How the Other Side Lived by Page Smith

In the article, “How the Other Side Lived”, author Page Smith argues that the condition of treatment for the American men, women, and children was very poor, and many employers would take advantage of their employees by paying them low wages while making no offer or effort to improve safety in the hostile environments of the factory. After visiting America while making speeches to the nation’s public, Eleanor Marx Avelings noticed many new changes in the nation after the Civil War. America was beginning to establish factories, steel mills, oil fields, and railroads.

Though the new changes seemed to benefit the society economically, industrialization contributed to much more than a positive outcome. The American people suffered from terrible abuse, famine, and hostile working conditions. Most of these negative outcomes affected the working class, or the employees. Smith shows through his writing that unlike Britain, America proved to have no close ties between the employer and employee and this seemed to indirectly cause the working class to suffer from sickness, and economic suffering. The reason for that this happened was because the employer cared much more about the money that he got.

The employer did not care about the well being of his employee because he knew that if they quit, they would have nowhere else to go, except for a lesser paying job. In order to pardon the employers from any legal responsibility to their employee’s health, the employer would sometimes “force” his worker to take an “ironclad oath”. This oath obligated the employee to abandon all his or her affiliation with any union, or social group that would regulate any of the paying, or working conditions, including safety hazards. A couple important labor unions that had existed were the “Knights of Labor”, and the “American Federation of Labor”. The Knights of Labor attempted to unite all classes or working people eliminating all race, gender, or nationality factors.

The American Federation of Labor was essentially important to the “skilled” workers who had been replaced by unskilled labor, and machine work. Regardless of what the union stood or believed for, the unions would do their best to set up mass movements such as strikes and try to alter the outcome of the disputed issues. Many things led to the discontent of the American people. According to Page Smith, wages would be as low as 9.00 dollars a week for men, and even less for women, and children. Because of the numbers, many men became unemployed because the employers would rather hire women and children because it cost less for them.

Moreover, Immigrants including the Germans, Lithuanians, and Irish would come to America and work for even less, which greatly brought on negative effects on the family. In one instance, Page writes about a father who had to feed four people in the family, and he had only 127.00 dollars a year to do so. The children in this family suffered from sicknesses and much of the money for food would go to doctor’s bills. Another thing that made the workers unhappy was the living conditions. The employer rented out a small house to many families in which, it was hot, filled with different diseases, and had little food. A very surprising fact that Page brings up is that many of the workers would go into debt because often the employer charged money from the worker to give him shelter, food, and other necessary things to living.

Their was a high fatality rate for working children, and also a high drop out rate. According to a Detroit, Michigan survey, out of five hundred children, approximately forty percent of them would drop out and go work in the mills for as little as fifty cents a day. Even though the period of industrializing was very necessary for America, with it came many negative effects. Only a small group of people became rich and those were the employers. They were unscrupulous, selfish, and corrupt individuals who made many peoples lives miserable and almost as if it was torture. In the article, “How the other Side Lived”, author Page Smith makes it evident that the period of industrialization was a tough time for all workingmen.

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