In the late 1700's and early 1800's, most of the world had gradually evolved from a rural economy to an urban economy. Power-driven machines replaced hand labor in the making of most manufactured products for the first time. Factories began to open everywhere, first in England and then in the United States, then nearly the rest of the world. The owners of these factories found a new source of labour to run their machines - children. Operating the power-driven machines did not require adult strength, and children could be hired more cheaply than adults. By the mid-1800's, child labour was a major issue.
Children had always worked, especially in agriculture. However, factory work was difficult. A child with a factory job might work 12 to 18 hours a day, six days a week. The payments were extremely unreasonable, and it did not help them much. Many children began working before the age of 7, working with machines in spinning mills or carrying heavy items that could strain their backs.
The factories were often dark and dirty. Some children worked underground, in coal mines, and as a result, they had no personal hygiene. The working children had no time to play or go to school, and very little time to rest.
Yet, factory work was a "refuge" for families who faced starvation or death. Parents relied on the incomes of their children and saw factory labour as an opportunity. Factory labour consisted of repetitive manual tasks. Children worked in factories that were unsanitary, and were exposed to harsh and toxic chemicals regularly. Children working in match factories came in contact with high levels of Phosphorous, which then caused their teeth to rot. Some children died from excessive inhalation of Phosphorous fumes in match factories.
In cotton mills, children often handled dangerous...