Granite State Stories: Dover Mill girls strike 

  • Cocheco Manufacturing Company’s print works, Dover, wood engraving by Kramer and Co., Boston, c. 1856. Courtesy of N.H. Historical Society

Friday, March 02, 2018

In December 1828, hundreds of female employees at the Cocheco Manufacturing Company in Dover led the first strike in the United States conducted entirely by women.

A majority of the workers at the Cocheco textile mill were girls and women ages 12 and older. In 1828, the factory’s new owners reduced wages for women workers, but not the men and instituted restrictive new rules.

According to a newspaper account at the time, 600 to 800 women workers walked out on Dec. 26, marching a half mile through town accompanied by martial music and the sounds of gunfire.

With few alternatives and plenty of competition for their jobs, the women were forced to return to work at the reduced wage the following week.

Although unsuccessful, this women’s strike presaged growing tension between workers and owners in New Hampshire’s textile industry.

N.H. Historical Society