Rebecca Harding Davis


About Rebecca

Rebecca published over 500 works in her lifetime. She was best known for her novel Life in the Modern Mills. Her works were known as classic examples of early american realism, she wrote about the concern and the burning issues of the era. She wrote about the pain the soldiers go through from the civil war, imprisonment of the Victorian women and also the dehumanizing effects of industrialization and capitalism. She wrote “. . .some women write because there is in them a message to be given, and they cannot die until they have spoken it.” as in she wants to give the message in her writing but when she passed no one remembered that of what she did. Until a man Tillie Olsen discovered her work and published her books. She lived from 1831 to 1910.

Life in the Iron MIlls

"Life in the Iron Mills" is set in an unnamed town that is based on the author's hometown of Wheeling, Virginia. The story begins with the unnamed narrator setting the scene. He looks out of his window on a foggy and rainy day and describes what the town full of iron foundries is like. Smoke from the foundries is everywhere. From the back window he sees the river, full of boats and coal barges. He looks on the stream of humanity that is making its way to the great mills, with dull faces, dirty with smoke, stooping all night over furnaces then frequenting "dens of drunkenness and infamy" by day. Then he tells the reader he is about to tell the story of the life of one of the men who, thirty years ago, used to work as a furnace tender at one of the Kirby & John's rolling-mills. His name was Hugh Wolfe, and he and his father and cousin Deborah lived in the cellar rooms of the house that the narrator now occupies. The Wolfes were immigrants from Wales.

At about eleven o'clock on a rainy night, Deborah arrives home from the cotton mill where she works as a picker (a worker who operates a machine which separates cotton fibers). Her two mill girl friends want her to go to a dance that night, but she does not want to go. As she enters the cellar rooms she sees Hugh Wolfe's father asleep on a heap of straw, and then walks into the next room where she eats her supper of cold boiled potatoes. She sees Janey, a young Irish girl who is staying for the night, and then goes out in the heavy rain to walk a mile to the iron mill to take Hugh his supper. She is tired from her twelve-hour shift, but she loves Hugh and always tries to please him. After she arrives at the mill and gives Hugh his food, she lies down on a heap of ash nearby and rests. She knows that, although Hugh is kind to her, he dislikes her deformed, hunchback appearance and prefers Janey.


T- This excerpt could be about someone living near or in the mills in her town or that is where she lived

P- The first paragraph is a introduction what the story is about. How the mills looks where they live and who works there

The second paragraph is describing the two girls and how they live with Hugh. One girl is in love with him but she explains a little why he may not like her

C- Deformed which means misshaped and does not have the "proper" way to look is how Deborah describes her self.

Prefers to like one thing better than the other. is how she puts it between her and Janey to who Hugh's may want

A- Whoever is reading this story

S- Rebecca Harding Davis or Deborah

T- How the woman and the man work at the mills and the place they live in and how it looks. Also a little bit about their romance.

Theme- Hope exists in different levels throughout the novella. There is a general sense of hopelessness for Hugh throughout the story, which peaks upon his death. Davis indicates that, if the existing social class model remains, there is no earthly hope for people like Hugh. The ending, however, highlights Davis's belief in an afterlife and emphasizes the idea that Deborah has hope in heaven. Davis also suggests that hope on earth can be found in a social class reformation that involves the serious adoption of Christian morals.

is how the story is taken by people even in the excerpt.

The War-Elegies Of Tyrtæus, Imitated: Elegy IV. by Henry James

On him shall fame, shall endless glory wait,
Him future ages crown with just applause,
Who boldly daring in the field of fate
Falls a pure victim in his country's cause.
Ah! view yon hapless fugitives who leave
Their seats paternal, and their native sky,
And the full breast in silent sorrow heave
Beneath the galling load of penury.
O'er distant realms who wretched exiles roam,
Perhaps an aged parent's footsteps guide,
Far from their social hearths, and much-loved home,
To meet the taunt of scorn, the frown of pride.
Who wander friendless on a foreign shore,
From foreign hands who ask precarious life,
And prostrate see at Avarice' iron door,
A helpless offspring and a weeping wife.
Thro' hostile regions as they sorrowing go
Tho' pity's bounteous hand afford relief,
In the moist eyelid of the generous foe
Contempt is mingled with the tear of grief.
Far be from us such shame—No! We can die,
Can perish bravely in the glorious strife,
Or guard this hallow'd seat of liberty,
Guard every social charity of life.
Arm youthful warriors! arm! in Britain's right,
Advance, a martial, and a patriot band,
Disdaining pallid fear and shameful flight,
Point the long lance, and lift the shining brand.
Spring ardent to the front, and court the fray,
Nor let the veteran warrior worn with age
Full in the vaward of the bright array
Provoke the war and sink beneath its rage.
The sight unfitting, ill becomes the plain
When bath'd in blood and seam'd with many a wound,
Vent'rous advanced before the youthful train
The venerable fathers press the ground.
But in life's blooming spring the warrior's form
Still charms, tho' fate untimely steal the breath,
Like flowers uprooted by the vernal storm,
In ruin sweet, and beauteous even in death.
While friendship gives the precious balm of praise,
Beauty shall pour her still more precious tear,
A people's voice the hymn of triumph raise,
A people's sorrows sanctify his bier.

Working in the Iron Mills

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This picture relates to the story Living in the Iron Mills because the people are working in the mils to make a living but also want to get out of the mills. This is what Rebecca Harding was writing about in her story. The people that work there usually work long hours so they practically live there. It shows them working hard in these conditions while the story explains their working habits and their personal lives how they contribute to the factories. It explained how it was a waste of human potential, the harsh environment in working in these factories and a new American literature century.


She contributed to the movement by writing about industrialism and the female social works. She shows her readers vivid images with her writing. She wanted to effect the social changes of African Americans, women, working classes, religions, and immigrants with her writing Critics say they could actually see what she was explaining about the bad conditions, the living, and the poverty in the era. In 2013 the Washington and Jefferson college review was articles dedicated to Davis writing.