The abuses of child labor are no longer a big issue in America. Child labor was a big deal in the latter part of the 19th century.
The Industrial Revolution came to America as early as 1813, when the first water-powered textile mill opened in Waltham, MA. Within a few decades, mills and factories were sprouting along waterways everywhere, and workers streamed off the farms to join immigrants who were employed in them at low wages.
The ongoing abuses of child laborers were condemned (by unionized adults) as early as the 1830s. In the following decades, regulation of the working conditions for kids occurred piece-meal, state by state. By the end of the 19th century, 28 states had enacted laws governing (but now outlawing) the working hours and conditions for children. Work by youngsters was finally outlawed in America when the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938.
In 1881 eight-year-old textile workers in Maine—some of them working for eight cents a day-- started a strike when they discovered that kids their age at another mill were making a penny more per day. The three-day strike was partly successful.
Mill owners and factory owners and other 19th century capitalists were forced, over time, to cease exploitation of poor kids on the shop floor.
Imagine that you work in the Cabot Mill (see right) making textile products. Imagine that you take your eight-year-old son to work with you every day, so he can work for 10-12 hours for pennies in grimy conditions, with poor lighting, breathing air filled with cotton lint and climbing barefoot on the huge humming machinery so he can replace the empty spindles.
Imagine that you need his paltry income to keep food on the table for your family.
Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2016 All rights reserved.