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1909 - Child Labor

1909 Child Labor_min.JPG

Title: 1909 - Child Labor

About: In the early twentieth century childhood was often a matter of work rather than play. In many households, every able member needed to work to simply keep the family above the poverty level.  


Young children who were put to work had to endure some of the harshest conditions. Workdays were often long- between 10 to 14 hours with minimal breaks during the shift. Factories and mines employing children were often  dangerous places, where injuries were commonplace and death a possibility. Machinery often ran so quickly that little fingers, arms and legs could easily get caught.


Beyond the equipment, the environment was a threat to children, as factories put out fumes and toxins. When inhaled by children these most certainly could result in illness, chronic conditions or disease.

Children in urban areas also worked in various street trades - selling newspapers, shining shoes, delivering messages and running errands. Mines were another significant employer of children, mainly young boys. The work here was especially hard, monotonous, dangerous and often underground.

Children working in rural areas did not fare much better. Indeed, for centuries, children had been expected to help with farm work and other household chores. Most families simply could not afford the costs of raising a child from birth to adulthood without some compensating labor.


Harvesting crops in extreme temperatures for long hours was considered normal. Work in agriculture was typically less regulated than factory duties. Farm work was often not considered dangerous or extraneous for children, even though they carried their weight and more in loads of produce and handled dangerous tools.

As the century progressed, views on child labor began to gradually change (at least in the western societies). Reformers placed emphasis on the child as more than a unit of economic labor, and there was greater awareness of the exploitative practices of some employers. However, reformers faced a long, uphill battle against employers, parents, and the legal system in securing an end to  child labor practices, which continued into the 1930s in America and Europe.

Decade: 1900s

Year: 1909

Region: Worldwide

Country: USA + UK

Society: Economic

Type: Historical Event

Impact: 5

Artist: Yulia Kozlova


Group: Genesis

Number: 09/100

Price: 0.5 ETH


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