Lewis Hine caption: All of the family of Antoinette Pothier, 32 Easton Street. Father and tallest girl in back row of the picture work. Antoinette is the center of the group in the front row. Her sister Anita is 11 years old. Location: Lawrence, Massachusetts, September 1911.
Lewis Hine caption: Antoinette Pothier, been doffing six months at Ayer mill. Has a walk of nearly 30 minutes each way to work morning and night. Leaves home at 6 A.M. and gets back 6:30 P.M. Location: Lawrence, Massachusetts, September 1911.
Eleven months before Anita and Antoinette were photographed by Lewis Hine, they would have witnessed the grand opening of the Ayer Mill, with its huge clock tower. Five months later, Antoinette started working there, at least according to Lewis Hine’s caption. Anita likely followed her sister through its gates shortly after. In 1920, she was working there in the office as a bookkeeper, and Antoinette was a spinner, according to the census.
The clock tower is the world’s largest mill clock. In 1906, William Wood and father-in-law Frederick Ayer, owners of the American Woolen Company, completed building the Wood Worsted Mill, which became the largest textile mill in the world the day the last brick was put in place. Three years later, the company began construction of the Ayer Mill. It opened on October 3, 1910.
Due to the development of synthetics, and the increased competition from textile companies in the South, the American Woolen Company shut down in 1955. The clock stopped, literally. In 1991, 12 years after Antoinette died, and eight years after Anita died, the clock was restored. It has been ticking ever since. The mill is now the home of New Balance, famous makers of athletic shoes. Ironically, Joseph Pothier, father of Anita and Antoinette, was employed in a shoe factory when he was photographed with his family. That family, apparently dressed for church, will soon have to endure the Bread & Roses Strike.
According to the census and the Lawrence directories, the Pothiers moved frequently from rent to rent. From 1900 to 1930, Mr. and Mrs. Pothier lived on Border Street, Inman Street, Easton Street, Farley Street, and Hawley Street.
Antoinette Pothier was born in Lawrence on January 29, 1897. She was the second child of Joseph and Leda (Desrochers) Pothier, who came to the US from Quebec about 1890, and married in 1892. Antoinette married Alcide Marquis in about 1924. They had one child, Rena. Due to health reasons, she is unavailable for an interview. Her only child is deceased. Antoinette died in North Andover (Mass) on October 8, 1979, at the age of 82.
Anita, the third child, was born in Lawrence on December 30, 1899. She married David Giard about 1923. They had nine children. She died in Holyoke (Mass) on October 2, 1983, at the age of 83. I interviewed her son, Raymond Giard.
Excerpts from my interview with Raymond Giard, son of Anita Pothier, and nephew of Antoinette Pothier. Interview conducted on January 30, 2012.
“My mother Anita was one of seven girls in her family, but only five survived to adulthood. Her father died about 1963, and her mother died about three years later. They both died in Lowell.”
“My parents married in about 1923, in either Lowell or Lawrence. My father, David Joseph Giard, came down from Canada with his parents when he was 14 years old. His oldest brother married Yvonne, one of my mother’s sisters, so that’s how my parents met. I was born in 1929. At that time, my parents were living in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. They had moved there because my father was looking for work. He got a job there as a weaver in a woolen mill.”
“My father had just built a house, but then he lost his job in 1932, and he just walked away from the house. We moved to Colrain (Mass). It was a little town that had a weaving mill. My father had a brother living there. He also had a brother in Heath (Mass), and we lived with him while we were preparing to move to Colrain. My father bought a little farm there. I had three sisters and five brothers, and my parents raised a cousin who had lost his parents. My mother was a city girl, but she had to move out to the country and raise a large family. She was a strong woman.”
“My father was working away from home at factories much of the time. In 1938, the big New England hurricane wiped out the farm. He was working at a mill in Greenfield (Mass) then. He finally bought another farm in Colrain, and he ran it as a dairy farm. My brother and I were in high school, and that’s when my father started raising heifers. But he still kept working in the mills. My brother and I were the ones that did the chores and raised the cattle, until we had enough cows to start selling the milk.”
“My mother was very frugal. She was a good seamstress. She learned to cook and can. We would butcher the animals, and she would can the meat. We would pick berries every Sunday during the berry season, and she would make jams and jellies. She was a hard worker. When I graduated from high school, I went into construction, and then I went into milk testing for farmers. I went to work on a farm when I got married. That job didn’t work out, so I went back to Colrain and got a job in the bleachery at Kendall Mills.”
“When most of the kids had left home, my father was still farming, but my mother didn’t have a lot of responsibilities anymore. That idle time took a toll on her. She started getting Alzheimer’s and she couldn’t do the housework. My youngest brother was still living at home. He had just come back from the service. They hired one of my nieces to come in and care for my mother. She died in 1983. My father died in 1988.”
“Aunt Antoinette and her only child, daughter Rena, used to come up to spend a weekend with us. Her husband was a weaver. My aunt was very straitlaced. She took very good care of her home. She treated her daughter like a little princess. She dressed well and kept in style. So did her daughter. I think my aunt worked, because her husband had some problems with alcohol, so she was the stabilizer in the family.”
Anita Pothier: 1899 – 1983
Antoinette Pothier: 1897 – 1979
*Story published in 2012.