Women at Lowell Textile School
From its inception, all classes at the Lowell Textile School were open to women. They were far more likely, however, to enroll in the Lowell Normal School that began its first classes the exact same year in 1897. There they were trained to work as teachers rather than textile mill workers. Still, as a photograph of the first class of the Lowell Textile School in 1897 indicates, out of a total enrollment of 200 students, some women were included (2). In a room full of young men, the photograph includes two women seated in the front row.
Although the total number of women enrolled that first year isn't certain, the photographic evidence indicates that the ratio of men to women was quite similar to the ratio of women to men at the Normal School. The inaugural class there contained three men to over 100 women (3).
The 1917 Lowell Textile School catalog explains that for women, "the courses which have appealed especially to their tastes have been Textile Designing and Decorative Art." It added that some women pursued classes in "Chemistry and have added to their Design some instruction in Power Weaving and Finishing." This led, "in some cases," according to the catalog, "to positions in the mill office or in some commercial lines" (4).
A list of graduates in the 1917 catalog indicates that the ratio of women enrolled at the school continued to be around 2% for the first two decades. Out of the list of more than 1,300 students who graduated between 1900 and 1917, only about 30 graduates were women (5).
Decorative Arts Department
The Decorative Arts Department, depicted in the two photographs below, contained a wide variety of intricate design panels, some of which can be seen hanging on the walls.
A collection of these decorative design panels is available at the Center for Lowell History in downtown Lowell. Many of them have been digitized and are available for viewing on the Center's website: http://library.uml.edu/clh/design/des.htm
(2). "The Lowell Textile School. First of Its Kind in Massachusetts Opens with 200 Students" (Oct. 5, 1897). The New York Times.
(3). Frank, Marie (2012). University of Massachusetts Lowell. p. 11.
(4). Lowell Textile School (1917).Bulletin of the Lowell Textile School, Lowell, Mass.: 1917-1918, p. 20 (4), p. 92. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=QLRGAQAAMAAJ.
(5). ibid. pp. 176-201.