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Child Labor in Victorian England

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Child Labor in Victorian England

"The report described the children as Ð''Chained, belted, harnessed like dogsÐ', saturated with wet, and more than half-naked, crawling upon their hands and knees, and dragging their heavy loads behind them'" (Yancey 34). This quote from Ivor Brown probably best describes the strenuous work preformed by a child laborer during the Victorian Era. Child laborers played an important part in developing the country's economy. Children, one of the main sources of labor in Victorian England, endured less than adequate living and working conditions.

During the Victorian Period children were good sources of labor. Beginning work as young as six or seven employers saw many benefits to hiring children (Yancey 33). Adolescents were a significant part of the labor force because they could be paid lower wages (Cody). Also their naturally small and nimble hands and bodies were easily maneuverable. Employers most often hired children over adults because kids were powerless and would not revolt (Yancey 33). Economic conditions forced poor children into working, sometimes as hard and long as their parents (Cody). Essential to the economy, Parliament supported child labor saying a child was more useful to his family working (Altick 249).

Child laborers led very hard and grossly disgusting lives of filth. Generally the living quarters of laborers were poorly built, rotting, even falling down, with little

ventilation. There was no indoor plumbing causing people to throw human waste on unpaved streets. Houses were often crowded and rented by the room or even by the corner. Dirty floors and leaky roofs did not stop people from living in over crowded basements and attics (McMurtry 159).

The majority of the day of young workers was spent without their family. The factory system split up families for as much as fourteen hours. The time they did have together was either spent eating or sleeping. Young daughters developed no housewife skills because they were working and their working mother was not there to care for and teach them. The role or father was decreased since he was not the sole supporter of the family (Harrison 74). The life of a child laborer was much like this; thus they learned little about life (Harrison 74).

Despite its major importance education played a very small role in the lives of children. In the Victorian Era there was a refined belief that education was not needed (Altick 249). Few working kids had more then two or three years of schooling (Altick 250). In 1840 only twenty percent of the youth population had any schooling at all (Cody). Then in 1870 the Education Act was passed stating that all children, ages five through ten, must attend school. Yet, it was not until 1881before the act became nation wide (Child Labor). Many children tried to avoid school mainly because of the hot, noisy, odorous, and unsanitary classroom environment. School buildings were inadequate along with schoolteachers. Most of the teachers were not properly trained and were usually failures in life. Children often picked work over school due to the fact that working earned them money while school earned them nothing (Altick 250).

There were many different indoor jobs a child laborer could have during the Victorian Period. Two of the most commonly heard of jobs included servants and sweatshop workers. Boys and girls became household servants around ten or twelve. They would help around the house doing all sorts of different activities and odd jobs. Children were required to follow many rules around the family since they were of the lower class. Younger servants



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