The sheep boom created new work for women and girls. On the farm women and girls had many new chores to help process wool and prepare it for market. Jobs in the textile mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, Manchester, New Hampshire, and other cities provided girls with new opportunities away from home.

Focusing Question

How did women’s work change with the sheep boom?

Topical Understandings

The sheep boom spurred an increase in fulling mills (to wash wool), carding mills (to comb wool), and spinning mills in New England. These mills depended on rivers and streams for water power.

Farm women’s work became focused on processing wool.

Many farm girls left their homes to work in the new textile mills.

Background Information

Village Life in Vermont and New Hampshire, 1760-1900


Map and worksheet: Vermont Textile Factories 1840—1849
Diary excerpts from The Diaries of Sally and Pamela Brown and note-taking worksheet
Letter Excerpts: A Vermont girl goes to Lowell


  1. As a class examine the Vermont Textile Factories map and use a Vermont state map to conclude that the factories were located on Vermont rivers and were water powered.
  2. Provide students with the diary excerpts and note-taking worksheet. Discuss their answers and summarize women’s work on a sheep farm. What sort of chores were they doing? Have students write a summary paragraph describing a woman’s typical day on the farm.
  3. Provide students with the excerpts of Mary Paul’s letters. Ask them to take their own notes about work in a textile mill. Have students write a summary paragraph describing a woman’s typical day in a textile mill.
  4. Ox-Cart Man is told from the point of view of someone who would have been a customer at the general store. What if the story were about the storekeeper? What might his day have been like? What did he sell and what did he buy or trade? When the Ox-Cart Man came to the general store, the storekeeper would have opened a big 2-columned account book and listed everything the Ox-Cart Man sold to him in a credit column and everything the Ox-Cart Man bought from him in a debit column.
    Create a 2-column chart on the board and list everything the Ox-Cart Man bought and sold in the appropriate debit and credit columns.
  5. Create a 2-column chart comparing women’s work on the farm and women’s work in a textile mill.
  6. Discuss as a class. Would they have left home to work in a textile mill? Why or why not?