Overview: 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.


  • Map and Worksheet: Vermont Textile Factories 1840—1849
  • Diary excerpts from The Diaries of Sally and Pamela Brown and note-taking worksheet
  • Letter Excerpts: AVermont 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.
  1. Provide students with the following two diary excerpts and note-taking worksheet.

The Diary of Sally Brown (born 1807)


1832 – 1838


Plymouth Notch, Vermont


June 1833


4. Tues. Worked about. A.M. Asa came down to attend the training*, brought Lephia and is to stay and

help Father shear sheep. In the evening finished knitting George’s stockings.


5. Wed. Worked about house. Tonight three men have come to shear the sheep Father is keeping for

Squire Walker.


6. Thurs. Worked about house. Susan found some ripe strawberries. The men finished shearing sheep.


7. Fri. Washed and did some other housework…Mother finished my gown.


8, Sat. Ironed and other housework. Marcia and I went to the old place for some green currents.


10, Mon. Helped milk morning and night. Did some chores and picked tag locks*. Father had given

lots of wool to me. Father has finished planting tiny potatoes.


11, Tues. Worked the same as yesterday.


12, Wed. Two Tin Peddlers stayed here tonight.


13, Thurs. Worked about house. Picked locks as I could get time. Mr. Pratt and Mr. Henry came
and bought Father’s wool. Two hundred and thirteen pounds. They gave fifty-three cents a pound.

He is to carry it to Woodstock Saturday or Monday. They were here to dinner…


14, Fri. Did some chores about house and finished picking tag locks except the dirtyest which I washed.

Last night was a heavy thunder shower. Today is some cloudy…


The Diary of Pamela Brown (born 1816)


1832 – 1838


Plymouth Notch, Vermont

September 1836


Thur. Sept. 1st. Spun five skeins.


Fri. 2nd. Spun some and went to the funeral. It was at Joseph Moore’s House. Mr. Davis preached.


Sat. 3rd. After Mr. and Mrs. Jennison had gone I spun five skeins and worked on Marcia’s veil.


Mon. 5th. Spun six skeins and began me a pair of stockings.


Wed. 7th. Spun six skeins.


Thurs. 8th. Spun two skeins and worked on my veil. Marcia and I went to the post office for a letter but found none.


Friday. 9th. Spun six skeins. Silas and Rebbeca Brown and Mrs. Leland a girl Silas brought from Grafton took tea with us.


Sun. 11th. I am twenty today. A rainy day.


Mon. 12th. We had a housefull all day but they are all gone.


Tues. 13th. Spun some stocking yarn to send to Michigan.


Wed. 28th. The ground was white with snow this morning. Spun my days work and made Hannah’s’ work bag. I think it very handsome.




  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. Create a 2-column chart comparing women’s work on the farm and women’s work in a textile mill.
  4. Discuss as a class. Would they have left home to work in a textile mill? Why or why not?