Child Labor in England

Just the Facts of the 19th Century K.Kennedy

Common Jobs of the Time

  • Many children found jobs in textile factories, one such is a Scavenger. They went under machines and picked up loose cotton from the floor.
  • Chimney Sweeps- children as young as three would be employed, even taken to work in going down and cleaning out the inside of a chimney stack.
  • Coal Miners- coal was needed so children who were small and could easily fit were sent into mine shafts to mine out coal.
  • Domestic Servants- girls more often were employed as servants working in a wealthy upper level house holds, cleaning and other things around the home.
Coal Miner-The picture in the left shows and girl working in a coal mine pulling a cart. Many children suffered spine deformations from the small openings and tunnels.

Working Cinditions in the 19th Century

  • Hours were long and hard for children, and average coal miner would work for 18 to 22 hours a day. Were as a domestic servant would work 80 hours a week in the master home, or even more if needed.
  • In addition to long hours and few breaks they were commonly made clean the machines during their lunch break.
  • Conditions were not good as owners didn't want to pay for it. Things like coal mines were small and crowded, had lots of ash and soot that got in peoples eyes and throats.
  • Food in the factories was not good. Many children had meager meals not more that small cakes with boiled water poured into it. Many children ate while they worked and in textile factories children would have to pick cotton dust of it before eating.

Accidents Caused by Working Conditions

  • For many children who worked in factories losing arms or even fingers in the machines was not uncommon. Many were severed because they had to work under moving machines.
  • Accidents were different for each job. But up to forty percent of accident reports in hospitals and medical centers were factory accidents.
  • Children who worked in coal miners became deformed because of the slooped ceiling and small doorway, their spines would become permanently curved. Ash and soot would get in throats.
  • Sadly for some families these accidents such as losing your fingers or arms in a machine would often mean being fired because they could not work efficently. Others could have in extreme casses death because of their job.

Punishment in Factories

  • Strapping- hitting with a leather strap, a commonly used punishment for things like being late or not working fast enough.
  • Other punishments were stranger and more painful, such as hanging iron around their necks, hanging them in baskets from the ceiling, nailing the ears to tables, and dowsing them in water to keep the children awake.
  • Factories overseers would beat the children if they slowed or stopped working. Often with crude things like beating the head with a stick. There were children who would return home black and blue from beatings.
  • Fastening iron shackles like that of prisoners was common for Parish apprentices, if the owners thought that they might try and run away. They were put on indecently to young girls keeping them in almost nudity, even in winter.

Laws and Actions to End Child Labor

  • In the first wave of laws to end child labor many were ineffective. One such was a law passed in 1788 to prevent the use of child chimney sweeps. But children were still used into the 19th century.
  • Organizations as well were formed to end child labor. People like NSPCC (The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty towards Children) tried to help create movements to end child labor.
  • The first working law to help end child labor was the Factory Act of 1833. It created a team of factory inspectors, illegal for children under nine to work, order two hours of education per day provided but work places for children under thirteen.
  • Though other acts and such were created to end child labor in many areas it continued because factory owners did not keep track of ages or actually provide the education time required by law. It took a much longer time for child labor to be fully ended.
End Child Labor, a poster in the top right shows an activist trying to get out his views to the public and show how to help children have normal childhoods.