Born in 1806 in Candia, Sarah Bagley was a founder of the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association which led campaigns for shorter hours in the textile mills of the Merrimack Valley.
Daughter of Nathan and Rhoda Withal Bagley, Sarah moved with her family to the Laconia area after her father bought land in Gilford in 1814. By 1827 they were living in Meredith Bridge, which is now part of Laconia.
By 1837, Sarah was working at the Hamilton Company in Lowell. There she became a leader of the “Mill Girls” movement, which used petitions, strikes, legislative testimony and publications to advocate limiting the workday to 10 hours . In 1844, Bagley was a founder of the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association and became its first president. The following year she helped form an FLRA chapter in Manchester.
As a member of the editorial board of Voices of Industry, a weekly publication of the New England Workingmen’s Association, Bagley contributed regular columns and later became editor-in-chief.
“Bagley’s writing expressed a consciousness of the need for reform at all levels of society,” writes Helena Wright (Labor History, Summer 1979). “Indeed, many of the men and women active in the labor movement participated in other reformist causes as well, such as abolition of slavery and an end to capital punishment.”
After leaving Lowell, Bagley attended Homeopathic College in Philadelphia, where she met and married James Durno in 1850. Together, they practiced homeopathy in Albany and also lived in Brooklyn, where they manufactured and sold homeopathic remedies. After Durno died in 1871, she returned to Philadelphia, where she died in 1889.