Societal Effects Of The Americ Essay Research

Societal Effects Of The Americ Essay, Research Paper

The American Industrial Revolution had many profound and

indelible effects on American society. The enormous

expansion of American business and industry promoted a

drastic change in the basic division of labor. The basic

need of industry is labor, so a great demand for a workforce

was created. Growing industrialization caused a huge influx

of laborers into cities. As more factories sprang up, labor

was expanded to utilize women and children. With expanding

business and more workers, workers began to adamantly demand

higher wages or more favorable hours; unionization came into

full force. The American Industrial Revolution caused major

growth of urban populations, precipitated a change the

division of labor, and began movements for workers rights

that led to unionization.

The migration of laborers from rural farm life to urban

factory life was a major result of America s

industrialization. A fact of economic life is that workers

in an industrial setting are able to command higher wages

than farm workers. Labor in an industrial setting is simply

more efficient than the productivity of farm workers.

Because economic systems compensate laborers in accordance

with their output rather than how hard or how long they

work, industrial labor becomes the obvious choice for a

worker. As Chamberlain states in The Enterprising

Americans, The productivity for a worker in a factory could

be as much as ten times that of their farming counterparts

(97). Simply stated, the simple gain in productivity meant

a wage increase ten times that of farm work, only by

switching to industrial labor. For the great majority of

workers, this was too much to resist, causing an exodus of

laborers from rural to urban areas and skyrocketing the

urban population.

As factories spread, there was a high demand for

workers. However, during the early stages of

industrialization, labor was difficult to obtain. In urban

areas, most suitable laborers were skilled artisans that

were unlikely to switch over to the unskilled work of a

factory laborer. The answer came with the influx of rural

unskilled workers to the cities. In addition to the

economic benefits, rural families were flocking to the

cities because new farming technology was lessening the

amount of labor necessary to produce the crops. The

factories had a huge new segment of the population from

which to draw unskilled workers. In many cases, especially

in those of textile mills, all sources of labor were tapped.

Many factories recruited entire families to work, while some

mills utilized female labor almost exclusively. This Lowell

system relied on women laborers as a workforce. The

practice of using women labor was so profitable because it

was acceptable to pay women much less than male laborers.

To further lower the costs of labor, industry often used

child labor. Children worked for even less than women, and

therefore, were widely used. Some states discouraged the

practice, but the laws were not strictly enforced, plus

there were they were easily sidestepped. New Hampshire

passed a law stating that no minor under fifteen years of

age shall work for more than ten hours per day without the

consent of a parent or guardian. The clause providing

parental consent was a simple loophole, since the families

of many children laborers were working in the same factory

themselves. Horace Greeley stated his disapproval of the

New Hampshire legislature when he asked, Will any one

pretend that ten hours per day, especially at confining and

monotonous avocations which tax at once the brain and the

sinews are not quite enough for any child to labor statedly

and steadily? He believed that the States must avert the

trend of parents giving consent for child labor by

specifically limiting and enforcing the hours of child labor

(Orth 53). Child labor laws became a major issue for the

workforce and many politicians alike. Industrialization

created a new division of labor that utilized women and

children at very low wages.

There were many factors that contributed to discontent

among the workforce of the American Industrial Revolution.

Multitudes of primarily rural workers had to come to grips

with the fact that their new, urban lifestyle was totally

different than their old, rural one. With the speedy growth

of the urban population, typical urban problems arose.

Families were clustered tightly together, and with the

soaring population density came increases in crime,

increases in disease, and high levels of stress on the

family. Workers wanted to improve their situation, and

naturally they sought help from their employers. Most

frequently, laborers demanded a work day with fewer hours.

In 1833, in the first successful strike in American history,

the Trades Union of the City and County of Philadelphia

successfully demanded a ten hour day. Politicians jumped at

the chance to garner support from the working class, and in

1847, New Hampshire passed the first law mandating the ten

hour work day; Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, and Rhode

Island soon adopted the same ten-hour system (Orth 54).

Women also played key roles in union actions. In 1836, the

women workers of the Lowell factories struck for higher

wages. The Lowell women persisted in their crusades, and

eventually the Lowell Female Industrial Reform and Mutual

Aid Society formulated. They were influential on a wide

scale, and they played the key role in convincing

Massachusetts to favorably adapt their labor laws. The

trend toward a shorter work day continued with demands for

an eight hour day. Ira Steward developed a pamphlet called

A Reduction of Hours and Increase of Wages that influenced

many states to implement an eight hour day. Various labor

societies formed during the period following the Civil War,

but the major step was taken when the National Labor Union

was formed in 1866. A major step at a fully national union,

the NLA had a membership of nearly 700,000 at its peak (Orth

230). The National Labor Union lasted only a short while,

but it did much to promote the eight hour work day, and it

instituted labor bureaus to monitor trends in labor.

The American Industrial Revolution greatly affected

patterns of society. It caused a massive migration of

workers from the countryside to the city. In an effort to

gain unskilled labor, factories created a new division of

labor by implementing the practice of using woman and child

workers. New social institutions arose as the result of the

industrialization process and its chaotic urban lifestyle.

Unions came to be so that workers could fight for their

rights and achieve their demands for higher wages and a

shorter work day. Overall, the American Industrial

Revolution was the causing factor of many social changes,

many of which have survived to the present.


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