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Life in the Iron Mills

Rebecca Harding Davis

Publication Year: 1985

Life in the Mills is the devastating story of a poverty stricken factory worker in the 19th century, an immigrant to the US from Wales who had hoped for a better life. A true artist, Hugh Wolfe, uses cast offs from the iron mills to fashion statues that depict his hopelessness. When his cousin steals a wallet from a wealthy visitor to the factory in hopes of allowing Hugh the freedom to pursue art, both their lives are destroyed. Rebecca Harding published this story anonymously in the Atlantic in 1861. It won instant fame and is one of the earliest American realist works. It explores factory life in nineteenth century America and is a critique of American capitalism, labor issues and women’s rights.

Published by: The Feminist Press

Title Page

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pp. 3


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pp. 4


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pp. 5

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A Note from the Publisher

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pp. 7

Life in the Iron Mills was The Feminist Press's first rediscovered classic. It inaugurated our "reprint" series. It has sold more than 26,000 copies in 9 printings over 12 years. Rebecca Harding Davis's name has been added to the list of major nineteenth-century writers of short fiction. In part to celebrate the fifteenth birthday of The Feminist Press in 1985, in part to acknowledge Davis as a fiction writer, we have produced this newly expanded edition...

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Life in the Iron Mills

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pp. 9-72

You are about to give the life of your reading to a forgotten American classic, Rebecca Harding's Life in the Iron Mills. reprinted here after 124 years from the April 1861 Atlantic Monthly. Without precedent or predecessor, it recorded what no one else recorded; alone in its epoch and for decades to come, saw the significance, the presage, in scorned or unseen native materials-and wrought them into art. Written in secret and in isolation by a thirty-year-old unmarried...

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A Biographical Interpretation

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pp. 73-180

Life in the Iron Mills was not written out of compassion or condescending pity. The thirty-year-old Rebecca Harding who wrote it, wrote in absolute identification with "thwarted, wasted lives ... mighty hungers ... unawakened power"; despised love; circumstances that denied use of capacities; imperfect, self-tutored art that could have only odd moments for its doing-as if these were her own. And they were,...

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The Wife's Story

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pp. 181-228

I will tell you the story of my life, since you ask it; for, though the meaning of the life of any woman of my character would be the same, I believe, the facts of mine, being sharp and compressed, may make it, perhaps, more apparent. It will be enough for me to give you the history of one day,-that of our first coming to Newport; for it seems to me as if it held and spoke out plainly whatever gist and significance there was in all the years for me. I...

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pp. 229-252

It was a strange thing, the like of which had never before happened to Anne. In her matter-of-fact, orderly life mysterious impressions were rare. She tried to account for it afterward by remembering that she had fallen asleep out-of- doors. And out-of-doors, where there is the hot sun and the sea and the teeming earth and tireless winds, there are perhaps great forces at work, both good and evil, mighty creatures of God going to and fro, who do not enter into...

E-ISBN-13: 9781558616257
Print-ISBN-13: 9780935312393

Page Count: 252
Publication Year: 1985