Sarah Cornell's Industrial Revolution

Michael Dearing

In the early 19th century, Sarah Cornell was one of many young women from farming families who moved to the industrial cities of the Northeastern United States to work in the textile mills. Sarah's bosses saw her as part of a clever strategy to solve labor shortages in the mills. Sarah saw her move as a way to improve her life.

Sarah's journey through Industrial America provided her adventure, money, freedom. But it ended in tragedy: Sarah was murdered in 1832 in a field near the factory where she worked in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Sarah's life and her death offer a powerful case study of how the Industrial Revolution changed the lives of millions of men and women. The change wasn't marginal or gradual. It was sudden, total, and it put humanity on a new trajectory.

We'll explore Industrial Revolution through primary documents and contemporary accounts of Sarah's life and the period after her death. I first learned about Sarah from Professor Naomi Lamoreux, who now chairs the History department at Yale University, when I was her student at Brown. Back in the late 1980s Professor Lamoreaux taught a course called, "Tragedy in Fall River." I went into the class ignorant of the impact of Industrialization on real people of the early 19th Century, particularly women. The documents we will read together cured me of that ignorance.

This course is only open to alumni of General Management.