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Florence Kelley and the Illinois Sweatshop Law

Document 1

       A few examples may be cited illustrating what some of these places are like: In one case several men were found at work pressing knee-pants in a low basement room poorly lighted and ventilated by two small windows. There was no floor in this room, and the people were living on the bare earth, which was damp and littered with every sort of rubbish. In another case seven persons were at work in a room 12 by 15 feet in dimensions and with but two windows. These people with the sewing machines of operators and the tables used by the pressers, so filled this meager space that it was impossible to move about. Charcoal was used for heating the pressers' irons, and the air was offensive and prostrating to a degree.

       Fire escapes in such buildings are unknown; water for flushing closets is rarely found, and the employees are equally at the mercy of fire and disease. Frequently the sweater's home is his shop, with a bed among the machines; or, the family sleeps on cots, which are removed during the day to make room for employees. Sometimes two or three employees are also boarders or lodgers, and the tenement dwelling is the shop; and cooking, sleeping, sewing and the nursing of the sick are going on simultaneously.

Report by Florence Kelley, "The Sweating System of Chicago," 1892

1. Describe the conditions of the sweatshops.




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