Women at Work documents the lives of a group of working-class women in the city of Fall River during the middle decades of the twentieth century. Their stories provide a first-hand account of labor issues and everyday life during a tumultuous era in the city’s history.
None of these women knew each other socially, yet their stories reflect a collective commonality of civic, family, socio-economic, emotional, and generational experiences. They walked the same streets, worked in many of the same factories, and persevered through Fall River’s economic transition from the world’s largest producer of cotton cloth to a major garment and manufacturing center.
The oral histories of Women at Work tell a Fall River story unique to the time, events, and culture of a city determined to re-establish itself.
Slideshows and Films
|When the Circus Came to Town, by Robert Kitchen
This presentation documents the history of the circus in Fall River, Massachusetts, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and was adapted from a popular illustrated lecture by Bob Kitchen, a noted circus historian.
Experience the sights and sounds of the circus in its heyday – from the thrill of the circus parade to the exotic animals and electrifying performers – including Fall River’s own Rose Wentworth, a famous equestrienne.
Join Bob on a delightful romp through this once widely popular form of entertainment. If you ever dreamed of running away with the circus, this one is for you!
Adapted from an illustrated lecture, this informative program draws from a selection of over one hundred vintage postcards produced during the first quarter of the twentieth century, affording the viewer a great introduction to the history of the city of Fall River.
An interesting romp through old Fall River via the once immensely popular medium of postcards, it is sure to delight historians and deltiologists alike.
Originally produced in 1953, this program was “presented many times to area clubs, historical societies, church groups, and even to the Annual Meeting of the Fall River Historical Society during the mid-1950’s.”
A fascinating look at both well-known and little-known historical sites in the greater Fall River area. Re-edited in 2016.
Black History Month, 2018
ANTI-SLAVERY DAYS IN FALL RIVER AND THE OPERATION OF THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Edward Stowe Adams, supplemented by the Fall River Historical Society
On the evening of Monday, May, 23, 1938, Edward Stowe Adams presented his paper “Anti-Slavery Days in Fall River and the Operation of the Underground Railroad,” illustrated with fifteen glass lantern slides, to the members of the Fall River Historical Society in the parish hall of the First Congregational Church; the presentation was extremely well received, later being presented in serial form in the Fall River Herald News.
Contained in this volume is an expanded version of Adam’s original manuscript, which is housed in the Charlton Library of Fall River History at the Fall River Historical Society. The format of this manuscript has been slightly edited for punctuation and readability, with italicized information in square brackets added for the purposes of clarification and context. Illustrations include the fifteen original images selected by the author, supplemented with additional images pertinent to the text.
From 1847 to 1937, the steam ships of the famed Fall River Line, so-called “floating palaces” – in fact, floating luxury hotels – were important employers for large numbers of black service workers, who filled the positions of waiters, cooks, bartenders, and porters, among others.
The hours were long, and required spending time away from ones family, but the pay was considered good for the time, especially for individuals employed in managerial capacities in the Stewards Department, which oversaw the food, beverage, and housekeeping needs of the passengers and crew.
This exhibit contains images and material celebrating the strength and character of these hard-working individuals, without whom the so-called “Glory That Was” of the famed Fall River Line would not have been possible.
Black History Month, 2017
“This is the story of two black sisters that is inspiring and troublesome at the same time. One sister, through her marriage, provides and example of opportunity and achievement outdistancing commonplace prejudicial restraints of the day. The experiences of her sibling leave us to wonder what might have been in more accepting times.”
Originally published to commemorate the 20th Anniversary Heritage Celebration of the Massachusetts Hall of Black Achievement at Bridgewater State College, Bridgewater, MA.
The Underground Railroad in Fall River by Kenneth Champlin, supplemented by the Fall River Historical Society
Prior to the Civil War, the Underground Railroad was a system for helping fugitive slaves escape their masters. With the food, shelter, and advice given to these fugitives by Northern abolitionists, thousands of former slaves were able to escape to Canada, beyond the reach of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.
The part Fall River played in the history of the Underground Railroad is a fascinating story of courage and determination to fight against the injustice of slavery in America.
This previously unpublished manuscript, a copy of which is housed in the Fall River Historical Society’s Charlton Library of Fall River History, was written in letter form by Fall River, Massachusetts, native, Anna Robinson (Fiske) Harding, and addressed to her children and grandchildren, who she affectionately referred to as “My Dears.”
Anna was the daughter of Dr. Isaac Fiske (1791-1878), a homeopathic physician in Fall River, and his wife, née Anna Robinson (1808-1887). The erudite couple were devout members of The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, were “great reformer[s],” and actively participated in the Anti-Slavery movement, being interested in all good causes. The Fiske residence at 49 (later 263) Pine Street, was a station on the Underground Railroad, where fugitive slaves often found refuge.
Anna’s reminiscences provide a rare glimpse into the private world of an enlightened, nineteenth-century Quaker girl who, admittedly, never knew what “surprises” she might find upon returning home to from school on “the noon hour.”