1864 - Evidence on the employment of children


348. On the day of my visit many of the hands were away, but if all the benches were filled the space would be but small. On Saturday afternoons instruction is provided for the children by the firm, with very good results.

349. Mr. John Player.—The greater part of the children are employed as putters in of linen buttons, and the bigger girls at presswork.
I do not see that there would be any obstacle to employing two sets of children. We do not think that the women, much less the younger females and children, can work properly more than 10 hours a day, and we should not mind such a limit as that being fixed for all, and think that it should be as to the young. I notice that when we have worked till 9 numbers got locked out the next morning, so we rarely work after 8 now, as it loses as much as it gains.
For the last three or four years we have had a half day on Saturday, and found it very beneficial, and should be very sorry to give it up. I see no disadvantage in it. I doubt, however, if the custom is growing in the town; if anything, I think that it is going back.
I think that our children, as a body, are better educated than the elder workers, and attribute this to a school on Saturday afternoon, kept by one of our women, which we have had for the last four or five years. We do not enforce their attendance, but we tell them to go, and they do regularly, and profit much by it, and also appear grateful for it. We give them prizes.

350. Elizabeth Smart, press woman.—I teach the girls on Saturday afternoon from 1½ to 4½. About 30 come, and out of these the average attendance is about 25. I should say that out of the whole number only five or six are unable to read an easy child’s book at all, and that nearly half could read it without difficulty. They also say tables and sing them, and half a dozen or more copy out pieces in writing from books. They seem to enjoy the singing, and go on fresher with other things afterwards. They are also fond of asking to have interesting stories read out. Some learn things, and repeat when they come on Saturday. I have had this class about five years now. Many, including some of the big ones, used to come unable to tell their letters, and can read very nicely now. Some go to Sunday school, and are in my class there. I have been thanked by children after they have left, when they have met me in the street, and said how thankful they were for having learned their letters here, and told me how nicely they have got on.

351. Sarah Ann Greely, age 9.—Here two or three years; at another button place two years before [“perhaps one year,” a woman with whom she works, says]. Worked there from 8½ to 7, here from 8¼ to 7. Can read. [Reads words of two syllables.] Learned at the school.

352. Elizabeth Porter, age 6.—Put in. Here three months, and was at another button place before, where I worked from 8 to 7. Bring my dinner here. The woman pays me 1s. 1d. a week; a sister here going 11, and another going 12, get 1s. 7d. each.

353. Mary Ann Broderick, age 13.—I japan. Was not 8 when I first went to buttons. Don’t very often go to the school; mother knows when I do not.

354. Thomas Smith, age 11.—Cob. Was never at a day-school. Know the letters.

355. Caroline Perks, age 13.—Japanner. Went to put in when 8.
Can read [one or two words]. Was never at a day school; go on Sunday and at nights. Was never in a chapel or church; have heard a preacher at the school.


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