An original opera for Young Performers and Adults

Music and Libretto by Judith C. Lane




Lowell, Massachusetts 


Callie and her little sister Maggie both work 14 hours a day at the cotton mills in Lowell, Massachusetts.  They have no family but each other, and Callie feels the weight of her responsibility to take care of  Maggie.  She works hard at the mill, and also learns to read, hoping this new ability will help her find another job.  She attends meetings of the Female Labor Reform Association and bravely signs a petition for the 10-hour workday.  But just when the workers are planning to strike Maggie becomes deathly ill, and Callie must decide between joining the strike or continuing to work in order to pay the doctor bills and keep a roof over their heads.

When the leaders of the strike are suddenly fired, the strike is postponed.  But Callie learns that all the workers involved in planning the strike will be docked their day’s pay.  So she makes her decision, stopping her loom and calling others to do the same.  En masse the workers join her in the strike, successfully bringing the huge mill to a standstill.

In an Epilogue we see Callie and Maggie, fifteen years later.  Callie reads with a small child in front of a bookstore that she now owns, as Maggie enters excitedly with a newspaper.  The cover story announces that the 10-hour workday is now law.  The whole company joins in a reprise of the worker’s anthem.

The Cast

Callie…….a young Mill Girl, 11 years old

Mr.Brick…….Mill Manager

Maggie…….Callie’s little sister, 8 years old

Mr.Pinch…….Mill Paymaster

Mrs. Calendar……runs the boarding house

Lady Hallenbrook……a wealthy woman

Jake………an elderly book peddler Older

Callie……..28 years old

Ted…….a 13-year-old schoolboy

Older Maggie……..25 years old

Ella……..a sickly Mill Girl

Child……….Callie’s child

Alicia & Nan……….older Mill Girls, organizers of the 10- hour day movement

Child Worker Chorus

Adult Worker Chorus

Townspeople Chorus

Music Excerpts

Performance Notes

Running Time

90 minutes (can be performed with or without intermission)

Instrumental Ensemble

Piano, violin I, violin II, cello, bass, flute, clarinet, piano, synthesize and percussion.  The piece may also be performed with just piano and percussion.

Stage Set

Cots that convert into looms

The Mill Girl was commissioned by the
Children’s Opera Company of Ossining.
The commission was funded in part by grants from The Glickenhaus Foundation,
The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, and the Harburg Foundation.

World Premiere Performance:

April 1998 – The Children’s Opera Company of Ossining, NY

“Lift  and Shift”  was selected as a Finalist in the 
KidSing2000 Composers Competition