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The impact of the factory System on Women and the Family
by Friedrich Engels

Text analysis


The given primary source „The impact of the factory System on Women and the Family“, written in 1844 by Friedrich Engels in Manchester, is a text excerpt from Engels’ publication “The condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844“.

Commenting on the problems families and especially women faced during the industrial revolution in England, Engels addresses the wide-spread audience to inform about the urgent problems families of the lower-classes face and how they are ignored by the entrepreneurs.

With his extract, Engels demands a re-thinking of the entrepreneurs in order to support the workers.

In his excerpt F. Engels points out the misery for parents, especially for women. Even if the family-father works, additionally most of the working-class-women must work for a proper living-income. The children of these families are observed by a nurse all day while their parents are working, being treated very badly.

According to Engels, the burdening of working and caring for the children is one reason for increasing child-mortality. In his source, Engels describes the misery of two women who face serious medical problems because of their double-challenge. According to a registrar, many young mothers use narcotics to avoid the children being loud which causes the death of many children.

Engels sums up that there is a great misery for the families of the working class as the upbringing and exhausting working times for both of the parents cannot be combined. This result in children being not socially acceptable although being expected so. Last, he accuses the higher classes not to react on the bad circumstances the lower-classes face.

Friedrich Engels most likely describes the situation he faced in Manchester. Manchester was one important part of England’s industrialization as it can be called the „cradle of industrialization“. This is most probably the case because many industries, especially in the textile sector, started their business in Manchester, Followed by the extraction of raw materials, new workplaces urged the people to settle in the cities, like Manchester.

A Calvinistic attitude and work ethics as described by Adam Smith made industrialization possible as the people struggled to work hard in order to gain success and to become rewarded by god.

In his primary source Engels points out the misery of families of the working class. He explains the fact that a combination of upbringing of the children and the responsibility for a proper living-income is nearly impossible.

During the industrial revolution different social classes existed. In his source Engels refers to the working class (compare source title „[ .] of the working class [ .]“) which was at this moment very poor. Being mostly not well-educated hard work and a low income resulted in an extremel.....[read full text]

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But without proper care and education this was rarely possible. So, most of the descendants ended as working-class-members like their parents, too, faced the same problems and could not climb the ladder of the social stands. During the time, these bad conditions and serious problems caused the people of the working-classes to join forces.

Those alliances set up strikes and demanded political engagement to be able to change something. In the beginning they faced resistance by the government and their employers who often fired them on the spot. But when the alliances became stronger and formed parties being supported, for example, by famous communists like Marx and Christian institutions and people like Adolf Kolping or J. H.

Wichern, the burgeois noticed that something had to be changed. They improved safety, working conditions and the rights of the workers and offered them funds and pensions. In return they demanded good workers. This circle improved the market and led to our today’s social system.

Summing up, Friedrich Engels criticizes the misery of many workers-class’ families between the struggle of gaining money to make a living and taking care of their youngest family members. He points out that this connection was mostly not possible and resulted in a vicious circle even for the children but also for the parents, especially the women.

In the 19th century it was common that children were used as workers in the factories. Discussing the positive and negative sides of this labour one can imagine that there must have been serious reasons for the population using children as workers.

For the overall profit of the companies it was necessary to combine high profit without spending too much money. As children were very obedient and likely to be instructed they offered a high working quality. Furthermore, their mobility made them attractive workers.

They could for example - because of their height - crawl under machines to repair them or work with filigree substances because of their small fingers. On the other hand, their obedience made them unlikely to engage themselves in worker’s unions so in fact the factory owners could pay them a.....

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Child-labour was less necessary than proper education. Only with education children could get proper jobs experiencing better conditions. Even the government noticed that so they set up different commissions. Unfortunately these commissions were first useless as inspectors always observed good conditions because the factory owners did not present the real working conditions when they got to know about upcoming checks.

Even if a market consists of workers, those workers should be happy with their work in order to gain high quality. On the other hand proper education is also necessary for the market and the population must be educated in young age, so child labour is not necessary for a successful market.

Today, there are still countries that employ children. The reasons are basically the same as during the industrial revolution. To generate higher profit, factory owners employ children. Their parents accept this without having a choice to make a living.

The children there also face bad conditions and do not receive proper education. With educated children, the profit for these countries’ companies could increase and would make child-labour unnecessary. But still not all countries support this opinion.

Even if it is hard to judge whether child-labour is necessary or not, one can say that there are various reasons why, in the eyes of the child-employing factories and families, child labour is necessary. The owner wants to increase their profit and the families have no choice, which makes child-labour necessary for them.

From our point of view, this labour was very cruel, but also necessary for a revolution in order to change the standards as they are today. But as we already learned from the past, today child-labour is not necessary anymore. On the contrary - proper education for children - obviously avoided by child-labour - would improve the market for these countries, so child-labour today should be, besides being illegal because of the violation against basic h.....

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