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Mary Paul's Letter from the North American Phalanx, 1854
Source, Thomas Dublin, ed., Farm to Factory: Women's Letters, 1830-1860 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), pp. 138-141.

In this letter to her father, Mary Stiles Paul (1830-unknown) describes her journey to and first impressions of the North American Phalanx, a Utopian community in Red Bank. Paul had been a textile worker in Lowell, Massachusetts, and was attracted by the possibility of finding work and housing at the community. The Phalanx was founded in 1843 on the theories of Charles Fourier. Fourierists believed that members should work for the community at a variety of tasks for a portion of the day and then have time to devote to intellectual, artistic or recreational pursuits. Women were to be freed from the continual drudgery of housework. Paul's residence at the Phalanx was brief, for the community was forced to disband later in 1854 when a fire destroyed its manufacturing and agricultural buildings.


North American Phalanx, N.J.

Sunday morn May 7th 1854

Dear father

I feel that you must be anxious to hear from me, and so will write a few lines that you may know that I am here safe and well.

I left, or we left Lowell the day I wrote you from there. We had a very pleasant passage to New York, arrived there about eight-o'clock Thursday morning. Carrie & I were too tired to go about the city much so we did not see many of the "Lions." We left N.Y. for this place at three o'clock Thursday afternoon, instead of staying over night in N.Y. as we intended when we left Lowell and it was well that we did for there has not been a day since when it would have been pleasant or even comfortable on the water.... I thought Redbank sure enough for the earth when wet is as red as any brick I ever saw. It is mostly sand. It forms a very pretty contrast with the bright green grass above. By the way it is spring here, peach trees are out of blossom, cherry & apple trees are in full glory. As far as I can see from the window, at which I am writing, nothing but immense orchards of peach, cherry & apple trees present themselves to view. I never saw orchards before, but I have got a long way from my story. I'll go back. Well we arrived here a good deal wet & were kindly received, had been expected for a long time they told us. The first thing attended to was getting off our wet things and getting some supper.... We have been very busy all the week putting things to rights. Have not done much work beside our own. I have worked about two hours each day for the Phalanx, three quarters in sweeping, one and a quarter in the dining hall, clearing & laying the tables. Tomorrow I am going to begin sewing which will add three hours each day to my work. On ironing days I shall iron one, two or three hours just as I like. I must prepare to go to my dinner now. We have one hour, from 12 to 1, for dinner, breakfast from 5 to 7, tea from 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 . After dinner from one till quarter past two I do my work in the dining hall. Three o'clock, I have come back to finish my letter. I cannot tell you anything definite now about matters and things because I don't know about them myself. I shall write you again as soon as I can & then I will tell you more about ways here. The place is very pleasant and the people are remarkably kind. Upon the whole I think that I may like very well after I get used to the strange ways. That which seems oddest is the manner in which the meals are conducted....I wish that you could be here. I think you might find enough at your work to keep busy as many hours in a day as you would want to work. There are a few here who work at one kind of business all the time but it is from choice. My work in the sewing room is to make a certain part of a stock (gentleman's stock). They make a great many of them here.... I shall be anxious until I hear from you.

Yours truly,

Mary S. Paul


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