By the middle of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution was in full swing. As the pistons pumped and furnaces fumed, however, often lost in the clang of progress was the plight of the workers within the new factories, mills and workshops. Employers and governments showed little regard for the often-atrocious working conditions in which laborers were forced to toil. Consider:
- 12- to 14-hour workdays were common.
- Wages were low, often at mere subsistence levels. Women typically earned only half of what men did.
- Children were frequently employed. Part of their duties included cleaning and servicing machinery (often while it was still running) that had tight spaces that only they could fit into.
- Severe punishments were meted out, often to children, who were sometimes hung in baskets from factory roofs and often doused with water to keep them awake. Strapping was common, and some children even had their ears