As a 15-year-old girl growing up in America, I had the typical teenager's life.I went to school every day, was involved in extra curricular activities, and on the weekends worked part time at a video rental store.My mother stayed at home and took care of my brother and me when we were little, and continued to be a house mom long after we were old enough to be in high school.
It is hard to imagine what life must have been like for women and children who live just one hundred years ago in the industrial cities of the United States.Sweatshops were their place of employment and the working conditions were awful.Children started working full time at the age of fourteen and even smaller children were forced to work at home after school to help their impoverished families make extra money.These conditions made living day to day a struggle for women and children at the turn of the century.
In Hilda Satt Polacheck's I Came a Stranger, the world is given one of manyfirst hand accounts of what it was like to grow up as an immigrant child during what is now thought of as the Industrial Revolution.When Hilda turned fourteen years old, she was forced to leave school and join the workforce with her older sister.It was at this time that a young fourteen-year-old "became an adult and a worker" (Polacheck 56).Hilda, like so many other young immigrants, went from enjoying her days as a schoolgirl to working "from seven thirty in the morning till six in the evening, six days a week" (57).From these sixty hour work weeks, Hilda took home only four dollars a week.
Many children worked similar hours in a week and made the same wages as Hilda.In fact, it was estimated in this time that one out of five children at the age of fourteen dropped out of school and began working in the factories and sweatshops.There are many documented tales of the working conditions in sweatshops.The wages of worker…