Child Labor

19th Century Britain-Caroline Sutphin

Jobs Children Did in Factories

  • Children worked in coal mines, as chimney sweeps, factory workers, textile workers, farm workers, street sellers, domestic servants, in sweated trades, matchmaking, rail stations, hat making, and even sometimes as prostitutes during the time of the Industrial Revolution.
  • The more prevalent jobs were working in coal mines, as chimney sweeps, street sellers, and especially factory work.
  • The children who had to work in textile mills often had to clean the machines while they were running. Throughout this time children were expected to do anything adults couldn't or that they were better suited for.
  • In match factories, children were to dip matches in dangerous chemicals, like phosphorus. This could cause teeth to rot and some even died from breathing it in.
  • Children who worked in mines could have different jobs. Trappers opened and closed air doors for ventilation for hours. Drawers pulled heavy coal carts to the surface of the pit by chains on their waists.

Hours, Food, and Working Conditions for Child Workers

  • Most children worked 12 to 16 hours per day on a general basis. This could mean 12 hours of cold, quiet darkness in mines.
  • Food was a thick and coarse oatcake most times. Their dinner was potato pie with boiled bacon in it. Food they received was often hard to eat. There was no tea or butter. Only 3 meals were offered daily, meaning children were often hungry.
  • They had very few breaks and access to fresh air. Children weren't treated well by factory owners and were often brutally beaten for even a small lack of work.
  • Very young children were expected to work these difficult jobs and were paid very small amounts due to being younger.
  • Also, there was no education for the poor (which was the only case of children who worked), making it highly unlikely that these children would ever get better jobs.

Accidents that Often Happened to Working Children

  • For chimney sweeps, narrow, dark, and often twisted chimneys led to children getting stuck or frozen with terror in chimneys. Some even died of suffocation while they were stuck.
  • In coal mines, children were often crushed by wagons, tubs , horses, crushed while riding wagons, or against walls or doors.
  • Unguarded machinery was a major problem. One hospital reported nearly 1,000 people for wounds and mutilations caused by machines yearly.
  • In many instances of machine related injuries of kids that were admitted to the infirmary, muscles and skin were stripped to bone. In some better cases, 1 or 2 fingers were lost.
  • Accidents can often occur through tired children. John Allett claimed more accidents happened at the beginning of the day because children were hardly awake. In some cases when children were pulled into machines every bone was broken and crushed.

Punishments Children Faced While Working

  • Children were usually hit with a strap to speed them up when they slowed from tiredness.
  • In some factories children were dipped head first in water cisterns if they became too tired to work.
  • Children were also punished for arriving late. For even arriving 5 minutes late, they could be strapped until they were black and blue.
  • Often, for stopping a machine you could be beaten with a stick and if you talked of telling your parents, you might be brutally beaten again. One girl got beaten in the head until her head was covered in lumps and bleeding.
  • Children were sometimes beaten senseless or even beaten to death.
  • Those who were potential runaways were placed in irons. The irons were riveted on their ankles. Long links and rings went up to their hips and they had to walk to and from the mills to work.

Efforts to Improve or Stop Child Labor

  • A small movement of writers and philanthropists responded to the negative effects of The Industrial Revolution and tried to create a Utopian society. Parliament set up a committee in 1832 to investigate, which eventually led to the passing of the Factory Acts. Also, the Luddites had a response to this.
  • Educational reformers convinced many people that education through primary school was a necessity.
  • In 1802, the first Factory Act was created. It stated rules about health, safety, school education, and religious education on Sundays.
  • In 1833, another Factory Act was made. This made it illegal for children under 9 years old to be employed in textile factories.
  • Factory Acts were also made in 1844, 1847, 1850, 1867, 1874, and 1891.
  • The Mines Act was passed by the government in 1847, forbidding employment of women and girls, and all boys under 10 years old down mines. Later it was made illegal for children under 12 to work.