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In the mid-19th century, the small rural towns of Western Massachusetts supported hundreds of small manufacturing firms across a wide variety of industries, as the partial listing of towns here shows.
Women were usually employed doing paid work at home. In this work, materials were left with an individual woman and picked up some time later. Often, children helped in the production. The money returned was often a significant addition to the household budget. According to this census, significant numbers of children under 14 were still working outside the home in 1885. This was despite a number of laws regulating the employment of children. Also striking is the number of married women working outside the home.