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Farm vs. Factory: Citing Evidence

This activity asks students to analyze three primary documents about the experiences of young women who worked in textile factories in New England during the 1830s and 1840s. It provides worksheets to guide and support students in writing a paragraph that cites evidence about the documents.


  • Students will understand different aspects of life and work among the young women who worked in textile factories in Lowell, Massachusetts, during the 1830s and 1840s

  • Students will understand how to analyze and gather evidence from different types of primary sources

This activity aligns to Common Core Literacy Standards in History/Social Studies:

  • RHSS.6-8.6. Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose.

  • RHSS.6-8.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources. 

  • WHSS.6-8.1 Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.


Step 1. Hand out the cover illustration from The Lowell Offering. Ask students to complete the Lessons in Looking: The Lowell Offering Worksheet.

Step 2. After students have completed the worksheet, discuss the image from The Lowell Offering.

  • What was The Lowell Offering

  • What are some of the details you see in the picture? What do they stand for or represent? 

  • What do you think was the artist’s point of view about what it was like to work in the Lowell textile factories? Positive or negative?

Step 3. Hand out the Farm vs. Factory: Constructing a Paragraph Worksheet. Working in groups, students should arrange the sentences provided into a paragraph that interprets the meaning of the Lowell Offering picture. They can cut out the sentences provided and paste them into the correct order (Claim/Counterclaim, three details, Conclusion/Summary), or they can use the oversized sentences and move around the people holding them into the correct order, or they can paste the oversized sentences in order on the board or large sheets of butcher paper.

After students have finished putting the sentences in order, review an example or two as a group. Students will probably have put the supporting details in different orders, which is fine. Ask students to explain how they decided which sentence was Claim/Counterclaim and which sentence was Conclusion/Summary.

Step 4. Explain to students that now they will get to see evidence for a more negative view of factory life. Hand out A Mill Girl Explains Why She is Leaving Factory Life, A Former Mill Girl Remembers the Lowell Strike of 1836, and Farm vs. Factory: Finding and Citing Evidence Worksheet. Working individually or in small groups, students should read the two documents and fill in the Finding Evidence portion of the worksheet.

Briefly discuss the evidence they found for why Sarah Rice and Harriet Robinson had a negative view of working in the textile factories.

Step 5. Now students will write their own paragraph interpreting the evidence from Sarah Rice and Harriet Robinson. Have students complete the Citing Evidence and Writing a Paragraph sections of the worksheet.

Historical Context

When the first American factories were built in places such as Lowell, Massachusetts, many of the workers were young women from New England farms. The opportunity to earn wages, live independently, and experience community with other young women was appealing. But unlike farm work, factories were governed by long hours, strict timetables, loud machines, and repetitive work. The transition from a largely farm based economy to one where many worked for wages in factories began with these early textile mills and proceeded to transform American society.

Creator | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning
Rights | Copyright American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning. Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Item Type | Teaching Activity
Cite This document | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, “Farm vs. Factory: Citing Evidence,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 1, 2023,

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