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Freedom: A History of US.
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Webisode 4: Wake up, America
Introduction Segment 1 Segment 2 Segment 3 Segment 4 Segment 5 Segment 6 Segment 7

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Child Worker in a Factory
Segment 4
Child laborers The Darker Side of Progress

Thanks to men like Eli Whitney and Sam Slater, the factory system had come to America. Bostonian Francis Cabot Lowell built textile mills that were even better than those in England. Factory goods cost much less than handmade goods. That meant ordinary people could afford things they had never been able to buy before. It made life better for most people. But not for everyone Check The Source - Harriet Robinson: On the "Lowell Mill Girls". Work in the factories was mind-dulling. Sometimes it was just awful Check The Source - Catherine Beecher: On the Conditions in the Cotton Mills. And dangerous too Check The Source - The Harbinger: "The Female Workers of Lowell". Herman Melville, who wrote a great American novel called Moby-Dick, visited a paper factory in 1855. Then he wrote about what he saw there: Hear It Now - Herman Melville "At rows of blank-looking counters sat rows of blank-looking girls, with blank, white folders in their blank hands, all blankly folding blank paper. Not a syllable was breathed. Nothing was heard but the low, steady, overruling hum of the iron animals. The human voice was banished from the spot. Machinery—that vaunted slave of humanity—here stood menially served by human beings as the slaves serve the Sultan. The girls did not so much seem accessory wheels to the general machinery as mere cogs to the wheels See It Now - Child Worker in a Factory."

Some factory owners built homes for their workers. Sometimes they built whole villages. It meant they could control their workers' lives. Whole families worked in the factories including children Check The Source - Harriet Hanson: "Mill Girl". Most worked ten or more hours a day. Factory owners could do almost anything they wanted, like cutting wages or lengthening the work day.


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Did You Know?
In 1820 half of the nation's industrial workers were children under ten years of age.


Did you know that Freedom is adapted from the award-winning Oxford University Press multi-volume book series, A History of US by Joy Hakim?



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