"Life in the Iron Mills" is Published
Life in the Iron Mills must be considered a central text in the origins of American realism, American proletarian literature, and American feminism, according to Jean Pfaelzer.
The story was revolutionary in its compelling portrait of the working class's powerlessness to break the oppressive chains of industrial capitalism.
This 1861 classic of social realism – the first book to be reprinted by The Feminist Press in its series of rediscovered women writers – remains a powerful evocation of what Davis herself called “thwarted, wasted lives . . . mighty hungers . . . and unawakened powers." The New York Times Book Review said of the novella: "You must read this book and let your heart be broken.”
"Life in the Iron Mills" is a long short story or novella by Rebecca Harding Davis set in the factory world of nineteenth century, the town remains unnamed but is based on Harding's hometown Wheeling, Virginia, now Wheeling, West Virginia.
The story is emphatically on the side of the exploited industrial workers, who are presented as physically stunted and mentally dulled but fully human and capable of tragedy. The story is said to reflect a capitalist society and is also one of the first American Realist novellas written.