Remarkable Photos of Child Labor During the Industrial Revolution

The industrial revolution brought about swift, significant change to life as the people of the time knew it. Workers once used to subsistence farming in rural areas moved to cities to work in factories in droves. The rapid movement was not without strife. Conditions were dirty, crowded, and often extremely dangerous. The soaring rise in production levels could not adequately be met by adults and desperate parents struggling to survive and put food in their children’s mouths put them to work alongside them in the factories. Conditions were brutal for the children. They were paid a fraction of what adults made, and their small size made them perfect for getting into dangerous nooks and crannies to maintain or clean equipment that adults were too large for. It was not unheard of for child laborers to work 19 hour days with just a one hour break. Orphans were treated as de facto slaves.

Punishment for boys and girls who did not meet expectations ranged from verbal to physical abuse. “Weighting” was a process in which young workers who did not meet their quota were forced to wear a heavy weight around their neck. The wealthy factory owners’ stranglehold on their cheap labor source finally began to assuage to public pressure. The first such measure occurred in 1833 when the Factory Act was passed by British Parliament and restricted the hours minors could work, and prohibited those under 9 from labor whatsoever. School attendance also became mandatory. The U.S. would not follow suit with similar measures until decades later, finally creating the Children’s Bureau in 1912. Unfortunately, the practice is still used today in some areas around the globe.

Source: needham

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English child laborers

English child laborers

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Children worked alongside adults

Children worked alongside adults

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