The rich lady may not be aware that young girls in the slums are stolen everyday from their parents and sold into slavery.
This quote from Tateh answers Evelyn Nesbit's question as to why he chooses to keep Little Girl on a leash in the slums of the Lower East Side. Child labor and child slavery has sadly always been in high demand because children could be paid less, could fix the small parts of machines that adults might not be able to reach, rarely formed unions, and were less likely to strike. The problem with employing children, according to E.L. Doctorow, "had to do only with their endurance". In the later hours of the day, children tended to lose their efficiency and were more likely to injure themselves.
Two factors increased child labor in the late 1800s. One, the influx of immigrants from Ireland in the 1840s and later southern and eastern Europe after 1880 brought a new supply of children who often came from rural communities in which child labor was a necessity. Two, the Industrial Revolution expanded the demand and opportunities for immigrant children. In 1900, 18 percent of American laborers were under 16 years old. In the southern cotton industry, the number rose to 25 percent under 15 years old, with half of these children under 12 years old.
The National Child Labor Committee, formed in 1904, used mass political action, including pamphlets, mass mailing, and photography of factory conditions to lobby for political change. Despite measures of success with these actions, it largely depended on the political climate of America at the time. For example, during the Great Depression, child labor saw a steep decline primarily because workers wanted the few available jobs to go to adults, not children.
Dramaturgy for the Ragtime musical and novel.
© Eliza Pillsbury, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eliza Pillsbury with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.