Women outworkers in industrializing America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

Walsh, Margaret
December 1991
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Winter91, Vol. 56 Issue 3, p17
Academic Journal
The article reports that the evils of the sweating system, the common name given to most outwork, were well known in the industrializing United States of the turn of the century. Progressive reformers and muckraking journalists wrote investigative tracts and inflammatory articles and government reports provided an abundance of data on long hours, pittance wages and insanitary conditions for both women and children who worked at home to provide some income for their poverty-stricken families. Legislative efforts to improve the conditions of industrial homework or even to abolish it if regulation proved unsuccessful continued piecemeal into the twentieth century, yet without making a marked impact on the problem. For contemporaries and traditional historians homework thus became part of the well-meaning but only partially successful struggle of a responsible, democratic people to improve society. But in recent years the outpourings of the new economic and social history and of women's history have offered broader perspectives on American homework.


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