Make your own free website on Tripod.com

back to home page

back to Child Labor in the Gilded Age

Excerpts from and Investigation of Child Labor

Below are excerpts from the results of a joint investigation on "Child Labor in New York City Tenements." The investigation was made during the months of October 1906 to April 1907, assisted by the National Consumers' League and the Consumers' League of New York City, the National and New York Child Labor Committees, and the College Settlements Association.

"So difficult has been the problem of regulating by law the conditions of employment in home workrooms, that advance in measures to protect children against premature toil in factories has had no parallel in provisions designed to regulate manufacture in tenement homes. Between these two systems of manufacture,-one carried on in factories and the other in the homes of the workers,-there are, therefore, some striking contrasts in the law. No maker of artificial flowers can employ in his factory any child under fourteen years of age, but he may give out work to an Italian family, in whose tenement rooms flowers are made by six children, aged two and one- half, five, eight, ten, fourteen and sixteen years. In another family Angelo, aged fourteen years, cannot work legally in a factory until he reaches a higher grade in school, nor can he work at home during hours when school is in session, but his little sister Maria, aged three years, because she is not old enough to go to school and because the home work law contains no prohibition of child labor, may help her mother pull bastings and sew on buttons. A public school teacher notices that Eva and Mary R., aged eleven and ten years, are pale and under-nourished, but although the compulsory education law supports her in requiring their attendance in school during school hours, she cannot prevent their making flowers at home from three o'clock until nine or ten at night." (32)

This excerpt outlines another type of child labor: working in tenement homes, a field which is not even regulated as much as the neglected legislation of children in factory work. This negligence in legislation of tenement working enables child labor to exist freely, incorporating children of all ages into labor. As a result of working at home, the children cannot benefit from their compulsory education as they should.

"There is the child of the very poor family who, for various reasons, has fallen below the level of economic independence, and is receiving partial support from a relief society. Another child belongs to a family whose earnings form employment outside the home are entirely adequate for support, but who because of the custom of the neighborhood and a desire to earn a little extra money, take work from a factory to be done at home by members who would otherwise be non- wage earners, the mother and the younger children. In other cases supplementary income derived from home work enables wage earners in outside employments to work with less regularity or to underbid their competitors." (33)

The above excerpt describes various reasons for child labor in tenement homes.

"A widow and four children were living in a rear tenement on Chrystie street where they rented two rooms at nine dollars a month. The house is an old one, with old fashioned worn-out wooden stairs and sinks from which water frequently overflows on the stair landings. Three of the children in the family referred to,-Messina aged eleven years, Mary aged nine, and Ida aged six, helped their mother in finishing overcoats of good quality well lined with black satin. The children were under-nourished and undeveloped, entirely unfit physically for any work, especially sewing heavy cloth overcoats. The rooms in which they lived were very dirty, and the family owned only one bed. At night they used the cloth overcoats for covering." (34)

The above excerpt describes the filthy working conditions in one tenement.

 

back to Child Labor in the Gilded Age

back to home page