An Overview of Child Labour in the 19th Century

The abuse and misuse of children being exploited in jobs has to be put to an end. Children of this century are no longer treated as the beauties of the world but are viewed as cheaply paid workers. Some employers are paying low wages or no wages at all, while others force children to work excessive hours. If the exploitation is severe enough, permanent physical, psychological, intellectual, social and moral damage, even death can result. A heartless attempt to gain wealth is costing America its children.

To attack child labour in America, the causes, the conditions and the laws must be radically addressed. There are many reasons for America accepting child labour, the main cause being economic. Until now, the public has not been informed of the severity of the problem and have had no available statistics to inform people. During this time our strict puritan belief of hard work has justified the practice of child labour. As the number of factories has grown, the more people the factory owners need to tend to them.

Since there is a lack of employers, they have to rely on the work of children.

After the war when the South had fallen under the control of conservative Democrats, large social and economic problems remained. As the South was urged to build a new south and a solid industrial establishment, child labourers answered their calls. At first most people believed that employing children was beneficial to the community because it kept adolescents out of trouble, gave them maturity and provided some extra money for their families.

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Considering that most adult employee have been replaced by children the working cycle has enlarged. The children of the poor are being forced by economic conditions to work. Housing is needed to accommodate the over-flow of workers since they can’t afford their own accommodations. They have no choice but to live in company-owned housing built along with the mill. Some parents are forced to sign a contract allowing their children to be enslaved in this factory system. It is common for factories to have whipping rooms for children who misbehave, work too slow or fall asleep during work hours. It is not unusual for employers to chain children to equipment so that they can’t run away. Since the nation’s economic depression in 1893, the country has experience misery.

There are no jobs, poor housing, lack of sanitation, terrible health care and crime. Parents are desperate to send their children to work instead of school, so many children are eager for work that employers exploit them by paying very low wages. Coal mine workers are spending their days without seeing a crack of light for hours. With soot suffocating young boys lungs, health is a major issue. The children can also be easily injured by falling or moving coal. Many are permanently crippled, have dull lifeless eyes and dirty clothes. Unlike the coal mines which hire only men and boys, the mills also hire women and girls. In a mill a girl usually tend to her work for ten or twelve hours a day and six days a week. She is also expected to stand on her feet for all of those hours except for lunch. Those children who aren’t in sweat shops work on the streets as messenger boys, wagon drivers and street traders.

There is much physical danger facing the streets such as prostitution, crime, and narcotics. Child labour is also prevalent in rural life, as well as urban life. Children do dangerous work, as some infants as young as seven work from six in the morning to six at night. This work that these children proceed to do daily is not only unsuitable, but is inhumane. Children working on the farm must stop. The law which regulates manufacturing industries does not prevent the employment of children, nor does it restrict the working hours of minors. The only state which enforces a law prohibiting the employment of any child under 15 with less than three months of schooling Massachusetts. In Pennsylvania attempts have been made to regulate the age of youth employment in mills, establishing a minimum age of 12.

Several other states also have established minimum age requirements, but not many of them actually enforce them. Several states have adopted a ten hour workday for children under twelve. Things need to be done about the way these children are being treated. Although their has been a few pathetic attempts to stop these helpless children labouring, no dramatically changes have occurred. Children are still spending their precious child hood sweating over machines. There needs to be education in this world we are living in and not just from the rich who are prying money out of the poor and helpless. Help our Union become the happy one we all hope and dream for, a union where children are playing and adults are working. These infants are the next generation and we don’t want this labour issue do destroy the beautiful America which is soon to prosper. Let the children declare themselves dependant, and let us appeal to their helplessness that which is able to protect them in the enjoyment of their childhood. Demand restoration of their rights by the abolition of child labour in America.

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An Overview of Child Labour in the 19th Century. (2022, Jul 25). Retrieved from

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