From the recording Cotton Mill Girls
Although this song probably dates from the south in the 1920's rather than New England in the 1820's, it serves well to illustrate the conditions in the early mills. The reason it's so flexible: when the mills moved south in the 1900s they simply transplanted the system they had perfected in the north. Girls worked long hours for little pay while breathing in cotton dust. In the early mills, teenage Yankee farm girls were the work force, but as conditions grew worse, and the operatives began to demand better pay and treatment, the mill owners turned to immigrant labor, which included men, women, and children as young as seven.