Industrialization- As American factories grew, they no longer needed to employ skilled workers who had spent years learning their particular trade. Instead, they could hire unskilled laborers who performed simple tasks and worked for lower wages. As a result, American factory work became “deskilled” after the Civil War. WORKING CONDITIONS -Even in good times wages were low, hours long and working conditions hazardous. -Little of the wealth which the nation generated went to the workers
-Factory conditions deteriorated making them unsafe and unhealthy with low pay and long hours. -Government usually favored the factory owners, therefore reform and protective legislation was a long time in coming. -As late as the year 1900, the United States had the highest job-related fatality rate of any industrialized nation in the world.
-Most industrial workers still worked a 10-hour day. JOBS Unskilled laborers, also called day laborers, performed many kinds of tasks. The sweated industries, also called the cottage industries, were often small and home-based. Small cottage work places were made of isolated individuals, often women, working in their homes as seamstresses, laundresses and small item manufacturers. CHILDREN
-Poor children in the large cities were sent out by parents as young as age 6 or 7 to earn their keep and contribute to the household economy. -The youngest worked as scavengers, gathering salable trash- cinders, rope, metal bottles. Several low-paying trades were reserved for children, like street-sweeping for girls, and boot blacking and newspaper selling for boys. -These children who worked in the streets far away from adult supervision often fell into gambling, prostitution, or theft. -Children also worked in glass factories in front of fiery furnaces, in dark textile mills, in coalfields breathing in coal dust for 10 hours at a time WOMEN
-The industrial revolution brought about increasing employment of women. -The feminists of the time didn’t like that, because they thought that women’s place was in the home, that work outside the home was men’s domain. WAGES -High wages hurt profits. Corporate capitalists believed that they needed profits to open more factories and to hire more workers.
– The boy made 60 cents a day and said, “when I sweeps double space I get 90 cents a day.” Mill workers often worked twelve hour days, which means that the boy earned about six cents and hour. -Moral reasons. Owners believed that a subsistence wage prevented working people from wasting their money on alcohol, gambling, and prostitutes. -As a result, the bulk of the urban American population in 1890 was living below the subsistence-level of income.
-The average annual income for a family of four in 1890 was $380. That same year, however, the Census Bureau estimated that a subsistence income was $530. LABOR GROUPS Knights of Labor -By far the most important of the early labor groups, it was organized as an industrial union on a national basis under central control, with membership open to all workers. -Membership open to any worker except lawyers, bankers, gamblers, and liquor dealers. Even management could to join. -African-Americans made up around 10 percent of membership. PICTURE- this is a picture of a miner working in hazardous conditions.
Mill Children We have forgotten how to sing: our laughter is a godless thing: listless and loud and shrill and sly. We have forgotten how to smile. Our lips, our voices too are vile. We are all dead before we die. Our mothers’ mothers made us so: the father that we never know in blindness and in wantonness Caused us to come to question you. What is it that you others do, that profit so by our distress?
You and your children softly sleep. We and our mothers vigil keep. You cheated us of all delight, Ere our sick spirits came to birth: you made our fair and fruitful earth a nest of pestilence and blight. Your black machines are never still, and hard, relentless, as your will, they card us like the cotton waste. And flesh and blood more cheap than they, they seize and eat and shred away, to feed the fever of your haste. For we are waste and shoddy here, who know no God, no faith but fear, no happiness, no hope but sleep.
Half imbecile and half obscene we sit and tend to each tense machine, too sick to sigh, too tired to weep, Until the tortured end of day, when fevered faces turn away, to see the stars from blackness leap. The Smell of Death Is on Them By: Caroline Pemberton Dost know these shining dames Who toil not, neither do they spin? Their names Spell gold–yet tears I see on every thread Of costly clothing; by their side the dead I smell who died to weave that cloth! Canst tell Them from the lilies of the field?
Tis well! Or in the still hours of the night canst tell The sobs of children from the dreadful noise Machines make, when–deprived of childhood’s toys– The little ones in factories tall stand guard O’er flying wheels, and through the night work hard, Robbed of their sleep and play?