764. Child labour

doffers1

(Photo by Lewis Hine)

It was the year 1771. A motley crew of peasants had assembled outside the front door of the cotton mill. They were protesting over the owner’s treatment of children.

Children as young as six were being made to work in the mill for up to sixteen hours a day. He had whippers watching ready to whip if a child fell asleep. He chained the children to their work so they couldn’t run away.

So there they were, this dirty band of ignorant poor people standing outside his door. Making demands. Demands.

Sir Robert got his gun and shot the ring-leader dead. Yep. There was no quicker way to get them back to work.

44 thoughts on “764. Child labour

        1. Bruce Goodman Post author

          I guess it does! I taught this year 10 kid who worked after school at a famous supermarket – underpayed of course. He was in the school play to be performed on a Saturday night. He asked his boss if he could do a swap with his Saturday night, and the boss said “Yes – but don’t bother coming back on Monday”.

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  1. Cynthia Jobin

    What a horrid example of child labor abuse! Children have always been made to work, and often abusively…If not in mills, then on farms, within the home, the family business or that great invisible psychological jungle of bad parenting.

    My mother got me my first job in a retail store when I was 15. The manager was a neanderthal in his make-work treatment of employees. Most of the employees were middle-aged poorer women whom he treated like dirt, and I felt so sad for them. I used to come home and go to my room and weep for relief. My mother, for reasons I won’t go into, was always teaching me, as she put it, not to be a snob ….thought I was too aloof, artsy and bookish. She would say: “Do you think you are too good to be doing a crummy job like that?” My thinking was: “EVERYONE is too good to be doing a job like that!”

    When I see how children are used, worldwide, I wonder….is there any such thing as a care-free childhood?

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      1. Cynthia Jobin

        We have what are called “helicopter parents” around here…their poor little fragile flower children can’t do anything brave or adventurous without hovering parents….imagine! Growing up, we had no child-safety seats in cars, we rode bikes without wearing helmets! Egads! We were more abused that I had guessed! Can we call some of the treatment of kids in more affluent countries reverse-abuse?

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        1. Bruce Goodman Post author

          It’s a skill – probably goes with the adverb “parentally” – but we’re not permitted to use adverbs any more. Some parents are really good at it, and others are useless! I would have made a terrible parent!

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    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      I should say what the photo is, but I can’t find it again and had it stashed away in a folder. My ancestral cotton mills were in Chorley, Lancashire, England – but no photos! In fact, one of the factory sites is now a school!

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    2. Cynthia Jobin

      One of my students did a Master’s thesis on the photography of Lewis HIne…a real pioneer in the use of photography not only as art but as social commentary. He really was a hero in the movement against abusive child labor. I imagine it’s not easy to get photos of people in sweat shops and the like; the bosses would certainly not want that.

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  2. Cynthia Jobin

    We have so many examples of institutions originally formed to do good work which evolve into institutions that come to exist only to protect the institution itself, beyond its usefulness, far removed from the original practice of good work…. like certain committees, so called non-profit organizations, unions, universities, churches…

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    1. Bruce Goodman Post author

      This is indeed true. The modern school principal’s recommended methodology, for example, is basically “Make everyone’s life a life hell and you will maintain your authority”. I was the victim of it….

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