Spinning Wheels

Changing Lives of Women


Our spinning wheels are artifacts of an earlier time when we made what we needed. They tell the story of women in the household and of 19th century women in general. Production of textiles, for clothing and bedding, had long been done by hand, mostly in the home. For many women, 75% of our waking lives were devoted to the production of textiles – preparing the wool, or flax, spinning thread and yarn on hand operated spinning wheels, weaving fabric on looms (some simple, some complex), and finally stitching the fabric together into useful items.

With the dawn of the industrial revolution, machines took over much of this work. Textiles were being mass produced in mills. The Jillsons, being textile entrepreneurs themselves, probably purchased finished fabric and thread; still sewing their own garments. The mills along the Willimantic River, several of them owned by the Jillsons, produced thread. That thread was shipped some distance to other mills that wove the fabric.

The lives of women and of their whole families were changed forever. No longer did a household produce most of what they needed. They could purchase them. Machine made goods required money for purchase. Money meant leaving the home and working for wages.

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This feature is made possible by a grant from the Leo J. and Rose Pageau Trust.