As the nation’s economy was expanding, many more factories were being built. As industries grew, the demand for workers also increased. Mill owners hired mainly women and children because they could pay them half the salary they would have to pay men. Children were also hired because of their size. Since they were normally smaller, it was easy for them to go inside and fix the machines. Soon, many businesses were using children as part of their regular work force. Since children could be hired cheaply and were too young to complain, they were often employed to replace adult workers. Even though children made half of what adults workers made they were still forced to work the same hours. They’d be sent away to work for the entire day. Then they marched home, tired and exhausted. During the day, children were placed in factories, mines, or mills with hazardous and life threatening conditions. Factory owners did not care about the working conditions of their young employees. Those who worked in the textile industry breathed in dust, fibers, and dangerous chemical that filled the air and damaged their lungs.
In Zinn’s “A Socialist Challenge we read about the working conditions the children worked in. “In unaired rooms, mothers and fathers sew by day and by night. Those in the home sweatshop must work cheaper than those in the factory sweatshops. And the children are called in from play to drive and drudge beside their elders. All the year in New York and in other cities you may watch children radiating to and from such pitiful homes. Nearly any hour on the East Side of New York City you can see them-pallid boy or spindling girl-their faces dulled, their backs bent under a heavy load of garments piled on head and shoulders, the muscles of the whole frame in a long strain. In these disease-breeding holes we, the youngsters together with the men and women toiled from seventy and eighty hours a week! Saturdays and Sundays included! A sign would go up on Saturday afternoon: ‘If you don't come in on Sunday, you need not come in on Monday.’ Children's dreams of a day off shattered. We wept, for after all, we were only children.”(Zinn “A socialist Challenge”)
Children were forced to work even if they were sick or wounded. Children without their fingers and hands were still forced to continue working. Sometimes children’s tiny hands would get crushed and disfigured during work and no one would care. In some cases, children who tended machines that were disabled and no longer useful, were thrown out and left to die. If they got sick, they would still come back day after day to work and earn money for their families. Many factories worried less about their workers and conditions and cared more about competition, the products, and the money. They didn’t realize the health risks to their young workers. Some children had no hands, their thumbs missing, and their fingers off at the knuckle.
Mary Harris Jones, also known as Mother Jones, fought hard against child labor. Mother Jones called attention to the tough and terrible lives of children who worked in textile mills. “One of her many feats was the organization of a children's march to Washington to demand the end of child labor.” (Zinn “A socialist Challenge”) As large crowds gathered she showed the…