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Florence Kelley and the Illinois Sweatshop Law

Document 2

       Observation among sweated people confirms the opinion that a direct consequence of their occupation is a general impairment of health in both sexes; in men the debility takes the form of consumption, either of the lungs or intestines, and of complete exhaustion and premature old age; the girls become victims of consumption, dyspepsia, and life-long pelvic disorders. These are the results of the overexertion, bad housing, undernourishment and noxious surroundings common to their calling and condition in life. But in addition to these disabilities they are constantly exposed to the inroads of typhoid and scarlet fevers, and other zymotic diseases. Cases of this kind develop in the tenements and too often have but scant medical or other attendance. At the same time and in the same apartments quantities of cloaks, clothing, or children's garments may be present in various stages of finishing . . . .

       In the busy season women and girls drive their machines at the greatest possible speed for ten hours a day, under the stimulus of plenty of work and good earnings while it lasts, but it often breaks them down and sends them to the hospital before the season is over. Even men fail rapidly under this strain.

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

2. What were some ways sweatshop work affected the health of the workers?




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