HIS 202 B03
29 November 2017
The Working Class of the Industrial Revolution
The middle class is the backbone to the American working industry. It has been this way since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century up until the present day of the 21st century. Except there were many more problems for the working class during the rise of industrialization. The American worker was taken advantage of by working in awful environments for long hours with very little pay. However, these workers came together as a whole to work against these conditions by creating strikes and unions to make changes. The effort they began to put forth not only helped them change their surroundings but also improve their quality of life.
The textile industry was one of the largest environments that had many safety violations. “It appears, then, that whether a worker was employed in a textile factory (the most extreme case) or in a small workshop, he suffered a marked deterioration in his life at work—the obvious consequence of the quickening pace of industrialization,” (Hopkins). The business owners really did not care how their employees felt about the working conditions they went through. They would work throughout the entire day, no matter how hot or cold it was. If someone was to get injured while they were working, there was nothing they could do about it. If they stopped working, that would pretty much mean they were done working for that company. Jobs were scarce during the Industrial Revolution which is why many workers did not complain. They were lucky to have a job and get money no matter how bad the conditions were for them. Families were forced to make their children begin working very early in life in the industry because there was not enough money being made by just the parents. On top of these awful conditions, the hourly wages were unbelievably low. The business owners took advantage of the fact that these workers had nowhere else to go for money therefore they gave them very small amounts of money hourly. This is why there was fine line between the rich and the poor. These laborers not only worked in awful conditions but they lived in it as well. Most of these workers lived in the "slum", which was very overcrowded. There could be up to 10 people or more living in just a single room, which is basically as big as a modern style apartment. At the time, the population was increasing so fast because of more people moving to areas for work therefore apartments became even more crowded and grew to worse conditions. The space was not the only problem, however, illness was just as bad and common. Due to everyone living in the same terrible conditions and very close to one another, diseases spread rapidly and lack of medicine and medical care resulted in many deaths.
After years of suffering in the workforce, few workers began to realize the way they were being treated was not right. They began to form unions and threaten to go on strike against the business owners to get the hours and pay they deserve. It was tough though because many owners easily hired new employees but it took all of the working class to come together as a whole during these times. “In the six months between April and October 1917 alone, American workers went on strike over 3,000 times. The pattern of these strikes changed, too, with at least sixty-seven of them involving over 10,000 workers each,” (Taillon). The unions not only demanded better pay and hours but benefits for themselves. After the many years of these laborers dealing with unfair conditions, the workers were granted Social Security. This allowed them retirement and vacation benefits for years in advance. I agree with what the government was beginning to allow during this time to change the aid for the American worker because it was very much needed for their health and lifestyle.
Through tough times the American workers finally began to have the conditions they deserved. With the increase in wages, parents were able to support their families better. There were many laws passed to help make sure these families stayed healthy and able to support themselves. Some laws also included an age limit as to how old someone had to be before they began working. This helped with the children therefore they were able to get an education. The education they were finally getting would help with their future in getting a job that has better wages. Overall improving the next generations’ quality of life. With the higher wages and less hours, families were beginning to be able to live in better environments therefore they would be healthier at work and at home. This improved their quality of life. “Only in the second half of the nineteenth century was there any general reduction in the length of the working day and/or improvement in working conditions,” (Hopkins). With the United States becoming more socialist, the business owners had less power in controlling their employees hours and pay therefore giving the middle class better opportunities to succeed in their future.
The American worker during the rise of industrialization did not have it easy. They were forced to live terrible lives due to the fact that their employer had more power over them. Their life was basically a domino effect for them. Their work life was bad with little pay therefore they could not afford a decent home. Not being able to afford a home meant they needed more people to live with them. If they couldn’t find enough people, they would have nowhere to live. Too many people living in one home, however, was bad for everyone’s health and that caused them to be unhealthy during their working hours. Fortunately for the workers, the help from the government getting involved helped change the lifestyle of the entire middle class during the Industrial Revolution and for the future.
Hirschman, Charles, and Elizabeth Mogford. “Immigration and the American Industrial Revolution From 1880 to 1920.” Social Science Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Dec. 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2760060/.
Hopkins, Eric. "Working Hours and Conditions during the Industrial Revolution: A Re-Appraisal." ["Economic History Review"]. Economic History Review, vol. 35, no. 1, Feb. 1982, pp. 52-66. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.midlandstech.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=khh&AN=10153996&site=ehost-live.
Taillon, Paul Michael. “Labour Movements, Trade Unions and Strikes (USA).” New Articles RSS, 6 Feb. 2017, encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/labour_movements_trade_unions_and_strikes_usa.