody, and were loved by everybody. Those are the girls that I remember best, and their memory is sweet as a breeze from the clover fields.
As I recall the throngs of unknown girlish forms that used to pass and repass me on the familiar road to the mill-gates, and also the few that I knew so well, those with whom I worked, thought, read, wrote, studied, and worshiped, my thoughts send a heartfelt greeting to them all, wherever in God’s beautiful, busy universe they may now be scattered: —
“I am glad I have lived in the world with you!”