During the Industrial Revolution, there was an irrepressible appeal for labor. Due to this demand, many families moved from rural areas into cities in search of stable occupations for a means of providing for themselves. However, everyone was immensely discouraged once they arrived, for the conditions were much more atrocious than anyone ever expected. The urban areas to which they migrated had a standard: poverty. Poverty spread like a disease throughout; it held no mercy upon anyone, and it was ruthless. As a result, desperate families, which were extremely prominent, hurriedly sent each and every functional member of their family to work in these abominable working conditions, just so they could attain the upmost necessary fundamentals needed for survival. This meant that even young children were forced to work. This proved to be beneficial for the factory owners and managers, however. This entrance of children into the industrial system provided for cheap labor; this was undoubtedly appealing to factory managers. In this, they took advantage and overworked, abused and underpaid the children without any remorse whatsoever. This continued for a long time before anyone made a dramatic, lasting attempt to stop the inhumane acts.
The conditions in which the children were forced to work were atrocious and perceived as outrageous by the sane human mind. They were physically forced to work; they had no say in the matter; and they were punished if their “work ethic” did not meet the benchmark. The factories were often improperly cared for and disease easily spread throughout in the unsanitary, enclosed environments. The machinery that the children often worked with was dangerous. Children would lose their limbs and other body parts to rotating, or sharp, machine components. The colossal machinery proved to promote accidents, which would often kill the children. They were also involuntarily drafted to repair the machinery; this was more easily approached due to their small size, which allowed them to fit into small areas that older men could not fit into. There were men and older boys who oversaw the children during their work hours. If the children slipped up, they would be punished and humiliated. The children were beaten and verbally abused. The punishments were radical and led to permanent health problems. On many occasions, boys and girls were pulled out of their bunks and thrown into the factories with their clothes, often for no reason, just to make a statement concerning lateness. Although the factories often housed the children, there was no provided safety, and the “assets” presented for the well-being of the children were highly insufficient.
These children, who were often employed as young as six years of age, worked unreasonably extensive shifts for hardly any pay. It was common for young children to work for up to 19 hours in one day, with only one break hour. The labor forced upon the children resembles that of slaves. The jobs also differed as a result of the age and gender of the children. The girls mostly worked at textile industries, for they had a “gentler touch.” Also, the youngest employed children were sent to work in the textile industry. The older children, specifically the boys, were sent to do the more rigorous work.
Although many people in the industry strongly embraced and practiced child labor, there were many others who despised it, or called for more acceptable working conditions. While the factory owners and managers attempted to justify the horrific practice, saying it was beneficial for the economy, the advocates of the practice attempted to make reforms to change the system. Even the parents had to accept it, because they desperately needed the income. However, in 1833, Parliament passed the Factory Act, which limited the amount of hours a child of a certain age could work. It also established a set age; factories could only hire children older than nine. The activists even went further throughout the early 20th century, working hard to establish more rights for children.
Conditions for those in factories, specifically children, worsened more than anyone could have imagined. The cities proved to be awful environments compared to rural areas. Harsh treatment, neglect, abuse, disease, and dehumanization were entirely prevalent throughout the cities in the 20th century Industrial Revolution.