From the 1830s-1850s young women in their late teens to early twenties flocked to New England to work in factories. Leaving home for the first time, they would experience an independence that their mothers and grandmothers never dreamed of. Working as a weaver in a textile mill you could earn a significant salary, and while living in a dormitory, have less housework and more free time. Though many of the girls were naive– they lived without a proper education, and probably lacked ‘street smarts’. Berengera Caswell (1828-1849) was a weaver working in Saco, Maine until her untimely death shocked and enthralled the population. Her murder spurred a rash of trashy novels inspired by her life and fate.
Laconia Mills Boarding House, circa 1895
Read the full story of Mary Bean (Berengera Caswell) pictured above via Maine Memory Network