We’re delighted to welcome to the New Lanark Blog, Docey Lewis – a direct descendant of Robert Owen. Ahead of her talk at New Lanark on Friday 24th April (£4 tickets available here) Docey has blogged for us with a taster of what she”ll be discussing…
What would Robert Owen have thought of corporate social responsibility, fair trade, employee-owned companies, carbon neutral product manufacturing, zero waste-to-landfill, LEED points and so many other modern business practices?
Imagine Robert Owen’s Facebook page or perhaps picture him debating Pope Francis or having a conversation with the Dalai Lama on YouTube. What would his Tweets say?
Would he oppose GMO foods, be a vegan, or demand organic cotton for his factories?
Would he be a champion of distance learning, work globally to educate women and girls? Would he be a pioneer on social, environmental and economic frontiers? Would he have found sympathetic investors through crowdfunding on Kickstarter or Indiegogo? Would his big ideas have spread virally, globally? What would his Ted Talk look like?
(Would Anne Caroline have enjoyed better health and accompanied Robert on his journeys?)
How much the world has changed since 1799 when Robert Owen arrived on the New Lanark scene. The technology revolution may have made the world seem a smaller place, but all our connectivity, productivity and mobility have exponentially multiplied the options for how and where to make one’s life and livelihood and how to spread one’s ideas.
Robert Owen’s impact on my life started in early childhood, when two of the books my grandmother read to me were Town of the Fearless and The Bekoning Road, both involving Robert Owen’s Utopian experiment in New Harmony, Indiana. I first visited New Harmony when I was ten years old, for the dedication of Philip Johnson’s Roofless Church. My first large weaving commission was in 1974 for the New Harmony Inn. I designed the wool yarn for and wove 60 bedspreads by hand on a wide fly shuttle loom. In 1967 my mother became active with the Cooperative League of the USA and until her death in 1983, traveled the world, lecturing on Robert Owen and the cooperative movement. She also wrote a book entitled Look to the Distaff which is a compilation of Owen family letters going back five generations. She wrote long letters to me about her numerous trips to New Lanark and New Harmony. And now, I find myself not only living in New Harmony, but making regular pilgrimages to New Lanark myself.
I’m so looking forward to sharing the story of “Full Circle,” the (mostly textile) design and development work being done in partnership with our international buyers and the producer groups we work closely with in the developing world. Robert Owen’s philosophy and big ideas have informed our work and continue to inspire us.
Docey Lewis – New Lanark Guest Blogger