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How did the Factory Acts introduced in England in the first half of the nineteenth century affect women and children?

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Introduction

How did the Factory Acts introduced in England in the first half of the nineteenth century affect women and children? The various Factory Acts during the nineteenth century starting in 1802 with the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act thru till 1897 with the Workmen's Compensation Act have affected the working class conditions to this day. As well as looking at the different acts one must also consider the Industrial Revolution, for if it wasn't for this period of time many of the Acts would never have come into play. With so many Acts it is necessary to narrow it down to a select three that will be focused on, the 1833 Mills and Factories Act, the 1842 Mines and Collieries Act and the 1847 Hours of Labor of Young Persons and Females in Factories Act. The last item to be discussed will be how these acts changed the lives of all workers, physically and mentally. The Factory Acts came as a result of the industrial revolution, the consequences of this revolution would change human labor, consumption, family structure, social structure, and even the very soul and thoughts of the individual. However, the industrial revolution was more than technology. What drove the industrial revolution were profound social changes, as Europe moved from a primarily agricultural and rural economy to a capitalist and urban economy, from a household, family-based economy to an industry-based economy. ...read more.

Middle

to a host of other industries and occupations such as lace and silk mills, which were not seen as a health risk. With the reduction of hours for children came many complaints from men. With the invention of the factory system man was forced to work long laborious hours. John Fielden, M.P, had this to say, "Here, then, is the "curse" of our factory-system; as improvements in machinery have gone on, the "avarice of masters" has prompted many to exact more labor from their hands than they were fitted by nature to perform, and those who have wished for the hours of labor to be less for all ages, have had no alternative but to conform more or less to the prevailing practice, or abandon the trade altogether. Since Lord Althorp's Act was passed, in 1833, we have reduced the time of adults to sixty-seven and a half hours a week, and that of children under thirteen years of age to forty-eight hours in the week, though to do this latter has, I must admit, subjected us to much inconvenience, but the elder hands to more, inasmuch as the relief given to the child is in some measure imposed on the adult. But the overworking does not apply to children only; the adults are also overworked. The increased speed given to machinery within the last thirty years, has, in very many instances, doubled the labor of both."3 (http://65.107.211.206/history/workers2.html) ...read more.

Conclusion

The gendering of the working class was ultimately to women's great disadvantage."6 Tensions grew in the nineteenth century as employers tried to substitute cheap female and child labor with skilled men. Women and children were known to take unfavorable positions at very low wages, while industrialization brought in individual wages for men causing men to feel a competition from women and children for positions in the workplace. Men seeked support from male dominated trade unions and the state becoming more empowered, and women were marginalized. "Although the restrictions imposed by unions and legislation were largely ineffective, they emphasized the ideas of women in terms of domestic duties. This may have encouraged more women to take employment which incorporated domestic skills, such as nursing and teaching."7 The transformation of family production (agriculture) to factory production, from independent workers to industrialization provoked a period of change and re-accommodation in the sexual division of labor. Facing the break up of the family economy and the loss of control over his own labor left the male needing re-assurance and the women losing femininity and domesticity that up to this period was satisfying. With the introduction of the Factory Acts the man was once again given some re-assurance, women were allowed in the workplace while still having the time to run a home and retain her femininity, and children were finally given the opportunity to play and be educated. "The new equilibrium, which was established around mid-century had its work and its home dimensions, now no longer combined in one set of social relations."8 (Hall. ...read more.

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