“Maggie, A Girl of the Streets” focuses on a young woman turning to the streets of New York in the late nineteenth century. Stephen Crane uses this novella to raise America’s consciousness of the desolate conditions present in urbanized cities. The Industrial Revolution had made production more bearable, but was making life increasingly unlivable for those in certain metropolises.
The Industrial Revolution brought change and growth to areas such as New York City. Mechanization in The work place led to harsher working conditions.
Open factories gave way to cramped and unsafe institutions. Many of the new machines were crude versions of what we are aquatinted with today. These machines were often improperly developed and dangerous to use if the operator was not well trained. This resulted in many deaths and disfigurements of those on the clock. Also, this sudden availability of production created greed in the minds of the entrepreneurs. This fervor for creations led to longer and more difficult hours for those employed.
The buildings were also poorly ventilated and many workers became ill from inhalation of the charcoal fumes. These close quarters also caused horrible accidents, such as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911. One of the most notorious of these institutions was the sweatshop, given this name for their close and “sweaty” quarters. This labor-intensive strategy could be employed only with a large number of workers.
Many persons in these sweatshops were lower-class women with few, if any, other options. They were forced to accept these torturous jobs out of desperation and the proprietors took full advantage of this weakness.
They were able to raise hours and lower wages. Sweatshop conditions were detestable. Men operated in small basement rooms, poorly lighted and ventilated. The room may or may not have had a floor, and many were forced to work on bare earth.