Child Labor At The Turn Of The Century Essay Samples
Child labor is when children are employed in farms, factories, and mines as workers (López Calva). The British realized it was a problem when factories began to use children as workers in the late 18th century. Previously, children worked on farms with their families or as apprentices to learn a trade. When factories brought them into the workforce, many times they worked beside family members in an effort to pay for bare essentials in the household. However, sometimes the situation was tantamount to slavery and often orphans were put into the system as cheap labor. In 1802, the British Parliament passed acts that ruled against the use of child labor and other countries followed suit as they became industrialized. However, World War II created the need for children to come back into factories as laborers as men went away to war.
Oliver Twist was published by Charles Dickens in 1837 in an attempt to educate the public on the workhouse system and the horrific living conditions of the children involved in it (Dickens). During the Industrial Revolution, children worked in factories to help support their families. Children were exploited by giving few wages for many hours of work. The children in Oliver Twist were sick and hungry and there is a scene where they are all horrified when the main character, Oliver, asks the manager if he can have more to eat; it was unheard of for anyone to get any more to eat. Oliver is an orphan who lives in an orphanage until he is nine years of age when he is transferred to the workhouse. In addition to acting as an expose on child labor, Oliver Twist discussed the political, social, and economic issues of Great Britain during that period. An investigative photographer by the name of Lewis Hine was hired by the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) to document the working and living conditions of children in the United States between 1908 and 1924 (National Child Labor Committee). One photograph taken in November 1908 showed Lalar Blanton looking out the window of the factory where she worked. She stated she was 10 years old and had been at Rhodes Manufacturing Company in Lincolnton, North Carolina as a spinner for over a year. This photo and others like it were used by the NCLC for reform movements to better the lives of working class families and their children in the early part of the 20th century.
Edward Clopper published Child Labor in City Streets in 1912 in an effort to draw attention to child workers in the cities (Clopper). He mentioned situations where some children worked for themselves at professions such as newsboys, but were worse off than if they were working for a newspaper. When child labor laws were passed in conjunction with mandatory school laws, it forced the children to attend school during normal hours, then work far into the night for income. Clopper delved into the interplay between children on the streets and other social problems. He believed that in order for children to get off the streets, either in work or play, it was necessary to address the poverty and poor living conditions of families in the cities, provide adequate playgrounds, and create opportunities for parents to establish wholesome relationships with their offspring.
There was a goal in the cities of forcing the children to seek licenses to sell newspapers, shine shoes, or peddle wares. In this manner, they thought to eliminate the number of children working on the streets. However, they found that in the majority of the cases the names on the licenses were either bogus, the addresses did not exist or were not the homes of the child, or the child was not using the license for what it was intended. In other words, the licensing system was worthless.
Americans awoke to the social problem of child labor after the Civil War and Congress passed laws against it in 1910; many times, the laws were passed in conjunction with mandatory school attendance legislation (López Calva). The Supreme Court ruled they were unconstitutional in 1918 and 1922 because they affected interstate commerce. The first Labor Standard Act was approved in 1938 and stated children under the age of 18 could not be employed in hazardous occupations and during school hours.
Organizations around the world have regulations against the use of child labor. Regardless, it is estimated 246 million children between the ages of five and fourteen years old work for money with the highest percentage being in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 186 million children are involved in labor as defined by international agreements. The ILO Minimum Age Convention banned any form of child labor in 1973 and 117 countries signed it.
Today, children continue to work as slaves, prostitutes, criminals, and soldiers in many countries. Since the United States Labor Standard Act of 1938 did not include agriculture, over 500,000 children in America pick almost one-quarter of the food produced. Laws will not keep children from working. The reason children labor as adults is because their families need the money or they are being exploited by adults in some manner. The answer lies in a system that severely punishes these adults, eliminating the social structure that allows it, and helping families create a lifestyle that prevents the necessity of children working anywhere but in a classroom.
Clopper, Edward Nicholas. Child Labor In City Streets. New York: Macmillan Co., 1912. Print.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Leipzig: N.p., 1839. Print.
National Child Labor Committee. Lincolnton, N.C. Spinner. 1908. Web. 20 Mar. 2015.
López Calva, Luis F. Child Labor. [México]: Centro de Estudios Económicos, El Colegio de
México, 2001. Print.