letter from an Ipswich mill girl

The mill girl’s letter: “I can make you blush.”

(Thanks to Linda George, who shared “this little piece of paper depicting a day in the life of a ‘mill girl’ from March, 1911.”


March 20, 1911

Mr. Jewett

Dear Sir,

I received the ribbon you sent me by mail, and I thank you ever so much for it. I was asking Asa Howe who you were, and he told me. He also said you were a great man for girls. How is it you never holler at me and my chums? I think you’re bashful. If you wasn’t, you would of handed me the ribbon instead of sending it by mail.

How about that other man who rides with you? Mr. Howe said his name was Frank McGuinness. You can tell him I am struck on him. He ain’t bashful, because I saw him last Saturday night and he spoke to me, and asked how my heart was. That’s the way I like to hear people speak up. He speaks to me every morning. You know that yourself.

Ask him where he was going last Sunday, two weeks ago up by my house. I saw him but he didn’t see me. I have a pretty good idea where he was going. I think he was going up to see Minnie Kelly or the Pitman girl. You can ask him anyway. He may say he was not up that way. But don’t you let him fluff you. I watched him and saw where he went. But don’t you for the love of “Mike” tell him who told you.

I have a brother who knows a man who works at the mill with you, and he told my brother they called you and Mcguinness “Maggie” Friday and Saturday. He said they got your goat, but they couldn’t get Mcguinness’ goat. You see, he is a wise good boy. But you are too easy. Don’t take any notice of them wild beasts. They won’t call you Maggie for long.

I have seen you on the street, but I didn’t know who you were until Asa Howe told me Saturday. I hope you don’t think Mcguiness is trying to get next and make you jealous. I can make you blush! But I know no girl can make Mcguiness blush. I know two girls who worked in the Ipswich Mill with him, and they said he was a holy terror. Ask him if he knows M.D. an A.M. He worked in the mill with them.

from Maggie Robbins

The photographs of “mill girls” at the Ipswich Mills plant in Boston were taken by photographer Lewis Wickes, published Feb. 2, 1917.

Continuing education school girls working in the Ipswich Mills, Boston factory.
Continuing education school girls working in the Ipswich Mills factory in Boston, circa 1917.
A New England

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