Industrial Revolution: Child Labor

By: Kristen Fox

Jobs Children did in Factories

  • Steam was the number one source of energy back then. Steam powered trains, steamships, and factories. In order to produce steam, you need water and heat, so they burned coal to produce steam. They used children to do these tasks because of the small spaces of the coal mines and they demanded less pay.
  • Chimney sweepers were jobs where children some as young as three years old would use their tiny size for going down narrow chimney stacks to clean them. This job may have been the most dangerous job.
  • Many children were expected to work in factories and textile mills to support their families. They worked for less wages than adults, and girls were even payed cheaper. Because of their size and energy, children performed good or even better than adults.
  • Children sometimes were domestic slaves or prositutes which is when they worked as slaves for the owners or sold their bodies for money.

Hours, Food, and Working Conditions

  • Children would work up to 19 hours a day, with a one-hour break. There was sometimes where children worked 12-14 hours with the same minimal breaks.
  • When working long hours, they were payed little or not payed at all.
  • Children mostly ate portioned meals little at a time but they mostly ate oatcakes, porridge, bread, and more.
  • The working conditions were terrible, horrific, menacing, long, and broad for the kids. It was scary for kids because the air was always filled with smog, posion, and much more.

Accidents that Often Happened

  • For chimney sweepers, being sent down the chimneys would cause them to scrape their legs, knees, arms, and elbows. Sometimes, no skin would be left on them.
  • Breathing in soot for children was very common, and this caused irreverisble lung damage.
  • Some children developed permanent spine damage by walking stooped over constantly in the coal mines.
  • Fatigue occured due to long hours, children's hands and arms would get caught in machines and skin was stripped down to bone, many children's fingers were purely penetrated, and it would leave traumatic effects on the kids.

Punishments Children Faced

  • The owners would beat the children, verbally abuse them, neglect them, and take no consideration for their safety.
  • One common punishment for being late was known as to be "weighted". This is when overseers tie a heavy weight to a worker's neck, amd have them to walk up and down the aisles so the other children would take it as a warning.
  • When girls spoke up, the owner would do terrible things to them like cut their hair to scalp them, lock them up in prison nude, rape them, and many more.
  • They would be whipped if they weren't working hard or fast enough and the kids were sometimes dipped in water cisterns to be woken up.

Efforts to Improve/Stop Child labor

  • Some employers wanted change, so they formed many reform groups against child labor and the factory owners themselves by making laws and acts against this horrific event.
  • In 1833, The Factory Act banned children working in textile mills at the age of nine. From nine to thirteen, they were to work nine hours a day.
  • The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (SPCC) was created in 1891 to stop the abuse of factory owners on the kids.
  • Many other laws were created like the 1842 Mines Act, 1844 Factory Act, and 1847 Ten Hour Act to prevent many children with age and gender requirements from working in factories and the mines. The Ten Hour Act cut back hours for women and people under eighteen to 10 hours a day.