Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Children of the East End

A photographic record from about a hundred years ago. The world has long been a difficult place for small children. It was such dreadful conditions that gave rise to radical and utopian social and political movements. (Via Hermes.)
Dead animals littered the streets. Excrement and rubbish often blocked the drains. Diseases such as diphtheria, cholera and measles flourished.
A third of households were without a male breadwinner and women were forced to go out to work, leaving children as young as six to look after their younger siblings.

Older children ran errands, swept the streets, cleaned windows or helped to make matchboxes and paintbrushes. It was poorly paid, exhausting work, especially for malnourished children, but their contribution — small as it was — could help buy a little stale bread.
According to Erica Davies, director of the Ragged School Museum in East London: ‘These children tried very hard to survive while facing overwhelming odds.’(Read entire article.)
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2 comments:

Dymphna said...

I saw this at the Daily Mail. Heartbreaking. I am glad, though, that someone documented this.

The North Coast said...

Working conditions for children at the turn of the last century and before were much, much worse than those described here, unfortunately.

Children as young as 5 or 6 were put to work in factories were they were routinely worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. They were injured and maimed on unshielded, dangerous machinery and subjected to brutal punishments for failing to meet work benchmarks. Whole families went to work in coal mines- father, mother, and the kids, working in shafts that were often not wide enough to stand upright in and collapsed frequently.

Thanks to the progressive movements of the late 19th and early 20th century, children in Western countries have been blessedly free of the brutality and exploitation that has been the lot of most poor children (and most people WERE poor) in almost every society.

But we might be heading back to the dark old days as some states here in the USA working feverishly to unwind the protective legislation regulating the conditions, hours, and types of jobs youngsters may work. The State of Missouri (pronounce it "MISERY")is working on passing SB222, which will remove all restriction on work for people under age 14.

We're on our way back to the bad old days, IMO.