Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Forgotten Children

Author Christina Croft discusses the lives of children during the Industrial Revolution.
In a cemetery close to a local hospital, which was built as a workhouse, there are rows of unmarked graves of pauper children. These children surely deserve a ‘blue plaque’ like those which mark the homes of philanthropists and businessmen who built this city. It was on the backs of these children that the British Empire was built. Pauper apprentices, whose names are long-forgotten, were the workhouse children whom factory owners bought like slaves. The official version was that they would be fed and clothed and taught a useful trade but many simply provided free labour. In the mills, their job was to clean the fluff from the looms since they were small enough to hurry in and out while the machine kept working. Exhausted and malnourished, many of them stumbled and were caught up in the machinery and lost limbs or even their lives. In the pauper apprentice house, many children shared one bed and often the children worked shifts so that the day shift would sleep then vacate the bed for the night shift to collapse into. The relentless machines never stopped working. The children were expendable and, being orphans or unwanted, no one missed them or noticed when they disappeared and now they lie in unmarked graves in city cemeteries. In mines, in potteries, in match and paint factories, children were employed in this way. (Read entire post.)


Divine Theatre said...

Thank God for the Industrial Revolution! It improved the lives of children as well as adults!
Many people seem to think that previous to working in these factories these children were afrolic in fields of flowers. They were not. They were living miserably and dying young. This changed during the Industrial revolution and only improved with time. Simple things like food and medicine were available. Hope grew, people lived longer, healthier lives with increased opportunities!
I have friends who used to boycott anything produced by child labor or "slave" labor in Third World countries. I reminded these friends that the children have limited opportunities and greatly benefit from such employment, much the same as the US and England during the Industrial Revolution. They no longer boycott those products but support them wholeheartedly!

The North Coast said...

Thank God also for the people who campaigned for laws to protect children from this kind of exploitation and brutality. The conditions in which children lived and worked prior to the industrial revolution were much worse the further back in time you look. The early stages of the industrial revolution were bad, but pre-industrial eras were infinitely worse. 'Tis said that where food is dear, life is cheap, and you don't have to look back very far to see how children were treated in times and places where there was no end of "surplus" children but food was very dear indeed, and the law of the jungle prevailed.

I hope we aren't on our way back to this. In Missouri, legislation has been proposed that will strip away every protection for child workers, including any age restriction, or restrictions on types of work.

Julygirl said...

Moving from the deprivation of life in the country to life in the city was like 'jumping from the frying pay into the fire'. In time, the Industrial Revolution brought more products at cheaper prices, but the early factory workers did not profit from it. Injuries and death were common and factory owners were not concerned with aiding those maimed and incapacitated and unable to work. Children were almost always separated from their families and were exploited in unimaginable ways. The same was true for young women. It took many many years for reforms to be forced upon the rich factory owners who basked in enormous wealth, owned several homes, took months long trips to Europe all upon the backs of slave labor from women and children in factories.