Portuguese American Journal

Exhibit: ‘The Lure of the Spindle: The Portuguese in early 20th Century Lowell’ – UMass Lowell

The University of Massachusetts Lowell Saab-Pedroso Center for Portuguese Culture and Research, the Center for Lowell History, and the Lowell National Historical Park announce the opening of the Community Exhibit “The Lure of the Spindle: The Portuguese in early 20th Century Lowell” for Thursday, August 6, at 5:30 p.m.

Sponsored by Mass Humanities, the state-affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the community exhibit is open to the public with reception to follow. Parking is available at the Downes Garage, corner of French and John Streets.

The Holy Ghost Marching Band of Lowell will perform briefly at Boarding House Park (next to the museum) at 5:30 p.m. and lead the visitors to the entrance to the exhibit, where they will perform the Portuguese and American national anthems.

The exhibit will be on view at the Boott Cotton Mills Museum, 115 John St., Lowell, MA, from August 6 to December 1, 2015. Other partners in this project are the Tsongas Industrial History Center, the Lowell Historical Society, and the International Institute of New England, with additional documentation from the American Folklife Center and Saint Anthony’s Parish.

The exhibit was built around immigration documents including letters, passports, photographs and visas that were recently uncovered inside Lowell City Hall and donated to UMass Lowell. These materials – combined with other historical and contemporary collections of photographs, maps, city records and cultural and religious artifacts – tell the stories of Portuguese laborers and their families, revealing the challenges they faced and the choices they made in the mill city.

“The exhibit is designed for two audiences: for the local Portuguese-American community as a way to bring them together, tell their stories and celebrate their heritage, and for the general public, particularly school groups, to share this rich history with them,” said Martha Mayo, director of the Center for Lowell History.

Arriving in Lowell at the turn of the 20th century, many Portuguese people settled in the city’s Back Central, Chapel Hill and City Hall neighborhoods. In keeping with local regulations, young immigrants were required to remain in school until age 16 and show proof of their age in order to work in the city’s textile mills, a socially progressive concept intended to ensure an educated populace. Many of these Portuguese immigrants worked alongside immigrants from other countries as spinners, weavers and loom mechanics, helping to bring the Appleton, Massachusetts, Merrimack, Tremont and Suffolk mills in Lowell to prominence. By 1907, laborers built St. Anthony of Padua Parish on Lowell’s Central Street, where it became a focal point for the area’s Portuguese community.

The Boott Cotton Mills Museum is open to the public daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to “The Lure of the Spindle” is free; admission to the entire museum is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors age 62 and older, and $3 for students and youth age 6 to 16. Children age 6 and younger may enter for free.

Established in 2013, the Saab-Pedroso Center for Portuguese Culture and Research, Prof. Frank F. Sousa, Program Director, offers Portuguese language and culture courses with the objective of establishing a minor and a Bachelor of Arts in Portuguese at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its more than 17,000 students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be ready for work, for life and for all the world offers.

 SourceSaab-Pedroso Center for Portuguese Culture and Research