Credit: Buyenlarge/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Historical Insights Textile Mills in Indiana

Textile mills in Indiana were full of toxic dust and employees sometimes died from dust exposure, or “brown lung disease.” 1908, Indianapolis Cotton Mill, Indianapolis, Indiana. Credit: Buyenlarge/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Textile Mills in Indiana

Working conditions in textile mills in Indiana were difficult, unsafe, hazardous to the workers’ health, and poorly compensated.

“The life of a textile worker is trouble and worry and fears. We can never get through what we’re expected to do If we work at it ninety nine years,” wrote longtime mill worker Mary Branch in her poem “Textile Life.” Working in a textile mill in Indiana meant lower wages than much of the rest of the nation and poor labor laws, particularly for women, who made up the majority of the workforce in these mills. The work was hazardous and long, typically involving 55-hours a week in buildings that didn’t meet safety requirements. The atmosphere was often hot, dangerously dusty from the production of textiles, noisy, and accident-prone. Women, in particular, were at risk for machinery accidents with their long hair and skirts. The average pay in 1914 for a female worker was $374 per year, while for a male it was $636, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.