Just Teach One

The Factory Girl (1814)

Sarah Savage, The Factory Girl, 1815 edition (Boston: Monroe, Francis & Parker)

Detail of cover, Sarah Savage, The Factory Girl, 1815 edition (Boston: Monroe, Francis & Parker)

Our fourth text is Sarah Savage’s 1814 novel The Factory Girl, which, while not detailing the industrial side of factory life, nonetheless gives an interesting account of the changing nature of domesticity in a community of factory labor.  Savage had a long career as an educator and writer, and in this, apparently her first work of fiction, she both thematized and demonstrated her interest in the emergent “Sabbath Schools” of the region.  The novel was reprinted at least four times in the nineteenth century.




The Factory Girl (1814)

Following are excerpts from responses written by participants who have included this text in their teachings. To read the essays in their entirety, click on the “more” link at the end of each excerpt.

Factory Teaching

Thomas Hallock University of South Florida We hate directives that come from above. The Provost attends some conference on educational leadership, maybe reads the latest pedagogical trend, then then asks faculty to revamp an entire curriculum. A few years back, faced with accreditation woes, my campus buzzed with assessment talk. The terms felt like […]

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“The Business of ‘The Factory Girl’”

Max White Northeastern University Allow me to begin with a digression – an overview of my teaching circumstances, and how I managed to “just teach one” – before I present some of my students’ responses to Sarah Savage’s The Factory Girl. As a graduate student at a large institution without a sizeable population of English […]

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Representing Women’s Work

Andreá N. Williams The Ohio State University I taught The Factory Girl in an undergraduate survey, Colonial and U.S. Literature to 1865. Given my own research interests in class and labor in nineteenth-century U.S. fiction, as in my book Dividing Lines: Class Anxiety and Postbellum Black Fiction (Michigan, 2013), I wanted to draw my students’ […]

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“She Really Wants to Dance!”

D. Berton Emerson Cal Poly Pomona In an upper-level seminar that the catalogue titles “Early American Literature” and describes as featuring “critical analysis of literature written in or about North American before 1820,” I selected readings appearing between 1789 and 1815 to examine the various ways Americans worked through the meanings of Revolutionary ideals played […]

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Reading Religion and Rights in The Factory Girl

Devin Zuber Graduate Theological Union (GTU) at Berkeley I taught Sarah Savage’s The Factory Girl in an advanced seminar at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) (, a consortium for different religious studies and graduate theological degree programs in Berkeley, California. Typical of such seminars at the GTU, “Trauma and Testimony: Literature, Religion, and Human Rights” […]

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The Factory Girl as anti-seduction story

Sarah Hayes University of Florida The Factory Girl fit well in my lower-level early American women writers course. After reading Charlotte Temple and The Coquette, The Factory Girl seems to read like the same message in reverse; instead of cautioning young women on what can happen if you fail at virtue, The Factory Girl shows […]

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Thinking about Early Adolescent Literature

Zach Hutchins Colorado State University Teaching a course of my own design, about how eighteenth- and nineteenth-century texts make their way from the archive and into modern classrooms, seemed like the perfect opportunity to share a novel with students from the Just Teach One archive. In the three months preceding our scheduled consumption of Sarah […]

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Prison Boys Read The Factory Girl

Rachel Boccio University of Rhode Island I taught The Factory Girl to a select group of advanced students at John R. Manson Youth Institution, a maximum-security correctional facility for adolescence males in Cheshire, Connecticut. The “boys” of my title are part of a larger reading group I began facilitating in 2013 with former English students […]

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All of the Didacticism, None of the Scandal: Questioning the Canon with The Factory Girl

David Lawrimore University of Florida I taught Sarah Savage’s The Factory Girl in “Digitizing Early American Literature,” a 200-level special topics course. The course’s major goal was to consider how standard conceptions of the early American novel shift when considered alongside non-canonical texts, a project that is made more accessible given the recent proliferation of […]

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Deconstructing Binaries in Sarah Savages’s The Factory Girl

Leigh Johnson Marymount University The Factory Girl by Sarah Savage replaced Rebecca Harding Davis’s Life in the Iron Mills on my spring syllabus for EN 350, The American Dream, a liberal arts core advanced literature class for non-majors. Students found Mary’s story less than thrilling, but by the end of our discussion, we had mined […]

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