To be liberal means to be open-minded and not bounded by authority. Because I am a politician, being liberal is part of my job. However, I had a previous opinion on what went on inside the recently flourishing large factories and mills. I decided to investigate one large textile mill in Manchester, England to see what it was really like. I wanted to research this because I intended on creating a statement of my opinion that I was going to submit to Parliament in order to create protective labor legislation for women and children. Factories had recently spread across the country and thousands of women and children are now being forced to work and earn a wage. The mills and factories seemed to be successful in producing mass amounts of goods, but what really went on inside, the manual labor, was kept secret. To submit my statement to Parliament, I wanted to know what the conditions in the mills were like, how these conditions came about, and the effects on the women and children working in the factories due to the new advancements.
When I entered the mill, I started observing my surroundings right away. I suddenly spotted a girl who looked about twelve years old and also looked like she had experience with working in the textile mill. When I approached her, she said that she was really fifteen years old and she had worked there for about five months. I was shocked at her age because she looked much younger then she actually was. I discovered that it was necessary to be short and thin because this helped when trying to repair small parts on big machines. For these types of jobs, small children were vital. This is horrible because a person can be easily injured when trying to repair a machine, and children’s lives are endangered. Despite the conditions of the larger textile mills, the workers prefer to work in the mills rather than the smaller beggar houses. Beggar houses are smaller workhouses where people are sent to work in manufacturing. About twenty percent of the people that are sent to work there, die within the first few months of imprisonment within the workhouse (Hunt 630). Textile mill girls often work twelve to fifteen hours a day under very extreme conditions. They are strictly supervised by the mill owners and they have to be silent while working. If there is ever profane or improper language heard, the consequence is termination. There are no clocks inside the mill making it impossible to have any perception of time and space (Lecture 7, First Industrial Revolution). The mill owners thought this necessary because they don’t want the workers thinking about how much longer they have to work. This dehumanizes the workers because it forces them to act almost like robots. Never thinking, never talking, only working. A textile mill girl, “Becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack that is required of her” (Marx 85). The division of labor creates monotony for every mill worker because they are forced to do one task over and over for their entire work day. The conditions were terrible in the textile mill, but things had not always been this way.
There are several sparks that ignited the growth of factories. One reason for the sudden spread of mills is population growth. Population had increased by more then fifty percent in England during this time (Hunt 631). Because of the population increase, families have more mouths to feed. Soon the man of the house will not be able to support the entire family on his income alone. This means real work has to be done. Real work now consists of leaving home, getting paid wages, and working long hours. This is bringing thousands of women and children into the workforce for the first time. It has men, women, and children everywhere seeking employment because they can only live if they find work. Previously, work had been conducted privately in the home. Such things as sewing, piece work, and house chores had been the extent of a woman’s “job”. Now, this combined with the man’s income cannot support a family because population has increased by so much. Another reason for the growth of factories is now that manufacturers have invented steam powered machines it greatly improved the production of goods. Factories were established so that the amount of labor by the workers was maximized (632). Because of the population increase, factories quickly spread throughout Europe. The factories slowly became very unsanitary and these conditions have effects on the women and on the families of the workers.
It is vital to every man, woman, and child to be employed. Many families have to move closer to the factory where they work at because there are no clocks and if they are late to work they will be severely punished (Lecture 7, First Industrial Revolution). If an employee is only one minute late to work, they can be fined even 12 cents. They can also be fined if they are producing faulty work. This is major punishment seeing as how they only make a small wage in the first place. The conditions of the mills have an effect on many workers because they become sick due to the unhealthy eating habits they are provided with. They are given one certain kind of food and fed three times a day. This is still unhealthy because they are not being fed nutritional food, nor are they being fed in appropriate amounts or times comparable to the 15 hour work day they have. If the mill owners were, “To supply them regularly with a sufficient quantity of wholesome food and other necessaries of life, that the body might be preserved in good working condition, and prevented from being out of repair, or falling prematurely to decay” (Owen 448). If the mill owners take better care of their workers, the workers will be in healthier condition. This will cause the employees to work harder and more efficiently increasing the production of the goods. Another effect of the growth of factories, mainly on the women and children, is that there is no job specifically for a man to do now. Now, “Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity for the working class. All are instruments of labor, more or less expensive to use, according to their age and sex” (Marx 86). Women and children everywhere are participating in the same actions and tasks as the men. Yet they are inferior to the men because they get paid less even though they do the same jobs. Women are usually given the jobs consisting of less labor and children are given the jobs that are less skilled or that needed small hands for the task (Lecture 7, First Industrial Revolution). Because of these advances young women and small children are being thrown into the work place and forced to help support their families by working long hours in terrible conditions for a small wage.
The definition of “real work” has been changed. Prior to these advancements in technology and the increase in population, real work was done by men. Real work meant earning an income and working by the hour. Now, women and children have to meet the standards that men have set in the work force. This means hard, long, work in unsanitary conditions. These conditions consist of little amounts of unhealthy food, and supervisors constantly waiting to reprimand you. If they do catch you, the consequence is a fine out of your small pay or even worse, termination. In these factories as the work gets worse, the wage decreases because of the division of labor. If the job requires lots of work, it is divided into many different tasks. This decreases the wage because it distributes the job among many people. Women and small children should not have to succumb to the intense manual labor that is required in these mills. They should not be paid less then men for the same work. Wages should increase while hours decrease. There should be laws protecting this kind of labor. There should be and will be laws protecting the mistreatment of women and children.