google-site-verification: googlecfaaf308aaa534f1.html
top of page
  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Pew Rent

What Would Jesus Do?

Rustic Church  (Adobe)
Rustic Church (Adobe)

Throughout my years of research, I was moved by many letters written home from women of the mills who were from New Hampshire.

There were concerns about ‘pew rent’ from a local woman named Sarah. She was but a child, as most laborers were during this time in our clouded history.

Child labor laws were not in place until later years, often brought about by catastrophic losses.

The issues faced by these young people were troublesome at best. In this offering, I discuss a simple fleecing of the workers in the name of God. Customarily, mill workers/women/children were charged a fee for attending church. This was referred to as ‘pew rent.’

Sarah struggled with this issue because the fee was a hardship for her. She found a church that did not charge pew rent to alleviate this weight upon her. However, this also presented a problem for her because she was now outside of her circle of hometown women who belonged to the church of her roots.

Sarah wrote several letters home seeking support and advice. Her best friend also expressed concern for her as written in letters home. She was worried about Sarah's well-being if she did, in fact, attend a church of another denomination. What's a girl to do? I treasure primary sources offered by ordinary people. Their stories are extraordinary and truthful. These hardworking folks, many of our ancestors, provide an honest glimpse into the lives of those who came before us.

As some of you know, much of our history is conveniently omitted or edited to support the narrative that does not serve the lower or working classes. Acknowledgment is healing.

MjP - Author Notes - ©2023

Children in the Mills, Lewis Hine
Children in the Mills, Lewis Hine

bottom of page