Cardinal O'Connell, "Years in Lowell," 1934


"Years in Lowell" from Recollections of Seventy Years, 1934

William Cardinal O'Connell wrote his biography at the age of seventy-three, envisioning it as a contribution to the history of the American Catholic Church. Although several people had offered to write it for him, he decided that he could best tell his own story. Looking back on other leaders of the American Catholic Church who had not left behind personal records, he believed it important that those after him "know my own point of view and the authentic construction which I put on the principle events of my life."

In his autobiography, Cardinal O'Connell reflects upon growing up in Lowell, Massachusetts, a factory town. Originally a Puritan village of farmers, its location at the junction of the Concord and Merrimac Rivers made it an ideal site for a factory. Between 1846 and 1850, as Irish immigrants poured into the town to work in the factory, the religious composition of the city changed. In this excerpt, Cardinal O'Connell writes of these changes the town underwent during the late 19th century, when the factory workers began demanding better working conditions


As you read the document, reflect on the following questions:

  • How does Cardinal O'Connell explain the reason for tension between mill owners and workers?
  • To what does Cardinal O'Connell attribute the lack of violence in this situation?
  • Based on all of your readings, how influential do you think this episode was in Cardinal O'Connell's life? Explain your answer.
  • Do you think tensions still exist between employers and employees? Use examples to support your answer.