Cultural Crossroads a COPLAC Digital Course

Month: September 2017

A Good Place to Work (if you are a woman).


Homer, Winslow. Bobbin Girl . 1871. Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell, Massachusetts . In Center for Lowell History . Accessed September 27, 2017.

McGaw, Judith A. “”A Good Place to Work.” Industrial Workers and Occupational Choice: The Case of Berkshire Women.” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 10, no. 2 (1979):227-48 doi:10.2307/203335.

This secondary source discusses the amount of women who worked in the mills throughout Berkshire County, most being immigrant workers, and the reasons why they worked where they did.  “In 1880, twenty-two woolen mills, twenty one paper mills, eighteen cotton mills, and seven mixed textile mills operated in the county.  All of these industries presented substantial employment opportunities for women, cotton and paper mills generally hiring a preponderance of females” (pg. 230).  “Initially, prejudice also impeded the hiring of ethnic minorities, but, at least for the Irish, the years after the Civil War saw a lessening of that discrimination” (pg. 235).  One of the biggest reasons women chose to work in the first place was need.   Either they came from families who had too many children to feed, so the older boys and girls had to help out, or they came from families where the men where either unemployed or had past away.  Many of the men who died during the construction of the Hoosac Tunnel left behind large families.  In 1880 there were a large number of mills women could work at that were within a ten mile zone of their homes which made finding a job that much easier.  Most of the female mill laborers made the choice to start working where and when they did along with other family members.  “75 percent of the women working in cotton manufacturing in the Berkshires were still living with their parents, three fifths were under the age of 21 and almost a quarter of cotton mill girls were under 16” (pg. 235-36). Many of the immigrants living in the area were so poor that they had to send as many children to work as possible, those who had more daughters working in mills were most likely from families where the fathers were unskilled laborers or unemployed altogether.  Another factor that showed just how poor these settlers were was the fact that the majority of cotton mill workers were extremely young.  Soon hiring young girls and women as workers in cotton mills became the norm and they turned into the easiest places to get a job as a female, especially from coming from a family that was “ignorant, less familiar with American life, and poorer” (pg. 237).  

Catholic Pittsfield and the Berkshires

Mullaney, Kathrine F. Catholic Pittsfield and the Berkshire. Pittsfield, Massachusetts: Press of the Sun Printing, 1897.

“Rev. Fr. Charles Lynch, date unknown. First pastor of the Parish of St. Francis, itself the first Roman Catholic church in North Adams.”

This primary source discusses the establishment of St. Francis of Assisi  parish in North Adams and the appointment Father Charles Lynch as the first Priest of the Irish Church in the Berkshires.  Father Lynch was offered the position in North Adams in 1863 after serving for many years in another Catholic church in Pittsfield. He was only in North Adams for a short time before he realized that the church they were currently in was too small for the congregation so he called for the establishment of a new church, St. Francis of Assisi.  After spending up to twelve hours a day toiling at the mills and factories the men of the parish build St. Francis on the corner of Eagle and Union St.  He also called for a Catholic school, St. Joseph’s, to be built for the children of the Irish Immigrants some years later.  He served for 21 years as the head priest for the Irish and was beloved by the community.  “He did more towards making it a law-abiding community than legislatures and public officers every did” (pg. 183).  He sadly died on May 30th of 1883 due to paralysis at the age of 53.  Thousands came to his funeral and every business in North Adams closed.  He asked not to have a great statue or monument in his honor, as he wanted St. Francis to remain his greatest achievement, however,  “his loving people were not content that their good father should lie without the usual testimony of affectionate remembrance marking his grave, therefore a granite memorial stands above him, as a tribute to his memory” (pg. 186).

Photo from:

Marino, Paul W. . “A Grave Situation .” Accessed September 25, 2017.

First Timeline



  • Map of Historic Massachusetts, 1830-
“Special Collections and University Archives.” Historic Maps in SCUA. Accessed September 21, 2017.
  • Diagram of Potato Famine, 1845-

“Ireland’s Catastrophic Population Decline 1841-51 Due To The Potato Famine.” Brilliant Maps. March 16, 2016. Accessed September 19, 2017.

  •  Image of Saint Francis of Assisi, 1863-

“St. Francis of Assisi Church | our life.” St. Francis of Assisi Church | our life. Accessed September 19, 2017.

Project Contract

Kaitlyn Vogel

Susannah Frey

Cultural Crossroads Contract

Project Site  Link:

Google Docs Link:

Project Description (Mission Statement and Goal):  The goal of this project is to increase understanding of the Irish workers who built the town of North Adams, from the 1840s through the beginning of the 20th century, among local residents.  We intend for our website to be as user friendly as possible and tell the story of the Irish in the Berkshires as succinctly as possible.  We would love for our project to be used by the North Adams Historical Society as another exhibit of the amazing history of our area.  We would also love our site to help anyone who looking to research the history of Irish migration to America along with North Adams specific history.       

Basic Structure of Website: The homepage of the website will feature beautiful images relating to the project as well as a summary of our project and it’s goals. We will also have pages devoted to our bios, our secondary bibliography, our primary bibliography, project contract, the timeline, and the map, and a page devoted to significant events in chronological order to better illustrate the story we are telling.

Tools We Are Using: We are using a wordpress site with the Hemingway theme. We will also be using Timeline JS and StoryMap JS.

Work to be complete by each member:  Kate- Responsible for 3 Primary sources and 4 Secondary sources, transportation to and from archives, finding images to be used for the site, as well as creating the pages our information will be entered into and setting up the website.

Susannah- Responsible for 3 Primary sources and 4 Secondary sources, contacting archives to set up additional help, finding any potential videos or audio clips to be used in our site, entering information onto pages as well as finalizing the overall look of the website.

Schedule for Milestone:

  • October 3, 2017 – First attempts at StoryMap and Timeline to be posted on individual and group blogs
  • October 5, 2017 – Final Draft of Contract
  • November 20, 2017 Final Draft of Bibliographies
  • November 28-30, 2017 – Final Presentations
  • December 11, 2017 – Final Websites and Blogging due

Irish Fled Old Country

“The Potato Famine in Ireland Photo.” AllinIreland.WordPress (web log), January 18, 2015. Accessed September 13, 2017.

Pugliese, Phil. “Irish Fled Famine in Old Country for New World and Hope.” The North Adams Transcript. March 17, 1987.

This article was chalk full of information.  Not only did the author address why and how the Irish immigrated to North Adams in the 1840s and 50s, he also talks extensively about what they did once that settled here.  It all started with the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s, which caused massive devastation and loss of life in Ireland.  People soon set their sights on North America, so much so that “American manufactures advertised in Irish newspapers offering to pay the passage of any man willing to come and work”.   Thousands started to travel to the US many through the way of timber ships sailing for Canada, as that was cheapest.  Most of the Irish who came to the Berkshires first stopped in New Brunswick and then either caught a boat to Boston or simply walked.  Of all the immigrant groups to settle in the Berkshires, the Irish did so some thirty years earlier, giving them a sense of superiority above the rest.  Once the men had settled in the area, they took up jobs in the local timber and cotton mills.  Many also worked on the Hoosac Tunnel which would connect the eastern coast with Troy N.Y.  200 Irish men where killed in its construction, either from “cave ins”or “nitroglycerin blasts”.  This newspaper article also talks about the Irish’s church.  Once their were a significant number of Irish families in North Adams, around late 1850s early 1860s, they decided they needed to have an actually church and not just preform services out of a parish members house.  So they bought a building from local Methodists and soon had their own Priest sent from Pittsfield.  Soon however, they out grew the space and so they decided to build their own church on Eagle St. located right off Main St.  So after working twelve hour days in the factories the men proceeded to build a massive church named Saint Francis of Assisi.  Sadly this church was torn down last year after being abandoned for about a decade.

A Church of Two Steeples

“The top of the steeple hangs from a crane, close to the ground, after being cut from the former St. Francis Church in North Adams, Wednesday May 18, 2016. Gillian Jones” Jones, Gillian . St. Francis Steeple Removed. May 18, 2016. Berkshire Eagle , Pittsfield, Mass . In May 19, 2016. Accessed September 10, 2017.,200479.

Lacroix, Patrick. “A church of two steeples: Catholicism, labor, and ethnicity in industrial   New England, 1869-90.” The Catholic Historical Review 102, no. 4 (Autumn 2016):                       746+.  General OneFile (accessed September 7, 2017).                                                                                                               p=GPS&sw=w&u=mlin_w_masscol&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA474548711&asid                   =e78c  556569eed60f55527257355a7482.


Written for the Catholic History Review, this article examines how French-Canadian immigrants during the late nineteenth century were at odds with their Irish counterparts who wanted to assimilate into preexisting American Catholic Culture.  Settling throughout New England, most prevalent in Massachusetts the two groups were constantly competing for the same jobs and land, leading to great tensions.  This source gives great detail about how the Irish immigrant workers became a vital part of the American workforce and how through their religion and work they set an example for other immigrant groups to the benefit of assimilation.  One note of interest is that their religious differences, while both still Catholic, most likely stems from the way both countries were treated and viewed colonial British authorities.  This source helps explain how the Irish felt when they saw their “control (they)  had achieved over their industrial environment and religious existence in the United States” being threatened by the massive waves of workers migrating from Canada in the late eighteen hundreds.  Both groups being heavily Catholic, churches began to pop up all over New England, however they seemed to not have very much overlap.  This source is really helpful in understanding the thought process of what has going on in the minds of the workers as they gathered and built the numerous Catholic Churches in Berkshire County.  Saint Francis of Assisi was the first church built by the Irish workers in the eighteen hundreds which was sadly torn down in early 2016.   

Finally Back on Campus

“Campus News.” Go Higher! Discover your community colleges, state universities and UMass campuses. Accessed September 07, 2017.

Today marks the start of my Junior year of College.  It is unfortunate that all COPLAC students are on such a variety of school schedules because, while I do not feel like Susannah and I are behind, it does pose a challenge that we have not been able to meet face to face until yesterday when we arrived back on campus.  However, now that we have met it has been much easier to talk and really try to narrow our focus for this project.   We have found a few promising secondary sources and one primary source we feel confident in, but without being in North Adams to visit the local archives it has been a bit of a set back.  As the week goes on and we have had the chance to start every class and at lease in my case get everything unpacked,  we will finally be able to head to the town library and start digging through sources.  It is odd to be almost on the fourth week of one class and still have three I have yet to even start.  It almost feels as if my brain is in two different time zones with one being just a few hours ahead.

Selecting a Project Focus

S., Joe. “Sylva Marcil, Adams, Massachusetts.” Mornings on Maple Street. October 03, 2015. Accessed September 02, 2017.

My partner Susannah and I are planning on focusing our project on the Mill workers of North Adams/Adams during the mid nineteenth through early twentieth centuries.  The two cities where not separated until 1878, so much of the information regarding the Irish and Canadian immigrant workers includes both areas.  Both cities, originally named East Hoosuck, for the river which provided much needed water power to the factories, served as the main way-station between the Massachusetts coast, New York and Vermont.   Lumber was the first resource to be sold from the area however cloth manufacturing quickly became a main source of economic success.  As more and more factories and mills sprouted, more and more workers were needed to keep up.  In its prime, there were around thirty mills/factories in the North Adams area manufacturing everything from shoes, cloth, lumber, sleighs and wagons, to iron and machine parts.  As the years went on and the workers settled their families the town grew and grew.  The population rose by nearly five thousand in just ten years in the late eighteen hundreds.  Many of the current residence are decedents of these mill workers, however when the last factory closed in the late eighties thousands left to find jobs elsewhere.  The town was thrown into economic collapse when the Sprague Electric Company shut its doors.  A decade later the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art bought the factory has since become the largest contemporary art museum in the United States, drawing in thousands of tourists each year.  The mills where the beginning of North Adams in the nineteenth century and they’re becoming the economic savior in a much different way today.

“History of North Adams.” Museum of History and Science, North Adams. Accessed September 01, 2017.