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The Industrial Revolution was a time of drastic change and transformations from hand made items to machine manufactured goods. These changes generally helped make life easier, but it also hindered it as well. During the Industrial Revolution, working conditions in factories declined and the number of women and children working increased. Women and children were used as a cheap source of labor (The Industrial Revolution web). The Industrial Revolution was a terrible experience for women and children (as portrayed in The Dark Side of the Industrial Revolution).
The paintings colors reveals that women and children were working in unsanitary conditions. The painting also reveals how hard and tiring the work was. During the times of the Industrial Revolution, the displaced working classes felt that a family would not be able to support itself if the children were not employed. As a result, the children of the poor were forced by these beliefs and economic conditions to work. Children started working as early as the age of six. In addition, since they worked at such a young age, there was no time for an education.
Although the working families were making just enough money for the essentials of life, the factory owners or employers became very wealthy. The factory owners became wealthy at the expense of the laborers hard work. The laborers worked long days, which resulted in greater production. That in turn resulted to the owners becoming wealthy (Beck, 639). During the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, women and children were forced to work under unsanitary conditions and long days. Since there were only minor factory regulations, working conditions were at the discretion of the factory owners.
The factories in which the women and children worked in were extremely dangerous. In fact, there were even many mice around the factories. Furthermore, the factories were not well lit. Examples of these conditions were present in the factories of Manchester.
Manchester is a major industrial center in Great Britain (Funk & Wagnalls, 391). Often, workers near machines would have been injured due to machine malfunctions or carelessness. For instance, a boiler may have exploded near a workers face, or one of the workers arms may have gotten caught in a drive belt. Children were also in severe danger when they were in factories. Since children were generally smaller than adults were, they worked on jobs which adults could not. Since children had smaller hands, they were sometimes used to repair broken threads in spinning machines.
They were also used to replace threads in bobbins, and they swept cotton fluff. Often, the childrens hands were injured because of hands getting stuck in the machines. In addition, the childrens lungs became congested due to the cotton fluff. One of the hardest jobs of the children was the carrying of heavy boxes and sacs of cotton (as depicted in The Dark Side of the Industrial Revolution). Since the loads were so heavy, the children often tried to take a break. If they got caught resting by a supervisor, they were normally beaten and whipped.
A health hazard, which affected both children and women, was the extreme amount of dust. There were many birth defects and diseases, which developed because of the large deposits of dust. Those factory conditions also shortened the life spans of the women and children (Libbon, 80 - 81). In the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, there were only minor laws (often not enforced) made for labor.
This allowed factory owners to set the conditions and wages for the labor workers. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote a pamphlet called The Communist Manifesto. They tried to convince the workers that they had the right to disagree with the factory owners. According to them, the Industrial Revolution enriched the wealthy and impoverished the poor (Thomas, 437). Marx and Engels believed that the proletariat's (workers) should unite to overthrow the bourgeoisie (employers), (Beck, 651).
By the 1800 s, working people became more active in politics. To press for reforms, workers joined together in voluntary associations, known as unions. Originally, the government saw unions as a threat to social order (Beck, 650). British unions shared goals of raising wages and improving working conditions. In 1833, Parliament passed the Factory Act of 1833. This made it illegal for children under the age of nine to work.
In addition, children between nine and twelve years of age could not work more than eight hours and children between thirteen and seventeen years of age could not work more than twelve hours. Around 1875, British trade unions gained the rights to strike and to picket peacefully. England was not the only nation with these problems. In the United States, reformers organized the National Child Labor Committee. This group pressured the Government to ban child labor and set maximum working hours. However, the Supreme Court held that only individual states could legally limit working hours (Brash, ed. , 58).
As we can see, the Industrial Revolution brought great change. The Industrial Revolution brought on more technology, wealth and power; but it also brought severe consequences. The people were working ridiculous hours, in harsh unsanitary conditions, and were paid very little. Although there were reforms, the suffering did not completely end. Even in todays more friendly and civilized society, there are still labor violations. Hopefully in the future, there are more strict labor laws to protect the worker.
Works Cited Beck, Roger, B. , et al. World History: Patterns of Interaction. Boston: McDougal Littell Inc. , 1999. Brash, Sarah, ed. Events That Shaped the Century.
Alexandria, Virginia: Time Life Inc. , 1998. Dickey, Norma H. , ed. Manchester. Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Corporation, 1993.
Vol. 16, p. 391. The Industrial Revolution. Online. Internet. 3 January 2000. Available: http: //members.
aol. com / mhirotsu /essay. html. Labor Movement Grew From Industrial Revolution. Online. Internet. 28 December 1999.
Available: web Libbon, Robert P. Instant European History. New York: Byron Press Books, 1996. Thomas, Hugh. World History. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc. , 1996.
Women and Children in Labor in Nineteenth Century England. Online. Internet. 1 January 2000. Available: web
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