Sarah Carpenter Child Factory Worker

Sarah Carpenter Child Factory Worker

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Sarah Carpenter was the daughter of a glass blower. When she was eight years old her father died and the family had to go to the Bristol Workhouse. Sarah later recalled: "My brother was sent from Bristol workhouse in the same way as many other children were - cart-loads at a time. My mother did not know where he was for two years. He was taken off in the dead of night without her knowledge, and the parish officers would never tell her where he was."

A couple of years later she followed her brother to work in Cressbrook Mill: "Our common food was oatcake. It was thick and coarse. This oatcake was put into cans. Boiled milk and water was poured into it. This was our breakfast and supper. Our dinner was potato pie with boiled bacon it, a bit here and a bit there, so thick with fat we could scarce eat it, though we were hungry enough to eat anything. Tea we never saw, nor butter. We had cheese and brown bread once a year. We were only allowed three meals a day though we got up at five in the morning and worked till nine at night."

Punishment at the mill was extremely harsh: "The master carder's name was Thomas Birks; but he never went by any other name than Tom the Devil. He was a very bad man - he was encouraged by the master in ill-treating all the hands, but particularly the children. I have often seen him pull up the clothes of big girls, seventeen or eighteen years of age, and throw them across his knee, and then flog them with his hand in the sight of both men and boys. Everybody was frightened of him. He would not even let us speak. He once fell poorly, and very glad we were. We wished he might die."

Some of the children tried to run away: "We were always locked up out of mill hours, for fear any of us should run away. One day the door was left open. Charlotte Smith, said she would be ringleader, if the rest would follow. She went out but no one followed her. The master found out about this and sent for her. There was a carving knife which he took and grasping her hair he cut if off close to the head. They were in the habit of cutting off the hair of all who were caught speaking to any of the lads. This head shaving was a dreadful punishment. We were more afraid of it than of any other, for girls are proud of their hair."

Sarah Carpenter was interviewed by James Rayner Stephens in the summer of 1849. Sarah's account of her life as a child worker at Cressbrook Mill appeared in The Ashton Chronicle on 23rd June, 1849.

My father was a glass blower. When I was eight years old my father died and our family had to go to the Bristol Workhouse. My brother was sent from Bristol workhouse in the same way as many other children were - cart-loads at a time. He was taken off in the dead of night without her knowledge, and the parish officers would never tell her where he was.

It was the mother of Joseph Russell who first found out where the children were, and told my mother. We set off together, my mother and I, we walked the whole way from Bristol to Cressbrook Mill in Derbyshire. We were many days on the road.

Mrs. Newton fondled over my mother when we arrived. My mother had brought her a present of little glass ornaments. She got these ornaments from some of the workmen, thinking they would be a very nice present to carry to the mistress at Cressbrook, for her kindness to my brother. My brother told me that Mrs. Newton's fondling was all a blind; but I was so young and foolish, and so glad to see him again; that I did not heed what he said, and could not be persuaded to leave him. They would not let me stay unless I would take the shilling binding money. I took the shilling and I was very proud of it.

They took me into the counting house and showed me a piece of paper with a red sealed horse on which they told me to touch, and then to make a cross, which I did. This meant I had to stay at Cressbrook Mill till I was twenty one.

Our common food was oatcake. We were only allowed three meals a day though we got up at five in the morning and worked till nine at night.

We had eightpence a year given us to spend: fourpence at the fair, and fourpence at the wakes. We had three miles to go to spend it. Very proud we were of it, for it seemed such a sight of money, we did not know how to spend it.

The master carder's name was Thomas Birks; but he never went by any other name than Tom the Devil. We wished he might die.

There was an overlooker called William Hughes, who was put in his place whilst he was ill. He came up to me and asked me what my drawing frame was stopped for. I said I did not know because it was not me who had stopped it. A little boy that was on the other side had stopped it, but he was too frightened to say it was him. Hughes starting beating me with a stick, and when he had done I told him I would let my mother know. He then went out and fetched the master in to me. The master started beating me with a stick over the head till it was full of lumps and bled. My head was so bad that I could not sleep for a long time, and I never been a sound sleeper since.

There was a young woman, Sarah Goodling, who was poorly and so she stopped her machine. James Birch, the overlooker knocked her to the floor. She got up as well as she could. He knocked her down again. Then she was carried to the apprentice house. Her bed-fellow found her dead in bed. There was another called Mary. She knocked her food can down on the floor. The master, Mr. Newton, kicked her where he should not do, and it caused her to wear away till she died. There was another, Caroline Thompson. They beat her till she went out of her mind.

We were always locked up out of mill hours, for fear any of us should run away. We were more afraid of it than of any other, for girls are proud of their hair.

I was there then years and saw a great deal more than I can think of. My brother, after he was free, came to Cressbrook and stole me away. But I was so frightened and dateless with the punishment I had received, that for a long time I was like a person with no wits. I could hardly find my way from one street into another. They said at Wright's Factory where I worked that they were sure that I was "none right".

Women Workers in the British Industrial Revolution

Historians disagree about whether the British Industrial Revolution (1760-1830) was beneficial for women. Frederick Engels, writing in the late nineteenth century, thought that the Industrial Revolution increased women’s participation in labor outside the home, and claimed that this change was emancipating. 1 More recent historians dispute the claim that women’s labor force participation rose, and focus more on the disadvantages women experienced during this time period. 2 One thing is certain: the Industrial Revolution was a time of important changes in the way that women worked.

Sarah Carpenter Child Factory Worker - History

Source A: Sarah Carpenter was interviewed about her experiences in The Ashton Chronicle (23rd June, 1849)

The master carder's name was Thomas Birks but he never went by any other name than Tom the Devil. He was a very bad man - he was encouraged by the master in ill-treating all the hands, but particularly the children. I have often seen him pull up the clothes of big girls, seventeen or eighteen years of age, and throw them across his knee, and then flog them with his hand in the sight of both men and boys. Everybody was frightened of him. He would not even let us speak. He once fell poorly, and very glad we were. We wished he might die.

There was an overlooker called William Hughes, who was put in his place whilst he was ill. He came up to me and asked me what my drawing frame was stopped for. I said I did not know because it was not me who had stopped it. A little boy that was on the other side had stopped it, but he was too frightened to say it was him. Hughes starting beating me with a stick, and when he had done I told him I would let my mother know. He then went out and fetched the master in to me. The master started beating me with a stick over the head till it was full of lumps and bled. My head was so bad that I could not sleep for a long time, and I never been a sound sleeper since.

There was a young woman, Sarah Goodling, who was poorly and so she stopped her machine. James Birch, the overlooker knocked her to the floor. She got up as well as she could. He knocked her down again. Then she was carried to the apprentice house. Her bed-fellow found her dead in bed. There was another called Mary. She knocked her food can down on the floor. The master, Mr. Newton, kicked her where he should not do, and it caused her to wear away till she died. There was another, Caroline Thompson. They beat her till she went out of her mind. We were always locked up out of mill hours, for fear any of us should run away. One day the door was left open. Charlotte Smith, said she would be ringleader, if the rest would follow. She went out but no one followed her. The master found out about this and sent for her. There was a carving knife which he took and grasping her hair he cut if off close to the head. They were in the habit of cutting off the hair of all who were caught speaking to any of the lads. This head shaving was a dreadful punishment. We were more afraid of it than of any other, for girls are proud of their hair.

Water torture

Source B: Jonathan Downe was interviewed by Michael Sadler's Parliamentary Committee on 6th June, 1832.

When I was seven years old I went to work at Mr. Marshalls factory at Shrewsbury. If a child was drowsy, the overlooker touches the child on the shoulder and says, "Come here". In a corner of the room there is an iron cistern filled with water. He takes the boy by the legs and dips him in the cistern, and sends him back to work.


Source C: John Brown interviewed Robert Blincoe in 1828 about working in a textile mill.

Blincoe was promoted to the more important employment of a roving winder. Being too short of statue, to reach to his work, standing on the floor, he was placed on a block. He was not able by any possible exertion, to keep pace with the machinery. In vain, the poor child declared he was not in his power to move quicker. He was beaten by the overlooker, with great severity. In common, with his fellow apprentices, Blincoe was wholly dependent upon the mercy of the overlookers, whom he found, generally speaking, a set of brutal, ferocious, illiterate ruffians. Blincoe complained to Mr. Baker, the manager, and all he said to him was: "do your work well, and you'll not be beaten." The overlooker, who was in charge of him, had a certain quantity of work to perform in a given time. If every child did not perform his allotted task, the overlooker, and was discharged.

A blacksmith named William Palfrey, who resided in Litton, worked in a room under that where Blincoe was employed. He used to be much disturbed by the shrieks and cries of the boys. According to Blincoe, human blood has often run from an upper to a lower floor. Unable to bear the shrieks of the children, Palfrey used to knock against the floor, so violently, as to force the boards up, and call out "for shame! for shame! are you murdering the children?" By this sort of conduct, the humane blacksmith was a check on the cruelty of the brutal overlookers, as long as he continued in his shop but he went home at seven o'clock and as soon as Woodward, Merrick and Charnock knew that Palfrey was gone, they beat and knock the apprentices about without moderation.

Punishment for lateness

Source D: Joseph Hebergram was interviewed by Michael Sadler's Parliamentary Committee on 1st June, 1832.

Question: What were your hours of labour?

Answer: From five in the morning till eight at night.

Question: You had fourteen and a half hours of actual labour, at seven years of age?

Question: Did you become very drowsy and sleepy towards the end of the day?

Answer: Yes that began about three o'clock and grew worse and worse, and it came to be very bad towards six and seven.

Question: How long was it before the labour took effect on your health?

Question: How did it affect your limbs?

Answer: When I worked about half a year a weakness fell into my knees and ankles: it continued, and it got worse and worse.

Question: How far did you live from the mill?

Question: Was it painful for you to move?

Answer: Yes, in the morning I could scarcely walk, and my brother and sister used, out of kindness, to take me under each arm, and run with me to the mill, and my legs dragged on the ground in consequence of the pain I could not walk.

Question: Were you sometimes late?

Answer: Yes, and if we were five minutes too late, the overlooker would take a strap, and beat us till we were black and blue.

Question: When did your brother start working in the mill?

Chained up

Source E: Robert Blincoe was interviewed by John Brown in 1828.

The blacksmith had the task of riveting irons upon any of the apprentices, whom the master ordered. These irons were very much like the irons usually put upon felons. Even young women, if they suspected of intending to run away, had irons riveted on their ankles, and reaching by long links and rings up to the hips, and in these they were compelled to walk to and fro from the mill to work and to sleep.

Cold exposure

Source F: Samuel Davy was seven years old when he was sent from the Southwark Workhouse to Penny Dam Mill in Preston.

Irons were used as with felons in gaols, and these were often fastened on young women, in the most indecent manner, by keeping them nearly in a state of nudity, in the depth of winter, for several days together.

Not many people work long hours

Source G: Edward Baines, The History of the Cotton Manufacture (1835)

It is alleged that the children who labour in factories are often cruelly beaten by the spinners or overlookers that their feeble limbs become distorted by continual standing and stooping, and they grow up cripples. That they are compelled to work thirteen, fourteen or fifteen hours per day. Views such as these have been repeatedly given of factory labour which have persuaded many to think they must be true. But this is the exception not the rule.


Source H: Samuel Fielden, Autobiography of Samuel Fielden (1887)

Todmorden lies in a beautiful valley, and on the hillsides are small farms back about a mile are the moorlands, which could be made into fine farms, as the topography of the moors is more level generally than the enclosed land. There are numerous large mills in the town, Fielden Brothers being the largest it contains about 2,000 looms.

When I arrived at the mature age of 8 years I, as was usual with the poor people's children in Lancashire, went to work in a cotton mill, and if there is any of the exuberance of childhood about the life of a Lancashire mill-hand's child it is in spite of his surroundings and conditions, and not in consequence of it. As I look back on my experience at the tender age I am filled with admiration at the wonderful vitality of these children. I think that if the devil had a particular enemy whom he wished to unmercifully torture the best thing for him to do would be to put his soul into the body of a Lancashire factory child and keep him as a child in a factory the rest of his days. The mill into which I was put was the mill established by John Fielden, M.P., who fought so valiantly in the ten-hour movement.

The infants, when first introduced to these abodes of torture, are put at stripping the full spools from the spinning jennies and replacing them with empty spools. They are put to work in a long room where there are about twenty machines. The spindles are apportioned to each child, and woe be to the child who shall be behind in doing its allotted work. The machine will be started and the poor child's fingers will be bruised and skinned with the revolving spools. while the children try to catch up to their comrades by doing their work with the speed of the machine running, the brutal overlooker will frequently beat them unmercifully, and I have frequently seen them strike the children, knocking them off their stools and sending them spinning several feet on the greasy floor.

When the ten-hour movement was being agitated in England my father was on the committee of agitation in my native town, and I have heard him tell of sitting on the platform with Earl Shaftesbury, John Fielden, Richard Ostler, and other advocates of that cause. I always thought he put a little sarcasm into the word earl, at any rate he had but little respect for aristocracy and royalty. He was also a Chartist and I have heard him tell of many incidents connected with the Chartist agitation and movement.

The Walker System

Walker was inspired to create haircare products for Black women after a scalp disorder caused her to lose much of her own hair. She came up with a treatment that would completely change the Black hair care industry.

Walker’s method, known as the “Walker system,” involved scalp preparation, lotions and iron combs. Her custom pomade was a wild success. While other products for Black hair (largely manufactured by white businesses) were on the market, she differentiated hers by emphasizing its attention to the health of the women who would use it. She sold her homemade products directly to Black women, using a personal approach that won her loyal customers. She went on to employ a fleet of saleswomen to sell the product whom she called �uty culturalists.”

The Missing Child

Whatever your skills or experience as a family historian, there will always be at least one ancestral line that gives you trouble. For me, it is my Powell line and specifically, my two times great grandfather, George Thomas Powell and the mystery surrounding his birth and early years. It is easy to view a problematic ancestor in a negative light because they are annoyingly elusive. However, they challenge us to hone our sleuthing skills and force us to look more broadly and deeply in our quest to learn more about them.

I’ll begin my story with the earliest record that I have of George Thomas Powell, the 1851 census. At this time, George is living with his aunt and uncle, Henry and Sarah Glaysher, at their home at West Medina Mill in Northwood, on the Isle of Wight:

1851 Census, Northwood, Isle of Wight, HO 107 1662 4 National Archives (U.K)

George is only a young lad of 12 but he was not a native of the Isle of Wight: he had been born in Chiswick in Middlesex. This was also the birthplace of his aunt, Sarah, which suggested that he was her blood relative. Why had young George gone to live with his uncle and aunt at such a young age? Had he been orphaned and taken in by his childless uncle and aunt? Also recorded with the household was James Hibbard, a coachman from Portsmouth, but he was just visiting when the census was taken. I can find no evidence that he was related to the family.

George is described as a scholar in the census, which indicates that he was attending school at the time. School admission books could help pinpoint when he first arrived on the Island and provide his date of birth. However, the school in Northwood wasn’t founded until 1855, and there are no surviving records until the 1860s. Perhaps he was only attending a local Sunday School. Given his age, he would have started work soon after the census was taken.

Ten years later, in the 1861 census, George is recorded as a 21 year old engine driver at the cement mills in Medina. He is still living with the Glayshers at West Medina Mills Cottage No. 1. His uncle, Henry Glaysher, is the engineer manager at the cement mill, in charge of operating the stationary steam engines that were used for pumping or driving. It would seem that George Thomas Powell had been taken under his uncle’s wing:

1861 Census, Northwood, Isle of Wight RG9 652 3 1, National Archives (U.K.)

A cement company named Charles Francis & Sons had purchased the site at West Medina Mill around 1841 for the purpose of setting up a cement mill. The shoreline provided an excellent source of the “Septaria” stones from which the desirable Roman cement was made. The tidal power of the old corn mill situated there and easy access to the sea for landing raw materials and delivering the finished cement made it the perfect location. The cement that they produced here was especially hard and set underwater. This “Medina Cement” was of such high quality that it won several medals at exhibitions. In the 1850s, the company, using innovative techniques, produced “Portland Cement” which was of an even higher quality. To make cement, chalk was ground in the mill and mixed with clay and water in a wash-mill. This produced a thin “slurry”which flowed into large drying reservoirs called “slurry backs”. Over a few weeks, the water was drained off and the solids gradually sank to the bottom. When it was dry enough to dig out in lumps, it was taken by wheelbarrow to the “drying floors”. It was then heated from below until it was dry enough to be fired in the kilns. After this, it was stored in barrels, ready to be shipped. Despite some turbulent times in the industry, the mill was exporting cement around the world for nearly 100 years until it closed down at the outbreak of the Second World War.

The Dublin Builder Sunday September 1st 1872

April 12 1863 was a very happy day in his life for George Thomas Powell married his young sweetheart, Eliza Woodbine, at the parish church in Northwood:

Marriage of George Powell and Eliza Jane Woodbine, Northwood Parish Church, April 12th 1863

George was 24 years old and described as an engineer, the son of Benjamin Powell, a carpenter. His bride was Eliza Jane Woodbine, aged 18, the daughter of Henry Thatcher Woodbine, a cooper. The witnesses were Henry Glaysher, George’s uncle, and Lavina Ellen Oxford, the bride’s married sister. George had almost married the girl next door for whilst he was living with the Glayshers at No. 1 West Medina Mill Cottage, Eliza was living with her family at No. 5 West Medina Mill Cottage. George’s residence was given as Woolwich, (Kent). Why he was not resident on the Isle of Wight just prior to his marriage is not clear at this point.

By 1868, around 100 people were employed by the company, this number increasing to 150 by 1873 after the company changed ownership in 1871. Judging by reports in the newspapers, the company appeared to look after their workers well and the men were said to be healthy. At one time, there were annual dinners, works outings and rowing and cricket teams were formed.

By the 1871 census, George and Eliza Powell were living in their own cottage at the cement mill and Henry and Sarah Glaysher, George’s aunt and uncle, were next door. Another nephew, Charles Daniels, was living with the Glayshers, Charles taking George’s place after the latter had moved out. George and Eliza had had four children, their son, George Henry, (my great grandfather), and his younger sisters, Elizabeth, Emma and Fanny:

1871 Census, Northwood, Isle of Wight, RG 10 1159 8 National Archives (U.K.)

Henry Thatcher Woodbine and his wife Margaret Ellen, the parents of Eliza, were also living close by.

Their status as senior workers meant that they were entitled to accommodation on site but it is hard to imagine living in such proximity to a cement mill. The cottages are believed to be the buildings situated on the left of the kiln on the Ordnance Survey map below:

Ordnance Survey Map Hampshire Isle of Wight Surveyed 1863, published 1866

As Alan Dinnis points out in his book “West Medina Cement Mill”, conditions must have been far from pleasant. “Despite being situated on the banks of a pleasant river and two miles from the nearest town, life for the employees at the West Medina Mill was far from tranquil. The large rotating kiln, the crushing balls of the mill and the banging gas engine created a continuous noise that was present all day and all night. in addition to this, the whole premises became caked with a layer of cement that was several years thick. The discharge from the chimneys ensured that the fine white dust spread as far as the surrounding fields”. The mill was situated only two miles from Queen Victoria’s residence, Osborne House, and she complained about the smoke from the mill’s chimneys polluting the air. Essentially the family were living on an industrial site, not the healthiest or safest place to bring up a family.

“Oilette series postcard of the Medina River by Raphael Tuck & Sons. Painted by R. Esdaile Richardson, (1905) the view is of shipping and smoking chimneys at the West Medina Cement Mill MHI Vestas Offshore Wind Blades UK, the site of West Medina Mills today
Google Maps 2020

George Thomas Powell and his wife Eliza Jane continue living in the cottage at the cement mill. In the 1881 census, George is described again as an engine driver and his in-laws, the Woodbines, are near neighbours. His uncle and aunt, Henry Glaysher and his wife Sarah, had moved to nearby Carisbrooke by this date but Henry is still an engine driver at the cement works.

In 1886, a tragic event occurred that must have had a huge impact on George. His aunt, Sarah Glaysher, commits suicide. The details were in a newspaper report of the inquest:

SUICIDE BY AN ELDERLY WOMAN. ─On Thursday afternoon the Deputy-Coroner (Mr. E.F. Blake) held an inquest at the Guildhall, relative to the death of Sarah Glaysher, aged 62 years, wife of Henry George Glaysher, Vectis Cottage, Hunny-hill, who committed suicide by hanging, on the previous night. ─The husband of the deceased stated that on Wednesday his wife had been washing all day. She said she did not care about any tea, and had half-a- pint of ale instead. He had a game of cards with her in the evening. When he fetched the supper beer she would only taste it. As was his custom, he went to bed at 10 o’clock. At a quarter past 10, as deceased had not come upstairs, he called out to her, but received no answer. At half-past 10 he got out of bed, and found that the door was fastened. He tried to open it, and failed at first, but afterwards succeeded, and then found the deceased hanging behind the door, being suspended from a peg by means of strap. He cut her down, but she was dead, although the body was warm. There was a stool a few feet off. Witness, being deaf, heard nothing of his wife from the time he left her to the time he found her hanging behind the door. Deceased had a bad appetite, and a little drink would soon overcome her. She was not the worse for drink on Wednesday night in fact, she was more sober than usual. Deceased’s father committed suicide about Easter time, and this seemed to have affected her mind. Other relatives of his wife had also committed suicide. ─Kate Collins deposed that she had been lodging at Vectis Cottage for the past twelve months. She noticed nothing unusual in deceased’s manner on Wednesday. Shortly before 10 o’clock she went to bed, and at half-past 10 she heard the last witness thumping at the door. Mr. Glaysher called her, and when she went downstairs he had just cut his wife down. Deceased was of an excitable disposition, but her husband was very indulgent. ─Mr. R. Bird Wilkins, surgeon, proved going to the house, and seeing the body. He removed the strap from the neck, and he had no doubt death was caused by strangulation. He had known the deceased for some years, and had reasons to believe she was of intemperate habits. If insanity was hereditary in the family, intemperance would increase the tendency to commit suicide. ─The jury returned a verdict of ‘Death from hanging, she being at the time temporarily insane.’

Isle of Wight Observer April 26th 1886

This is such a sad story and the whole domestic scene is described in detail. Sarah Glaysher was described as being of an “excitable disposition” and of “intemperate habits”. Of particular note was her husband’s testimony that insanity was hereditary in the family, as other relatives had committed suicide. Her father’s suicide, which had happened around the same time of year, at Easter, may have caused her depression.

Within a year, Henry Glaysher married again at the age of 72. His new wife, Harriet Daniels, was his late wife’s niece and the sister of Charles Daniels, the nephew who they had living with them at the time of the 1871 census. Harriet was 30 years old so 42 years his junior, and they moved to Teddington, Surrey, where Henry died in February 1891. He left a will but George Thomas Powell was not a legatee.

At the time of the 1891 census, George Thomas Powell was still living with his wife at 1 Cement Mill Cottages and was described as an engine fitter. The children had all left home. My great grandfather had moved away to the cement works at Cliffe, Kent, to work as a cooper, (no doubt taught the skills by his maternal grandfather, Henry Thatcher Woodbine, as this was the latter’s trade). Their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, was already married and the two younger daughters were working elsewhere on the island as servants.

It must have been a huge shock to Eliza Jane when a few years later, her husband died suddenly, early one morning, on his birthday! This was reported in the local newspaper:

Isle of Wight County Press and Southern Reporter Saturday June 30 1894

It is interesting to see that in the newspaper report, George Thomas Powell is recorded as George Glazier Powell. This suggests that he also used his uncle’s name of Glaysher. Henry Glaysher must have been a father figure to him since his childhood and of course, he had also worked alongside him for many years. George was described as an engineer and it was stated that he had worked at the West Medina Cement Works for 44 years. Of particular significance is the fact that he had died on his birthday, this being the previous Saturday, June 23. The newspaper said it was the occasion of his 56th birthday, making his year of birth 1838. However, his age on his death certificate and on his headstone is 55. You can see how the discrepancy could occur but looking at census records too, it seems likely that he was born on June 23rd 1839. Unfortunately, he did not leave a will but his widow and family erected a beautiful headstone in his memory in Carisbrooke Cemetery:

Headstone of George Thomas Powell, Carisbrooke Cemetery, Isle of Wight
Image courtesy of Friends of Newport & Carisbrooke Cemeteries

I had been able to build up a good picture of the life of George Thomas Powell. He had lived on the site of the West Medina Cement Works in Northwood, on the Isle of Wight from at least the age of 12. However, to discover more about his early life, I needed a record of his birth, which would have taken place in the early years of General Registration. All the census records reported that he had been born in Chiswick, Middlesex, and he said his father was Benjamin Powell, a carpenter, when he married in 1863. Given his alleged birthday of June 23 1839, his birth was likely to have been registered in the September quarter of 1839 in the registration district of Brentford, which covers Chiswick. However, there were no likely entries in the GRO indexes, despite searching these from the September quarter of 1837 to the December quarter of 1841. The only George Powell birth registered in Brentford for this period was a George William Powell in the June quarter of 1839. His mother’s maiden name was Goldsmith. There were no George Thomas Powell births in Middlesex in this period, or anywhere else for that matter.

Next I searched for the marriage of Henry Glaysher and his wife Sarah, George’s uncle and aunt, to discover Sarah’s maiden name. I discovered that Henry Glaysher had married Sarah Beard in 1838 in Acton, Middlesex:

Marriage of Henry Glaysher and Sarah Beard 18th December 1838, Acton, Middlesex
London Metropolitan Archives London, England Church of England Parish Registers, 1754-1921, dro/052/019

Henry Glaysher married Sarah Beard on December 18th 1838 in the parish church in Acton, Middlesex. Sarah said she was the daughter of Thomas Beard, a carpenter and was a minor at the time, so under the age of 21. In fact, a search for her baptism in Chiswick revealed that she had been born in June 1823 so she was only 15 years old when she married! Did her sister marry Benjamin Powell? Perhaps Thomas Beard had got to know Benjamin Powell through work, as they were both recorded as carpenters.

My theory was confirmed when I found that the marriage of Benjamin Powell and Mary Beard had taken place on January 29th 1827 at the parish church of St Nicholas, Chiswick:

Marriage of Benjamin Powell & Mary Beard 27 January 1827 St Nicholas, Chiswick, Middlesex London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Nicholas, Chiswick: Hounslow, Transcript of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1827 Jan-1827 Dec, Dl/DRO/BT Item, 007/015

Both parties signed their names but a small squiggle in front of Benjamin looked like “Wm”. This suggested that the groom’s full name was in fact William Benjamin Powell but it seems he preferred to use his middle name of Benjamin. Thomas Beard was one of the witnesses.

I found the baptisms of three children of Benjamin and Mary Powell in the registers of St Nicholas, Chiswick. The family were resident in Turnham Green, an area of Chiswick, and also Hammersmith. Benjamin Powell was recorded on each occasion as a carpenter and his wife was named as Mary Ann when their daughter Emma was baptised:

Emma Powell – born October 28th 1827, baptised December 25th 1827

Mary Ann Powell – born August 24th 1829, baptised September 13th 1829

Elizabeth Powell – born April 4th 1832, baptised April 29th 1832

Baptisms extracted from the registers of St Nicholas, Chiswick, London Metropolitan Archives London, England Board of Guardian Records, 1834-1906/Church of England Parish Registers, 1754-1906, DL/DRO/BT/007/015/017/20,

I found one other baptism recorded in the parish registers of St Marylebone:

Benjamin Thomas born 26 November 1835, baptised 24 January 1836

St Marylebone, Westminster Register of Baptisms 1836
London Metropolitan Archives London, England Board of Guardian Records, 1834-1906/Church of England Parish Registers, 1754-1906, P89/MRY1/101

It looked as if the Powells were a mobile family. Given that Benjamin Powell was a carpenter, it would be necessary for him to travel to where work was available. Chiswick and Hammersmith are waterside parishes to the west of the City on the Thames, so it is possible that Benjamin worked as a carpenter on boats. St Marylebone is a little closer to the City.

Unfortunately, I could find no sign of the baptism of George Thomas Powell ca. 1839, despite there being good coverage of London baptismal registers at this date on both Ancestry and FindmyPast. In case his baptism had been mis-indexed, I also searched the original registers of St Nicholas, Chiswick from 1837 to 1841 inclusive but without success.

In recent years, the General Register Office (GRO) has made it possible to search for all the children of a married couple, using the maiden name of the mother. I therefore searched the GRO indexes for all Powell births where the mother’s maiden name was Beard from the beginning of General Registration, the September quarter of 1837, until the March quarter of 1851. Perhaps the forenames of George Thomas were different on his birth certificate. I was pleased to find one Powell birth where the mother’s maiden name was Beard, registered in the June quarter of 1838 in the registration district of Brentford. I obtained a copy of the certificate:

Birth Certificate of William Powell born 30 April 1838, Church Street, Twickenham, Middlesex

On this record, the full name of the father is recorded as William Benjamin Powell and he was the informant. The exact time of baby William’s birth is given, 4.30 a.m. This was usually only noted when there was a multiple birth but in the early years of General Registration, local registrars were getting used to the rules. At this date the Powell family were living on Church Street in Twickenham, another riverside parish, slightly further west of Chiswick. If George Thomas Powell had indeed been born on June 23rd 1839, he would have been the next child, born some fourteen months later. Unfortunately, I could find no baptism for William in any of the online indexes, despite the archivist of St Mary Twickenham, searching the original registers as an extra check.

It has been frustrating to find no birth certificate or baptism for George Thomas Powell, despite ostensibly knowing the identity of his parents and siblings. Since he had the misfortune to die on his birthday, I believe he was born on June 23rd 1839 and in every single census from 1851 to 1891, he said he was born in Chiswick, Middlesex. Why would his brother William’s birth be registered in 1838 but not his? Although the older children of Benjamin and Mary Powell had been baptised, perhaps this was not the case for the younger boys, William and George Thomas. Alternatively, maybe they had been baptised in a parish where the registers have not been indexed. Whatever the reason for the absence of these important records, I was determined to find this missing child.

Next time, I will tell you about the next stage of my research into the origins of George Thomas Powell and reveal an extraordinary twist in the story that has recently come to light.

I am indebted to Alan Dinnis, the author of “West Medina Mill” for background information on the cement industry and working life at the West Medina Cement Mill.


Strahovski was born in Werrington Downs, New South Wales, Australia [4] the daughter of Piotr and Bożena Strzechowski [5] her parents emigrated from Warsaw, Poland. Her father is an electronic engineer, and her mother is a lab technician. [6] Strahovski began acting lessons at age 12 [7] and spent her high school years attending Santa Sabina College, Strathfield. She attended the University of Western Sydney's Theatre Nepean in 2003 and co-founded a small theater company. [8] [9]

Strahovski started acting during her schooling years when she played Viola in the school production of Twelfth Night. [10] She appeared in film and television roles in Australia, including a turn on satirical show Double the Fist and as Freya Lewis in the Australian drama series headLand. She has also appeared in Channel Nine's Sea Patrol.

Strahovski sent in her audition tape for the TV series Chuck while in the United States auditioning for roles in other shows, namely NBC's 2007 series Bionic Woman. [11] She was contacted by the producers of Chuck the next day to come in and run lines with Zachary Levi. The producers called her back a week later letting her know she had been cast as Sarah Walker. Six months later, she moved to the United States. [12] Strahovski adopted the more phonetic spelling of Strahovski as her stage name in place of Strzechowski at this time, [3] at producer Josh Schwartz's behest for the sake of easier pronunciation.

Strahovski speaks fluent Polish, and employed it in a brief exchange with a colleague in the Chuck episode "Chuck Versus the Wookiee" and again in the episodes "Chuck Versus the Three Words" and "Chuck Versus the Honeymooners". Although she portrays an American in the series, she briefly spoke in a "Hollywood" Australian accent in the episode "Chuck Versus the Ex".

Strahovski appears in Mass Effect Galaxy, Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3 as the voice of Miranda Lawson. She had her face scanned and animated so she could portray Lawson in Mass Effect 2.

Strahovski voices Aya Brea in the English version of the Parasite Eve spinoff, The 3rd Birthday, which was released on March 2011 for the PlayStation Portable. She also appeared in a CollegeHumor sketch in April 2011, parodying the music styles of Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, and Justin Bieber. [13]

Strahovski appeared in the 2011 film Killer Elite, alongside Jason Statham, Clive Owen, and Robert De Niro. [14] She also appeared in the 2012 comedy The Guilt Trip, opposite Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand. [15]

In 2010, Strahovski received the Teen Choice Award for Choice Action TV Actress for Chuck, as well as a nomination for Spike Video Game Awards for Best Performance by a Human Female for Mass Effect 2. In 2011, Strahovski was nominated again for the Teen Choice Awards for Choice Action TV Actress. In 2011, Cosmopolitan Magazine (Australia) named Strahovski the Fun Fearless Female of the Year, along with Favorite TV Actress.

In November 2011, Strahovski was cast as the female lead in I, Frankenstein (2014). [16] In March 2012, she was featured in a new SoBe Life commercial. And in May 2012, Strahovski ranked No. 35 in Maxim Hot 100. In June 2012, Showtime announced Strahovski had joined the cast for the seventh season of Dexter in which she plays the role of Hannah McKay, a woman involved with an investigation following the death of her former lover, a spree killer whom she accompanied when she was a teenager. [17] She reprised her role as Hannah McKay in the eighth season of Dexter. [18]

In December 2012, she made her Broadway debut in a revival of Clifford Odets' Golden Boy, [19] [20] for which she won a Theatre World Award. [21] Strahovski was honored along with Liam Hemsworth for their work in international roles with the 2012 Australians in Film Breakthrough Award. [22]

In 2014, Strahovski joined Fox's TV series 24: Live Another Day cast as Kate Morgan, CIA agent. [23] Later that year, she was cast as Rene Carpenter on the ABC limited series The Astronaut Wives Club. [24] In 2016, she starred, along with Adrien Brody, as Caroline Crowley in the film noir Manhattan Night. She was featured in Maxim Hot 100 from 2009 to 2013. [25]

Since 2017, she has starred as Serena Joy Waterford in the acclaimed Hulu drama series The Handmaid's Tale. For her performance, Strahovski earned a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2018. [26] She also starred as Sofie Werner in the limited series Stateless (2020). [27]

At the 2017 Emmy Awards, Strahovski revealed that she was married to Tim Loden, her partner of six years. [28] Their first child, a boy named William, was born in October 2018. [29] [30]

Who Was Sally Hemings?

Sally Hemings (her given name was probably Sarah) was born in 1773 she was the daughter of Elizabeth (Betty) Hemings, and her father was allegedly John Wayles, Thomas Jefferson’s father-in-law. She came into Jefferson’s household as part of his inheritance from the Wayles estate in 1774, and as a child probably served as a nurse to Jefferson’s younger daughter, Mary (Maria). In 1787, Jefferson was serving as American minister to France when he sent for his daughter to join him, and 14-year-old Sally accompanied eight-year-old Mary to Paris, where she attended both Mary and Mary’s elder sister, Martha (Patsy). Sally returned with the family to their Virginia home, Monticello, in 1789, and seems to have performed the duties of a household servant and lady’s maid.

Did you know? After being granted his freedom in Jefferson&aposs will, Madison Hemings moved to southern Ohio in 1836, where he worked as carpenter and joiner and had a farm. His brother Eston also moved to Ohio in the 1830s and became well known as a professional musician before moving to Wisconsin around 1852. There, he changed his last name to Jefferson, and began identifying himself as a white man.

The only surviving descriptions of Sally Hemings emphasized her light skin, long straight hair and good looks. She had four children (according to Jefferson’s records)�verly, Harriet, Madison and Eston–several of them were so light-skinned that they later passed for white. Jefferson never officially freed Hemings, but his daughter Martha Randolph probably gave her a kind of unofficial freedom that would allow her to remain in Virginia (at the time, laws required freed slaves to leave the state within a year). According to her son Madison Hemings, Sally lived with him and his brother Eston in Charlottesville until her death in 1835.


Child labour in preindustrial societies

Child labour forms an intrinsic part of pre-industrial economies. [18] [19] In pre-industrial societies, there is rarely a concept of childhood in the modern sense. Children often begin to actively participate in activities such as child rearing, hunting and farming as soon as they are competent. In many societies, children as young as 13 are seen as adults and engage in the same activities as adults. [19]

The work of children was important in pre-industrial societies, as children needed to provide their labour for their survival and that of their group. Pre-industrial societies were characterised by low productivity and short life expectancy preventing children from participating in productive work would be more harmful to their welfare and that of their group in the long run. In pre-industrial societies, there was little need for children to attend school. This is especially the case in non-literate societies. Most pre-industrial skill and knowledge were amenable to being passed down through direct mentoring or apprenticing by competent adults. [19]

Children working in home-based assembly operations in United States (1923).

Two girls protesting child labour (by calling it child slavery) in the 1909 New York City Labor Day parade.

Industrial Revolution

With the onset of the Industrial Revolution in Britain in the late 18th century, there was a rapid increase in the industrial exploitation of labour, including child labour. Industrial cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool rapidly grew from small villages into large cities and improving child mortality rates. These cities drew in the population that was rapidly growing due to increased agricultural output. This process was replicated in other industrialising countries. [ citation needed ]

The Victorian era in particular became notorious for the conditions under which children were employed. [20] Children as young as four were employed in production factories and mines working long hours in dangerous, often fatal, working conditions. [21] In coal mines, children would crawl through tunnels too narrow and low for adults. [22] Children also worked as errand boys, crossing sweepers, shoe blacks, or selling matches, flowers and other cheap goods. [23] Some children undertook work as apprentices to respectable trades, such as building or as domestic servants (there were over 120,000 domestic servants in London in the mid-18th century). Working hours were long: builders worked 64 hours a week in the summer and 52 hours in winter, while servants worked 80-hour weeks. [ citation needed ]

Child labour played an important role in the Industrial Revolution from its outset, often brought about by economic hardship. The children of the poor were expected to contribute to their family income. [23] In 19th-century Great Britain, one-third of poor families were without a breadwinner, as a result of death or abandonment, obliging many children to work from a young age. In England and Scotland in 1788, two-thirds of the workers in 143 water-powered cotton mills were described as children. [24] A high number of children also worked as prostitutes. [25] The author Charles Dickens worked at the age of 12 in a blacking factory, with his family in debtor's prison. [26]

Child wages were often low, the wages were as little as 10–20% of an adult male's wage. [27] [ better source needed ] Karl Marx was an outspoken opponent of child labour, [28] saying British industries "could but live by sucking blood, and children’s blood too", and that U.S. capital was financed by the "capitalized blood of children". [29] [30] Letitia Elizabeth Landon castigated child labour in her 1835 poem The Factory, portions of which she pointedly included in her 18th Birthday Tribute to Princess Victoria in 1837.

Throughout the second half of the 19th century, child labour began to decline in industrialised societies due to regulation and economic factors because of the Growth of trade unions. The regulation of child labour began from the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution. The first act to regulate child labour in Britain was passed in 1803. As early as 1802 and 1819 Factory Acts were passed to regulate the working hours of workhouse children in factories and cotton mills to 12 hours per day. These acts were largely ineffective and after radical agitation, by for example the "Short Time Committees" in 1831, a Royal Commission recommended in 1833 that children aged 11–18 should work a maximum of 12 hours per day, children aged 9–11 a maximum of eight hours, and children under the age of nine were no longer permitted to work. This act however only applied to the textile industry, and further agitation led to another act in 1847 limiting both adults and children to 10-hour working days. Lord Shaftesbury was an outspoken advocate of regulating child labour. [ citation needed ]

As technology improved and proliferated, there was a greater need for educated employees. This saw an increase in schooling, with the eventual introduction of compulsory schooling. Improved technology and automation also made child labour redundant. [ citation needed ]

Early 20th century

In the early 20th century, thousands of boys were employed in glass making industries. Glass making was a dangerous and tough job especially without the current technologies. The process of making glass includes intense heat to melt glass (3133 °F). When the boys are at work, they are exposed to this heat. This could cause eye trouble, lung ailments, heat exhaustion, cuts, and burns. Since workers were paid by the piece, they had to work productively for hours without a break. Since furnaces had to be constantly burning, there were night shifts from 5:00 pm to 3:00 am. Many factory owners preferred boys under 16 years of age. [31]

An estimated 1.7 million children under the age of fifteen were employed in American industry by 1900. [32]

In 1910, over 2 million children in the same age group were employed in the United States. [33] This included children who rolled cigarettes, [34] engaged in factory work, worked as bobbin doffers in textile mills, worked in coal mines and were employed in canneries. [35] Lewis Hine's photographs of child labourers in the 1910s powerfully evoked the plight of working children in the American south. Hine took these photographs between 1908 and 1917 as the staff photographer for the National Child Labor Committee. [36]

Household enterprises

Factories and mines were not the only places where child labour was prevalent in the early 20th century. Home-based manufacturing across the United States and Europe employed children as well. [10] Governments and reformers argued that labour in factories must be regulated and the state had an obligation to provide welfare for poor. Legislation that followed had the effect of moving work out of factories into urban homes. Families and women, in particular, preferred it because it allowed them to generate income while taking care of household duties. [ citation needed ]

Home-based manufacturing operations were active year-round. Families willingly deployed their children in these income generating home enterprises. [37] In many cases, men worked from home. In France, over 58% of garment workers operated out of their homes in Germany, the number of full-time home operations nearly doubled between 1882 and 1907 and in the United States, millions of families operated out of home seven days a week, year round to produce garments, shoes, artificial flowers, feathers, match boxes, toys, umbrellas and other products. Children aged 5–14 worked alongside the parents. Home-based operations and child labour in Australia, Britain, Austria and other parts of the world was common. Rural areas similarly saw families deploying their children in agriculture. In 1946, Frieda S. Miller – then Director of the United States Department of Labor – told the International Labour Organization that these home-based operations offered "low wages, long hours, child labour, unhealthy and insanitary working conditions". [10] [38] [39] [40]

Percentage children working in England and Wales [41]
Census year % boys aged 10–14
as child labour
1881 22.9
1891 26.0
1901 21.9
1911 18.3
Note: These are averages child labour in Lancashire was 80%
Source: Census of England and Wales

21st century

Child labour is still common in many parts of the world. Estimates for child labour vary. It ranges between 250 and 304 million, if children aged 5–17 involved in any economic activity are counted. If light occasional work is excluded, ILO estimates there were 153 million child labourers aged 5–14 worldwide in 2008. This is about 20 million less than ILO estimate for child labourers in 2004. Some 60 percent of the child labour was involved in agricultural activities such as farming, dairy, fisheries and forestry. Another 25% of child labourers were in service activities such as retail, hawking goods, restaurants, load and transfer of goods, storage, picking and recycling trash, polishing shoes, domestic help, and other services. The remaining 15% laboured in assembly and manufacturing in informal economy, home-based enterprises, factories, mines, packaging salt, operating machinery, and such operations. [44] [45] [46] Two out of three child workers work alongside their parents, in unpaid family work situations. Some children work as guides for tourists, sometimes combined with bringing in business for shops and restaurants. Child labour predominantly occurs in the rural areas (70%) and informal urban sector (26%).

Contrary to popular belief, most child labourers are employed by their parents rather than in manufacturing or formal economy. Children who work for pay or in-kind compensation are usually found in rural settings as opposed to urban centres. Less than 3% of child labour aged 5–14 across the world work outside their household, or away from their parents. [14]

Child labour accounts for 22% of the workforce in Asia, 32% in Africa, 17% in Latin America, 1% in the US, Canada, Europe and other wealthy nations. [47] The proportion of child labourers varies greatly among countries and even regions inside those countries. Africa has the highest percentage of children aged 5–17 employed as child labour, and a total of over 65 million. Asia, with its larger population, has the largest number of children employed as child labour at about 114 million. Latin America and the Caribbean region have lower overall population density, but at 14 million child labourers has high incidence rates too. [48]

Accurate present day child labour information is difficult to obtain because of disagreements between data sources as to what constitutes child labour. In some countries, government policy contributes to this difficulty. For example, the overall extent of child labour in China is unclear due to the government categorizing child labour data as "highly secret". [49] China has enacted regulations to prevent child labour still, the practice of child labour is reported to be a persistent problem within China, generally in agriculture and low-skill service sectors as well as small workshops and manufacturing enterprises. [50] [51]

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor, where China was attributed 12 goods the majority of which were produced by both underage children and indentured labourers. [52] The report listed electronics, garments, toys, and coal, among other goods.

The Maplecroft Child Labour Index 2012 survey [53] reports that 76 countries pose extreme child labour complicity risks for companies operating worldwide. The ten highest risk countries in 2012, ranked in decreasing order, were: Myanmar, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, DR Congo, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Burundi, Pakistan and Ethiopia. Of the major growth economies, Maplecroft ranked Philippines 25th riskiest, India 27th, China 36th, Vietnam 37th, Indonesia 46th, and Brazil 54th, all of them rated to involve extreme risks of child labour uncertainties, to corporations seeking to invest in developing world and import products from emerging markets.

International Labour Organization (ILO) suggests poverty is the greatest single cause behind child labour. [15] For impoverished households, income from a child's work is usually crucial for his or her own survival or for that of the household. Income from working children, even if small, may be between 25 and 40% of the household income. Other scholars such as Harsch on African child labour, and Edmonds and Pavcnik on global child labour have reached the same conclusion. [14] [54] [55]

Lack of meaningful alternatives, such as affordable schools and quality education, according to ILO, [15] is another major factor driving children to harmful labour. Children work because they have nothing better to do. Many communities, particularly rural areas where between 60–70% of child labour is prevalent, do not possess adequate school facilities. Even when schools are sometimes available, they are too far away, difficult to reach, unaffordable or the quality of education is so poor that parents wonder if going to school is really worth it. [14] [56]


In European history when child labour was common, as well as in contemporary child labour of modern world, certain cultural beliefs have rationalised child labour and thereby encouraged it. Some view that work is good for the character-building and skill development of children. In many cultures, particular where the informal economy and small household businesses thrive, the cultural tradition is that children follow in their parents' footsteps child labour then is a means to learn and practice that trade from a very early age. Similarly, in many cultures the education of girls is less valued or girls are simply not expected to need formal schooling, and these girls pushed into child labour such as providing domestic services. [15] [57] [58] [59]


Biggeri and Mehrotra have studied the macroeconomic factors that encourage child labour. They focus their study on five Asian nations including India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines. They suggest [60] that child labour is a serious problem in all five, but it is not a new problem. Macroeconomic causes encouraged widespread child labour across the world, over most of human history. They suggest that the causes for child labour include both the demand and the supply side. While poverty and unavailability of good schools explain the child labour supply side, they suggest that the growth of low-paying informal economy rather than higher paying formal economy is amongst the causes of the demand side. Other scholars too suggest that inflexible labour market, size of informal economy, inability of industries to scale up and lack of modern manufacturing technologies are major macroeconomic factors affecting demand and acceptability of child labour. [61] [62] [63]

Colonial empires

Systematic use of child labour was common place in the colonies of European powers between 1650 and 1950. In Africa, colonial administrators encouraged traditional kin-ordered modes of production, that is hiring a household for work not just the adults. Millions of children worked in colonial agricultural plantations, mines and domestic service industries. [65] [66] Sophisticated schemes were promulgated where children in these colonies between the ages of 5–14 were hired as an apprentice without pay in exchange for learning a craft. A system of Pauper Apprenticeship came into practice in the 19th century where the colonial master neither needed the native parents' nor child's approval to assign a child to labour, away from parents, at a distant farm owned by a different colonial master. [67] Other schemes included 'earn-and-learn' programs where children would work and thereby learn. Britain for example passed a law, the so-called Masters and Servants Act of 1899, followed by Tax and Pass Law, to encourage child labour in colonies particularly in Africa. These laws offered the native people the legal ownership to some of the native land in exchange for making labour of wife and children available to colonial government's needs such as in farms and as picannins. [ citation needed ]

Beyond laws, new taxes were imposed on colonies. One of these taxes was the Head Tax in the British and French colonial empires. The tax was imposed on everyone older than 8 years, in some colonies. To pay these taxes and cover living expenses, children in colonial households had to work. [68] [69] [70]

In southeast Asian colonies, such as Hong Kong, child labour such as the Mui Tsai (妹仔), was rationalised as a cultural tradition and ignored by British authorities. [71] [72] The Dutch East India Company officials rationalised their child labour abuses with, "it is a way to save these children from a worse fate." Christian mission schools in regions stretching from Zambia to Nigeria too required work from children, and in exchange provided religious education, not secular education. [65] Elsewhere, the Canadian Dominion Statutes in form of so-called Breaches of Contract Act, stipulated jail terms for uncooperative child workers. [73]

Proposals to regulate child labour began as early as 1786. [74]


Children working at a young age has been a consistent theme throughout Africa. Many children began first working in the home to help their parents run the family farm. [75] Children in Africa today are often forced into exploitative labour due to family debt and other financial factors, leading to ongoing poverty. [75] Other types of domestic child labour include working in commercial plantations, begging, and other sales such as boot shining. [76] In total, there is an estimated five million children who are currently working in the field of agriculture which steadily increases during the time of harvest. Along with 30% of children who are picking coffee, there are an estimated 25,000 school age children who work year round. [77]

What industries children work in depends on whether they grew up in a rural area or an urban area. Children who were born in urban areas often found themselves working for street vendors, washing cars, helping in construction sites, weaving clothing, and sometimes even working as exotic dancers. [76] While children who grew up in rural areas would work on farms doing physical labour, working with animals, and selling crops. [76] Many children can also be found working in hazardous environments, with some using bare hands, stones and hammers to take apart CRT-based televisions and computer monitors. [78] Of all the child workers, the most serious cases involved street children and trafficked children due to the physical and emotional abuse they endured by their employers. [76] To address the issue of child labour, the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child Act was implemented in 1959. [79] Yet due to poverty, lack of education and ignorance, the legal actions were not/are not wholly enforced or accepted in Africa. [80]

Other legal factors that have been implemented to end and reduce child labour includes the global response that came into force in 1979 by the declaration of the International Year of the Child. [80] Along with the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, these two declarations worked on many levels to eliminate child labour. [80] Although many actions have been taken to end this epidemic, child labour in Africa is still an issue today due to the unclear definition of adolescence and how much time is needed for children to engage in activities that are crucial for their development. Another issue that often comes into play is the link between what constitutes as child labour within the household due to the cultural acceptance of children helping run the family business. [81] In the end, there is a consistent challenge for the national government to strengthen its grip politically on child labour, and to increase education and awareness on the issue of children working below the legal age limit. With children playing an important role in the African economy, child labour still plays an important role for many in the 20th century. [ citation needed ]


From European settlement in 1788, child convicts were occasionally sent to Australia where they were made to work. Child labour was not as excessive in Australia as in Britain. With a low population, agricultural productivity was higher and families did not face starvation as in established industrialised countries. Australia also did not have significant industry until the later part of the 20th century, when child labour laws and compulsory schooling had developed under the influence of Britain. From the 1870s, child labour was restricted by compulsory schooling. [ citation needed ]

Child labour laws in Australia differ from state to state. Generally, children are allowed to work at any age, but restrictions exist for children under 15 years of age. These restrictions apply to work hours and the type of work that children can perform. In all states, children are obliged to attend school until a minimum leaving age, 15 years of age in all states except Tasmania and Queensland where the leaving age is 17. [82]


Child labour has been a consistent struggle for children in Brazil ever since Portuguese colonization in the region began in 1500. [83] Work that many children took part in was not always visible, legal, or paid. Free or slave labour was a common occurrence for many youths and was a part of their everyday lives as they grew into adulthood. [84] Yet due to there being no clear definition of how to classify what a child or youth is, there has been little historical documentation of child labour during the colonial period. Due to this lack of documentation, it is hard to determine just how many children were used for what kinds of work before the nineteenth century. [83] The first documentation of child labour in Brazil occurred during the time of indigenous societies and slave labour where it was found that children were forcibly working on tasks that exceeded their emotional and physical limits. [85] Armando Dias, for example, died in November 1913 whilst still very young, a victim of an electric shock when entering the textile industry where he worked. Boys and girls were victims of industrial accidents on a daily basis. [86]

In Brazil, the minimum working age has been identified as fourteen due to constitutional amendments that passed in 1934, 1937, and 1946. [87] Yet due to a change in the dictatorship by the military in the 1980s, the minimum age restriction was reduced to twelve but was reviewed due to reports of dangerous and hazardous working conditions in 1988. This led to the minimum age being raised once again to 14. Another set of restrictions was passed in 1998 that restricted the kinds of work youth could partake in, such as work that was considered hazardous like running construction equipment, or certain kinds of factory work. [87] Although many steps were taken to reduce the risk and occurrence of child labour, there is still a high number of children and adolescents working under the age of fourteen in Brazil. It was not until recently in the 1980s that it was discovered that almost nine million children in Brazil were working illegally and not partaking in traditional childhood activities that help to develop important life experiences. [88]

Brazilian census data (PNAD, 1999) indicate that 2.55 million 10- to 14-year-olds were illegally holding jobs. They were joined by 3.7 million 15- to 17-year-olds and about 375,000 5- to 9-year-olds. [ citation needed ] Due to the raised age restriction of 14, at least half of the recorded young workers had been employed illegally, which led to many not being protected by important labour laws. [ citation needed ] Although substantial time has passed since the time of regulated child labour, there are still many children working illegally in Brazil. Many children are used by drug cartels to sell and carry drugs, guns, and other illegal substances because of their perception of innocence. This type of work that youth are taking part in is very dangerous due to the physical and psychological implications that come with these jobs. Yet despite the hazards that come with working with drug dealers, there has been an increase in this area of employment throughout the country. [89]


Many factors played a role in Britain's long-term economic growth, such as the industrial revolution in the late 1700s and the prominent presence of child labour during the industrial age. [90] Children who worked at an early age were often not forced but did so because they needed to help their family survive financially. Due to poor employment opportunities for many parents, sending their children to work on farms and in factories was a way to help feed and support the family. [90] Child labour first started to occur in England when household businesses were turned into local labour markets that mass-produced the once homemade goods. Because children often helped produce the goods out of their homes, working in a factory to make those same goods was a simple change for many of these youths. [90] Although there are many counts of children under the age of ten working for factories, the majority of children workers were between the ages of ten and fourteen.

Another factor that influenced child labour was the demographic changes that occurred in the eighteenth century. [91] By the end of the eighteenth century, 20 percent of the population was made up of children between the ages of 5 and 14. Due to this substantial shift in available workers, and the development of the industrial revolution, children began to work earlier in life in companies outside of the home. [92] Yet, even though there was an increase of child labour in factories such as cotton textiles, there were large numbers of children working in the field of agriculture and domestic production. [92]

With such a high percentage of children working, the rising of illiteracy, and the lack of a formal education became a widespread issue for many children who worked to provide for their families. [93] Due to this problematic trend, many parents developed a change of opinion when deciding whether or not to send their children to work. Other factors that lead to the decline of child labour included financial changes in the economy, changes in the development of technology, raised wages, and continuous regulations on factory legislation. [94]

In 1933 Britain adopted legislation restricting the use of children under 14 in employment. The Children and Young Persons Act 1933, defined the term "child" as anyone of compulsory school age (age sixteen). In general no child may be employed under the age of fifteen years, or fourteen years for light work. [95]


Significant levels of child labour appear to be found in Cambodia. [96] In 1998, ILO estimated that 24.1% of children in Cambodia aged between 10 and 14 were economically active. [96] Many of these children work long hours and Cambodia Human Development Report 2000 reported that approximately 65,000 children between the ages of 5 to 13 worked 25 hours a week and did not attend school. [97] There are also many initiative and policies put in place to decrease the prevalence of child labour such as the United States generalized system of preferences, the U.S.-Cambodia textile agreement, ILO Garment Sector Working Conditions Improvement Project, and ChildWise Tourism. [98] [99]


An Ecuadorean study published in 2006 found child labour to be one of the main environmental problems affecting children's health. It reported that over 800,000 children are working in Ecuador, where they are exposed to heavy metals and toxic chemicals and are subject to mental and physical stress and the insecurity caused by being at risk of work-related accidents. Minors performing agricultural work along with their parents help apply pesticides without wearing protective equipment. [100]


In 2015, the country of India is home to the largest number of children who are working illegally in various industrial industries. Agriculture in India is the largest sector where many children work at early ages to help support their family. [87] Many of these children are forced to work at young ages due to many family factors such as unemployment, large families, poverty, and lack of parental education. This is often the major cause of the high rate of child labour in India. [86]

On 23 June 1757, the English East India Company defeated Siraj-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Bengal, in the Battle of Plassey. The British thus became masters of east India (Bengal, Bihar, Orissa) – a prosperous region with a flourishing agriculture, industry and trade. [89] This led to many children being forced into labour due to the increasing need of cheap labour to produce large numbers of goods. Many multinationals often employed children because that they can be recruited for less pay, and have more endurance to utilise in factory environments. [101] Another reason many Indian children were hired was because they lack knowledge of their basic rights, they did not cause trouble or complain, and they were often more trustworthy. The innocence that comes with childhood was utilised to make a profit by many and was encouraged by the need for family income. [101]

A variety of Indian social scientists as well as the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have done extensive research on the numeric figures of child labour found in India and determined that India contributes to one-third of Asia's child labour and one-fourth of the world's child labour. [89] Due to many children being illegally employed, the Indian government began to take extensive actions to reduce the number of children working, and to focus on the importance of facilitating the proper growth and development of children. [89] International influences help to encourage legal actions to be taken in India, such as the Geneva Declaration of the Right of Children Act was passed in 1924. This act was followed by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 to which incorporated the basic human rights and needs of children for proper progression and growth in their younger years. [102] These international acts encouraged major changes to the workforce in India which occurred in 1986 when the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act was put into place. This act prohibited hiring children younger than the age of 14, and from working in hazardous conditions. [89]

Due to the increase of regulations and legal restrictions on child labour, there has been a 64 percent decline in child labour from 1993–2005. [103] Although this is a great decrease in the country of India, there is still high numbers of children working in the rural areas of India. With 85 percent of the child labour occurring in rural areas, and 15 percent occurring in urban areas, there are still substantial areas of concern in the country of India. [103]

India has legislation since 1986 which allows work by children in non-hazardous industry. In 2013, the Punjab and Haryana High Court gave a landmark order that directed that there shall be a total ban on the employment of children up to the age of 14 years, be it hazardous or non-hazardous industries. However, the Court ruled that a child can work with his or her family in family based trades/occupations, for the purpose of learning a new trade/craftsmanship or vocation. [ citation needed ]


In post-colonial Ireland, the rate of child exploitation was extremely high as children were used as farm labourers once they were able to walk, these children were never paid for the labour that they carried out on the family farm. Children were wanted and desired in Ireland for the use of their labour on the family farm. Irish parents felt that it was the children's duty to carry out chores on the family farm [104]


Though banned in modern Japan, shonenko (child labourers) were a feature of the Imperial era until its end in 1945. During World War II labour recruiting efforts targeted youths from Taiwan (Formosa), then a Japanese territory, with promises of educational opportunity. Though the target of 25,000 recruits was never reached, over 8,400 Taiwanese youths aged 12 to 14 relocated to Japan to help manufacture the Mitsubishi J2M Raiden aircraft. [105] [106] [107]

The Netherlands

Child labour existed in the Netherlands up to and through the Industrial Revolution. Laws governing child labour in factories were first passed in 1874, but child labour on farms continued to be the norm up until the 20th century. [108]

Soviet Union and Russia

Although formally banned since 1922, child labour was widespread in the Soviet Union, mostly in the form of mandatory, unpaid work by schoolchildren on Saturdays and holidays. The students were used as a cheap, unqualified workforce on kolhoz (collective farms) as well as in industry and forestry. The practice was formally called "work education". [109]

From the 1950s on, the students were also used for unpaid work at schools, where they cleaned and performed repairs. [110] This practice has continued in the Russian Federation, where up to 21 days of the summer holidays is sometimes set aside for school works. By law, this is only allowed as part of specialised occupational training and with the students' and parents' permission, but those provisions are widely ignored. [111] In 2012 there was an accident near city of Nalchik where a car killed several pupils cleaning up a highway shoulder during their "holiday work" as well as their teacher who was supervising them. [112]

Out of former Soviet Union republics Uzbekistan continued and expanded the program of child labour on industrial scale to increase profits on the main source of Islam Karimov's income, cotton harvesting. In September, when school normally starts, the classes are suspended and children are sent to cotton fields for work, where they are assigned daily quotas of 20 to 60 kg of raw cotton they have to collect. This process is repeated in spring, when collected cotton needs to be hoed and weeded. In 2006 it is estimated that 2.7 million children were forced to work this way. [113]


As in many other countries, child labour in Switzerland affected among the so-called Kaminfegerkinder ("chimney sweep children") and children working p.e. in spinning mills, factories and in agriculture in 19th-century Switzerland, [114] but also to the 1960s so-called Verdingkinder (literally: "contract children" or "indentured child laborers") were children who were taken from their parents, often due to poverty or moral reasons – usually mothers being unmarried, very poor citizens, of Gypsy–Yeniche origin, so-called Kinder der Landstrasse, [115] etc. – and sent to live with new families, often poor farmers who needed cheap labour. [116]

There were even Verdingkinder auctions where children were handed over to the farmer asking the least amount of money from the authorities, thus securing cheap labour for his farm and relieving the authority from the financial burden of looking after the children. In the 1930s 20% of all agricultural labourers in the Canton of Bern were children below the age of 15. Swiss municipality guardianship authorities acted so, commonly tolerated by federal authorities, to the 1960s, not all of them of course, but usually communities affected of low taxes in some Swiss cantons [117] Swiss historian Marco Leuenberger investigated, that in 1930 there were some 35,000 indentured children, and between 1920 and 1970 more than 100,000 are believed to have been placed with families or homes. 10,000 Verdingkinder are still alive. [117] [118] Therefore, the so-called Wiedergutmachungsinitiative was started in April 2014. In April 2014 the collection of targeted at least authenticated 100,000 signatures of Swiss citizens has started, and still have to be collected to October 2015. [ citation needed ]

United States

Child labour laws in the United States are found at the federal and state levels. The most sweeping federal law that restricts the employment and abuse of child workers is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Child labour provisions under FLSA are designed to protect the educational opportunities of youth and prohibit their employment in jobs that are detrimental to their health and safety. FLSA restricts the hours that youth under 16 years of age can work and lists hazardous occupations too dangerous for young workers to perform.

Under the FLSA, for non-agricultural jobs, children under 14 may not be employed, children between 14 and 16 may be employed in allowed occupations during limited hours, and children between 16 and 17 may be employed for unlimited hours in non-hazardous occupations. [119] A number of exceptions to these rules exist, such as for employment by parents, newspaper delivery, and child actors. [119] The regulations for agricultural employment are generally less strict.

States have varying laws covering youth employment. Each state has minimum requirements such as, earliest age a child may begin working, number of hours a child is allowed to be working during the day, number of hours a child is allowed to be worked during the week. The United States Department of Labor lists the minimum requirements for agricultural work in each state. [120] Where state law differs from federal law on child labour, the law with the more rigorous standard applies. [119]

Individual states have a wide range of restrictions on labor by minors, often requiring work permits for minors who are still enrolled in high school, limiting the times and hours that minors can work by age and imposing additional safety regulations. [121]

Almost every country in the world has laws relating to and aimed at preventing child labour. International Labour Organization has helped set international law, which most countries have signed on and ratified. According to ILO minimum age convention (C138) of 1973, child labour refers to any work performed by children under the age of 12, non-light work done by children aged 12–14, and hazardous work done by children aged 15–17. Light work was defined, under this Convention, as any work that does not harm a child's health and development, and that does not interfere with his or her attendance at school. This convention has been ratified by 171 countries. [122]

The United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990, which was subsequently ratified by 193 countries. [123] Article 32 of the convention addressed child labour, as follows:

. Parties recognise the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child's education, or to be harmful to the child's health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development. [4]

Under Article 1 of the 1990 Convention, a child is defined as ". every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, a majority is attained earlier." Article 28 of this Convention requires States to, "make primary education compulsory and available free to all." [4]

195 countries are party to the Convention only two nations have not ratified the treaty, Somalia and the United States. [123] [124]

In 1999, ILO helped lead the Worst Forms Convention 182 (C182), [125] which has so far been signed upon and domestically ratified by 151 countries including the United States. This international law prohibits worst forms of child labour, defined as all forms of slavery and slavery-like practices, such as child trafficking, debt bondage, and forced labour, including forced recruitment of children into armed conflict. The law also prohibits the use of a child for prostitution or the production of pornography, child labour in illicit activities such as drug production and trafficking and in hazardous work. Both the Worst Forms Convention (C182) and the Minimum Age Convention (C138) are examples of international labour standards implemented through the ILO that deal with child labour.

In addition to setting the international law, the United Nations initiated International Program on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) in 1992. [126] This initiative aims to progressively eliminate child labour through strengthening national capacities to address some of the causes of child labour. Amongst the key initiative is the so-called time-bounded programme countries, where child labour is most prevalent and schooling opportunities lacking. The initiative seeks to achieve amongst other things, universal primary school availability. The IPEC has expanded to at least the following target countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Nepal, Tanzania, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa and Turkey.

Targeted child labour campaigns were initiated by the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) in order to advocate for prevention and elimination of all forms of child labour. The global Music against Child Labour Initiative was launched in 2013 in order to involve socially excluded children in structured musical activity and education in efforts to help protect them from child labour. [127]

Exceptions granted

In 2004, the United States passed an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The amendment allows certain children aged 14–18 to work in or outside a business where machinery is used to process wood. [128] The law aims to respect the religious and cultural needs of the Amish community of the United States. The Amish believe that one effective way to educate children is on the job. [6] The new law allows Amish children the ability to work with their families, once they are passed eighth grade in school.

Similarly, in 1996, member countries of the European Union, per Directive 94/33/EC, [8] agreed to a number of exceptions for young people in its child labour laws. Under these rules, children of various ages may work in cultural, artistic, sporting or advertising activities if authorised by the competent authority. Children above the age of 13 may perform light work for a limited number of hours per week in other economic activities as defined at the discretion of each country. Additionally, the European law exception allows children aged 14 years or over to work as part of a work/training scheme. The EU Directive clarified that these exceptions do not allow child labour where the children may experience harmful exposure to dangerous substances. [129] Nonetheless, many children under the age of 13 do work, even in the most developed countries of the EU. For instance, a recent study showed over a third of Dutch twelve-year-old kids had a job, the most common being babysitting. [130]

More laws vs. more freedom

Very often, however, these state laws were not enforced. Federal legislation was passed in 1916 and again in 1919, but both laws were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Although the number of child workers declined dramatically during the 1920s and 1930s, it was not until the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 that federal regulation of child labor finally became a reality.

Scholars disagree on the best legal course forward to address child labour. Some suggest the need for laws that place a blanket ban on any work by children less than 18 years old. Others suggest the current international laws are enough, and the need for more engaging approach to achieve the ultimate goals. [132]

Some scholars [ who? ] suggest any labour by children aged 18 years or less is wrong since this encourages illiteracy, inhumane work and lower investment in human capital. Child labour, claim these activists, also leads to poor labour standards for adults, depresses the wages of adults in developing countries as well as the developed countries, and dooms the third world economies to low-skill jobs only capable of producing poor quality cheap exports. More children that work in poor countries, the fewer and worse-paid are the jobs for adults in these countries. In other words, there are moral and economic reasons that justify a blanket ban on labour from children aged 18 years or less, everywhere in the world. [133] [134]

Other scholars [ who? ] suggest that these arguments are flawed, ignores history and more laws will do more harm than good. According to them, child labour is merely the symptom of a greater disease named poverty. If laws ban all lawful work that enables the poor to survive, informal economy, illicit operations and underground businesses will thrive. These will increase abuse of the children. In poor countries with very high incidence rates of child labour - such as Ethiopia, Chad, Niger and Nepal - schools are not available, and the few schools that exist offer poor quality education or are unaffordable. The alternatives for children who currently work, claim these studies, are worse: grinding subsistence farming, militia or prostitution. Child labour is not a choice, it is a necessity, the only option for survival. It is currently the least undesirable of a set of very bad choices. [135] [136]

These scholars suggest, from their studies of economic and social data, that early 20th-century child labour in Europe and the United States ended in large part as a result of the economic development of the formal regulated economy, technology development and general prosperity. Child labour laws and ILO conventions came later. Edmonds suggests, even in contemporary times, the incidence of child labour in Vietnam has rapidly reduced following economic reforms and GDP growth. These scholars suggest economic engagement, emphasis on opening quality schools rather than more laws and expanding economically relevant skill development opportunities in the third world. International legal actions, such as trade sanctions increase child labour. [132] [137] [138] [139]

"The Incredible Bread Machine", a book published by "World Research, Inc." in 1974, stated:

Child labour was a particular target of early reformers. William Cooke Tatlor wrote at the time about these reformers who, witnessing children at work in the factories, thought to themselves: 'How much more delightful would have been the gambol of the free limbs on the hillside the sight of the green mead with its spangles of buttercups and daisies the song of the bird and the humming bee. ' But for many of these children the factory system meant quite literally the only chance for survival. Today we overlook the fact that death from starvation and exposure was a common fate before the Industrial Revolution, for the pre-capitalist economy was barely able to support the population. Yes, children were working. Formerly they would have starved. It was only as goods were produced in greater abundance at a lower cost that men could support their families without sending their children to work. It was not the reformer or the politician that ended the grim necessity for child labour it was capitalism.

Cocoa production

In 1998, UNICEF reported that Ivory Coast farmers used enslaved children – many from surrounding countries. [140] In late 2000 a BBC documentary reported the use of enslaved children in the production of cocoa—the main ingredient in chocolate [141] — in West Africa. [142] [143] Other media followed by reporting widespread child slavery and child trafficking in the production of cocoa. [140] [144] [145] In 2001, the US State Department estimated there were 15,000 child slaves cocoa, cotton and coffee farms in the Ivory Coast, [146] and the Chocolate Manufacturers Association acknowledged that child slavery is used in the cocoa harvest. [146] [ failed verification ] [ better source needed ]

Malian migrants have long worked on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, but in 2000 cocoa prices had dropped to a 10-year low and some farmers stopped paying their employees. [147] The Malian counsel had to rescue some boys who had not been paid for five years and who were beaten if they tried to run away. [147] Malian officials believed that 15,000 children, some as young as 11 years old, were working in the Ivory Coast in 2001. These children were often from poor families or the slums and were sold to work in other countries. [144] Parents were told the children would find work and send money home, but once the children left home, they often worked in conditions resembling slavery. [142] In other cases, children begging for food were lured from bus stations and sold as slaves. [148] In 2002, the Ivory Coast had 12,000 children with no relatives nearby, which suggested they were trafficked, [142] likely from neighboring Mali, Burkina Faso and Togo. [149]

The cocoa industry was accused of profiting from child slavery and trafficking. [150] The European Cocoa Association dismissed these accusations as "false and excessive" [150] and the industry said the reports were not representative of all areas. [151] Later the industry acknowledged the working conditions for children were unsatisfactory and children's rights were sometimes violated [152] and acknowledged the claims could not be ignored. In a BBC interview, the ambassador for Ivory Coast to the United Kingdom called these reports of widespread use of slave child labour by 700,000 cocoa farmers as absurd and inaccurate. [151]

In 2001, a voluntary agreement called the Harkin-Engel Protocol, was accepted by the international cocoa and chocolate industry to eliminate the worst forms of child labour, as defined by ILO's Convention 182, in West Africa. [153] This agreement created a foundation named International Cocoa Initiative in 2002. The foundation claims it has, as of 2011, active programs in 290 cocoa growing communities in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana, reaching a total population of 689,000 people to help eliminate the worst forms of child labour in cocoa industry. [154] Other organisations claim progress has been made, but the protocol's 2005 deadlines have not yet been met. [155] [156] [157]

Mining in Africa

In 2008, Bloomberg claimed child labour in copper and cobalt mines that supplied Chinese companies in Congo. The children are creuseurs, that is they dig the ore by hand, carry sacks of ores on their backs, and these are then purchased by these companies. Over 60 of Katanga's 75 processing plants are owned by Chinese companies and 90 percent of the region's minerals go to China. [158] An African NGO report claimed 80,000 child labourers under the age of 15, or about 40% of all miners, were supplying ore to Chinese companies in this African region. [159] Amnesty International alleged in 2016 that some cobalt sold by Congo Dongfang Mining was produced by child labour, and that it was being used in lithium-ion batteries powering electric cars and mobile devices worldwide. [160] [161]

BBC, in 2012, accused Glencore of using child labour in its mining and smelting operations of Africa. Glencore denied it used child labour, and said it has strict policy of not using child labour. The company claimed it has a strict policy whereby all copper was mined correctly, placed in bags with numbered seals and then sent to the smelter. Glencore mentioned being aware of child miners who were part of a group of artisanal miners who had without authorisation raided the concession awarded to the company since 2010 Glencore has been pleading with the government to remove the artisanal miners from the concession. [162]

Small-scale artisanal mining of gold is another source of dangerous child labour in poor rural areas in certain parts of the world. [163] This form of mining uses labour-intensive and low-tech methods. It is informal sector of the economy. Human Rights Watch group estimates that about 12 percent of global gold production comes from artisanal mines. In west Africa, in countries such as Mali - the third largest exporter of gold in Africa - between 20,000 and 40,000 children work in artisanal mining. Locally known as orpaillage, children as young as 6 years old work with their families. These children and families suffer chronic exposure to toxic chemicals including mercury, and do hazardous work such as digging shafts and working underground, pulling up, carrying and crushing the ore. The poor work practices harm the long-term health of children, as well as release hundreds of tons of mercury every year into local rivers, ground water and lakes. Gold is important to the economy of Mali and Ghana. For Mali, it is the second largest earner of its export revenue. For many poor families with children, it is the primary and sometimes the only source of income. [164] [165]


In early August 2008, Iowa Labour Commissioner David Neil announced that his department had found that Agriprocessors, a kosher meatpacking company in Postville which had recently been raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, had employed 57 minors, some as young as 14, in violation of state law prohibiting anyone under 18 from working in a meatpacking plant. Neil announced that he was turning the case over to the state Attorney General for prosecution, claiming that his department's inquiry had discovered "egregious violations of virtually every aspect of Iowa's child labour laws." [166] Agriprocessors claimed that it was at a loss to understand the allegations. Agriprocessors' CEO went to trial on these charges in state court on 4 May 2010. After a five-week trial he was found not guilty of all 57 charges of child labour violations by the Black Hawk County District Court jury in Waterloo, Iowa, on 7 June 2010. [167]

A 2007 report claimed some GAP products had been produced by child labourers. GAP acknowledged the problem and announced it is pulling the products from its shelves. [168] The report found that GAP had rigorous social audit systems since 2004 to eliminate child labour in its supply chain. However, the report concluded that the system was being abused by unscrupulous subcontractors.

GAP's policy, the report claimed, is that if it discovers child labour was used by its supplier in its branded clothes, the contractor must remove the child from the workplace, provide them with access to schooling and a wage, and guarantee the opportunity of work on reaching a legal working age.

In 2007, The New York Times reported that GAP, after the child labour discovery, created a $200,000 grant to improve working conditions in the supplier community. [169]

H&M and Zara

In December 2009, campaigners in the UK called on two leading high street retailers to stop selling clothes made with cotton which may have been picked by children. Anti-Slavery International and the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) accused H&M and Zara of using cotton suppliers in Bangladesh. It is also suspected that many of their raw materials originates from Uzbekistan, where children aged 10 are forced to work in the fields. The activists were calling to ban the use of Uzbek cotton and implement a "track and trace" systems to guarantee an ethical responsible source of the material.

H&M said it "does not accept" child labour and "seeks to avoid" using Uzbek cotton, but admitted it did "not have any reliable methods" to ensure Uzbek cotton did not end up in any of its products. Inditex, the owner of Zara, said its code of conduct banned child labour. [170]

Silk weaving

A 2003 Human Rights Watch report claimed children as young as five years old were employed and worked for up to 12 hours a day and six to seven days a week in the silk industry. [171] These children, HRW claimed, were bonded child labour in India, easy to find in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. [172]

In 2010, a German news investigative report claimed that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had found up to 10,000 children working in the 1,000 silk factories in 1998. In other locations, thousands of bonded child labourers were present in 1994. After UNICEF and NGOs got involved, the child labour figure dropped drastically after 2005, with the total estimated to be fewer than a thousand child labourers. The report claims the released children were back in school. [173]


In 2008, the BBC reported [174] that the company Primark was using child labour in the manufacture of clothing. In particular, a £4 hand-embroidered shirt was the starting point of a documentary produced by BBC's Panorama programme. The programme asks consumers to ask themselves, "Why am I only paying £4 for a hand embroidered top? This item looks handmade. Who made it for such little cost?", in addition to exposing the violent side of the child labour industry in countries where child exploitation is prevalent.

As a result of the BBC report, Royal Television Society awarded it a prize, and Primark took immediate action and fired three Indian suppliers in 2008. [175]

Primark continued to investigate the allegations for three years, [176] concluding that BBC report was a fake. In 2011, following an investigation by the BBC Trust's Editorial Standards Committee, the BBC announced, "Having carefully scrutinised all of the relevant evidence, the committee concluded that, on the balance of probabilities, it was more likely than not that the Bangalore footage was not authentic." BBC subsequently apologised for faking footage, and returned the television award for investigative reporting. [177] [178] [179]

Concerns have often been raised over the buying public's moral complicity in purchasing products assembled or otherwise manufactured in developing countries with child labour. However, others have raised concerns that boycotting products manufactured through child labour may force these children to turn to more dangerous or strenuous professions, such as prostitution or agriculture. For example, a UNICEF study found that after the Child Labour Deterrence Act was introduced in the US, an estimated 50,000 children were dismissed from their garment industry jobs in Bangladesh, leaving many to resort to jobs such as "stone-crushing, street hustling, and prostitution", jobs that are "more hazardous and exploitative than garment production". The study suggests that boycotts are "blunt instruments with long-term consequences, that can actually harm rather than help the children involved." [46]

According to Milton Friedman, before the Industrial Revolution virtually all children worked in agriculture. [180] During the Industrial Revolution many of these children moved from farm work to factory work. Over time, as real wages rose, parents became able to afford to send their children to school instead of work and as a result child labour declined, both before and after legislation. [181]

British historian and socialist E. P. Thompson in The Making of the English Working Class draws a qualitative distinction between child domestic work and participation in the wider (waged) labour market. [21] Further, the usefulness of the experience of the industrial revolution in making predictions about current trends has been disputed. Social historian Hugh Cunningham, author of Children and Childhood in Western Society Since 1500, notes that:

"Fifty years ago it might have been assumed that, just as child labour had declined in the developed world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so it would also, in a trickle-down fashion, in the rest of the world. Its failure to do that, and its re-emergence in the developed world, raise questions about its role in any economy, whether national or global." [182]

According to Thomas DeGregori, an economics professor at the University of Houston, in an article published by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank operating in Washington D.C., "it is clear that technological and economic change are vital ingredients in getting children out of the workplace and into schools. Then they can grow to become productive adults and live longer, healthier lives. However, in poor countries like Bangladesh, working children are essential for survival in many families, as they were in our own heritage until the late 19th century. So, while the struggle to end child labour is necessary, getting there often requires taking different routes—and, sadly, there are many political obstacles. [183]

The International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), founded in 1992, aims to eliminate child labour. It operates in 88 countries and is the largest program of its kind in the world. [184] IPEC works with international and government agencies, NGOs, the media, and children and their families to end child labour and provide children with education and assistance. [184]

From 2008 to 2013, the ILO operated a program through International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) entitled "Combating Abusive Child Labour (CACL-II)". The project, funded by the European Union, contributed to the Government of Pakistan by providing alternative opportunities for vocational training and education to children withdrawn from the worst forms of child labour. [185]

Periodically, governments, employers' and workers' organisations have met in global conference to assess progress and remaining obstacles and to agree measures to eliminate the worst forms of child labour by 2016: first in Oslo (1997), secondly in The Hague (2010) the third Global Conference on Child Labour took place in Brasilia, 8010 October 2013, [186] and the fourth global conference is scheduled to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 14–16 November 2017. [187]

Number of children involved in ILO categories of work, by age and gender in 2002
All Children
(2002) [188]
Economically Active Children Economically Active Children (%) Child Labour Child Labour (%) Children in Hazardous Work Children in Hazardous Work (%)
Ages 5–11 838,800,000 109,700,000 13.1 109,700,000 13.1 60,500,000 7.2
Ages 12–14 360,600,000 101,100,000 28.0 76,000,000 21.1 50,800,000 14.1
Ages 5–14 1,199,400,000 210,800,000 17.6 186,300,000 15.5 111,300,000 9.3
Ages 15–17 332,100,000 140,900,000 42.4 59,200,000 17.8 59,200,000 17.8
Boys 786,600,000 184,100,000 23.4 132,200,000 16.8 95,700,000 12.2
Girls 744,900,000 167,600,000 22.5 113,300,000 15.2 74,800,000 10.5
Total 1,531,500,000 351,700,000 23.0 245,500,000 16.0 170,500,000 11.1

The term child labour can be misleading when it confuses harmful work with employment that may be beneficial to children. It can also ignore harmful work outside employment and any benefits children normally derive from their work. [189] Domestic work is an example: all families but the rich must work at cleaning, cooking, caring, and more to maintain their homes. In most families in the world, this process extends to productive activities, especially herding and various types of agriculture, [190] and to a variety of small family businesses. Where trading is a significant feature of social life, children can start trading in small items at an early age, often in the company of family members or of peers. [191]

Work is undertaken from an early age by vast numbers of children in the world and may have a natural place in growing up. [192] Work can contribute to the well-being of children in a variety of ways [193] children often choose to work to improve their lives, both in the short- and long-term. At the material level, children's work often contributes to producing food or earning income that benefits themselves and their families and such income is especially important when the families are poor. Work can provide an escape from debilitating poverty, sometimes by allowing a young person to move away from an impoverished environment. [194] Young people often enjoy their work, especially paid work, or when work involves the company of peers. Even when work is intensive and enforced, children often find ways to combine their work with play. [195]

While full-time work hinders schooling, empirical evidence is varied on the relationship between part-time work and school. [192] Sometimes even part-time work may hinder school attendance or performance. On the other hand, many poor children work for resources to attend school. Children who are not doing well at school sometimes seek more satisfactory experience in work. Good relations with a supervisor at work can provide relief from tensions that children feel at school and home. [196] In the modern world, school education has become so central to society that schoolwork has become the dominant work for most children, [197] often replacing participation in productive work. If school curricula or quality do not provide children with appropriate skills for available jobs or if children do nor have the aptitude for schoolwork, school may impede the learning of skills, such as agriculture, which will become necessary for future livelihood. [198]

The Depressing Stories Behind 20 Vintage Child Labor Pictures

Child labor has never been a particularly pretty part of society, but during the industrial revolution, the practice became even uglier than its earlier incarnations. Children were often put in dangerous industrial jobs and paid menial wages. While free public schools had become available by the time these pictures were taken, poor families still couldn’t afford to pass up potential wages to be earned by their young children. In fact, even though public school was made compulsory in all states by 1918, many children continued to work whenever possible there were no effective, standardized federal labor laws in effect until 1938. Even so, the mandatory schooling laws greatly helped reduce child labor and increased the education of the populace. If you’ve ever wondered just how ugly child labor could get, then you will certainly appreciate these powerful images by Lewis Wickes Hine, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Food Production

From farming to fishing to processing to canning, there was a time where practically all foods were grown with the help of child laborers – sometimes working as soon as they were old enough to understand what their family members were doing. While all of these jobs were dirty, some were particularly dangerous, requiring children to wield blades or operate shoddy machinery.

In this family of harvesters working in 1910, the children would start picking fruits when they turned three years old. While they would go to school after the harvest season was over, they’d usually start classes at least a month and a half in, since it was more important that everyone work as long as possible into the season.

This eight-year-old girl, working at a nearby cranberry farm that same year, was also held from school until the harvest was over. Work was so constant that her father even scolded her for pausing so the photographer could take this image – hence her look of worry.

This 12-year-old boy lost his hand while operating the mowing machine he is posed on. Despite being maimed, the child still helped his family harvest vegetables with his good hand as soon as he was able to get back in the fields. His mother lamented that “now we will have to educate him,” since he could no longer work as a manual laborer on the farm.

This five-year-old boy worked at an oyster plant in 1911, running barefoot on cracked shells as he retrieved buckets of shellfish to shuck. The company hired many children of his age to shuck oysters for as little as 30 cents a day, approximately $7 in today’s currency. If you’ve ever shucked an oyster yourself, you can appreciate just how dangerous this line of work can be, particularly for someone that young.

While there are quite a few children in this image of shrimp pickers, the youngest is eight years old and, while not pictured in this photo, the youngest boys employed by the company were only five. These employees would stand over a trough all day shelling shrimp until their fingers bled, and of course the acid and salt water only worsened the pain.

These two berry hullers were only two and three years old, but they worked long, twelve hour shifts, just like the rest of their family members. Hullers at the company would earn two cents per quart of berries finished, but there is no indication of how many quarts would typically be completed in a day.

Eight-year-old Daisy worked on the capping machine in a canning factory in 1910. While she was able to put 40 caps on the cans per minute, she still kept falling behind and getting in trouble. Daisy was still lucky though, as she could have been put on a much more dangerous part of the line where machinery featuring open gears would regularly injure workers.

Industrial Workers

Of course, child labor wasn’t limited to the agricultural and fishing industries practically anything made in an industrial setting was made with the help of children. These workers would often be put in dangerous situations and many ended up injured or permanently crippled as a result.

These days, coal miners still face a lot of work hazards no matter how OSHA-compliant their employer. Back before these types of jobs were regulated though, employees were given little, if any, protective clothing and forced to work ten or twelve hour shifts. These boys, photographed in 1908, stayed underground all day from 7 AM to 5 PM. The youngest boys at the company would be hired as "trappers," sent to open up the trap doors to allow the drivers through with their coal loads.

This boy lost his leg when he was only eleven when, working as a trapper, he got stuck between two cars. The company determined it was his fault and refused to offer him any compensation. Even after the accident, his father continued to work at the mine.

This thirteen-year-old was fortunate, as far as boy miners went, because he got to operate the trip rope, allowing him to spend most of his time outdoors.

These young boys worked inside a factory building in 1911, processing the impurities from the coal by hand. The dust was so thick at times that many of the photographer’s shots didn’t come out at all, yet none of the boys were given protective gear. In fact, they were instead beaten and kicked by their overseers if they didn’t seem to be working fast enough.

Before machines were invented to streamline the process, bedsprings were linked by hand in factories like this one photographed in 1917. While the work was dangerous and difficult, at least this factory refused to hire anyone under the age of seventeen.

This textile mill, photographed in 1909, commonly hired children too young to even reach the tops of the machines to mend the broken threads. As a result, sights like this were common on the factory floor.

Unsurprisingly, factory accidents were an all-too-common occurrence. This 16-year-old boy lost his leg and arm in an industrial accident at a spring factory in 1908. Despite the fact that he spent two years at the factory, no one from the company stopped by to visit him after the accident and he received no compensation for his injuries.

This boy was fortunate in that he was able to receive $10,000 in compensation for his two lost fingers after winning a lawsuit against the company he worked for. That's approximately $200,000 after inflation.

He was injured after he fell asleep during an eighteen hour shift and accidentally turned on the machine in front of him in the process.

In some ways, though, factory life wasn’t always bad. Some factories were far less dangerous than others, and employers would sometimes let their workers hire a reader, like this man, to read books and newspapers to them while they worked. For many young factory workers, this was the closest thing they could get to an education and was considered to be quite a job perk.

Home Workers

While working from home is considered a luxury these days, in the 1800s, most people who worked at home may as well have been in a sweatshop. Whole families would work on menial tasks in cramped tenements with no air conditioning and dim lighting, usually earning less than $1 a day – that’s per family, not per person. Inflated to today’s monetary value, that would mean an entire family could earn about $25 per day. On the upside, at least these workers were in a fairly safe environment.

Hunched over a tiny table, Mrs. Gay and her children, aged 5, 7, 12 and 13, would work to set stones into inexpensive jewelry pieces. The Gays were lucky in that their children could actually attend school. After the children got out of school each day, they would work into the evening, all so the family could earn an extra $5 a week.

This family worked together to make artificial flowers. Even the five-year-old would work with the rest of the family. For every 150 or so flowers completed, they would earn $.08.

Mrs. Weeks would work with her children and grandchildren, ages 4-13, to string wooden buttons. The children in this family were able to go to school, but after school and on holidays, they would join in to help string the buttons. Even with all the extra hands, Mrs. Weeks rarely made more than $7 a month, approximately $180 in today’s currency.

This family was already training the youngest daughter, a two-year-old, to make flower wreaths with the rest of them. They expected her to be able to work within the next year.

While these pictures can make you grateful that many countries have strict child labor laws in place, remember there are many places where scenes like this still occur on a daily basis.

Immigration Ended Lowell System

In the mid-1840s, the Lowell workers organized the Female Labor Reform Association, which tried to bargain for improved wages. But the Lowell System of Labor was essentially undone by increased immigration to the United States.

Instead of hiring local New England girls to work in the mills, the factory owners discovered they could hire newly arrived immigrants. The immigrants, many of whom had come from Ireland, fleeing the Great Famine, were content to find any work at all — even for relatively low wages.

Watch the video: Inside Look at Sweatshop in China Where Children Work 20 Hour Days