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Victorian Working Conditions

Take a tour inside a Victorian factory, or down into the pit of a coal-mine! Victorian working conditions could be grim, though many articles report on factories that seemed to treat their employees fairly decently. Other articles looked at the life of workers (and working girls in particular) as a whole.


WORKING GIRLS: LIFE OUTSIDE THE FACTORY

The Girls' Own Home, by the Countess of Aberdeen (GOP 1883)
"If [a working girl] has no home to go to, will she not be likely to seek for change from the dreary round of work by reading the trashy literature that abounds, by resorting to dancing-rooms and theatres, where she had better never be seen, where she is in danger of losing all that is pure and true and high-minded, where she may form companionships which will prove fatal to her?" Seven "girls' homes" already existed at this point, and the Countess was encouraging the Girl's Own Paper to found another.
The Girls' Friendly Society (GOP 1883)
Originally organized to assist country girls employed in London.
Good Cheer for Women Workers (GOP 1899)
"A short sketch of 'Kent House,' the YWCA House for Students and Others... London"
Healthy Lives for Working Girls (GOP 1887)
Hyde House, by Anne Beale (GOP 1884)
A home for working girls.
How Working Girls Live in London, by Nanette Mason (GOP 1889)
"To them the first city in the world is a place of hard work, little pay, and still less enjoyment. Victims of pitiless and incessant competition, they are struggling through life with small pleasure in the past and with but little hope for the future." This fascinating article looks at girls' wages, statistics, lodgings, opportunities for savings and more.
Music Among the Working Girls of London, by A.M. Wakefield (GOP 1890)
Regarding the "Working Girls Club Union" and its musical programs.
Social Incidents in the Life of an East End Girl (GOP 1899)
This look at the life and living conditions of an "East End" girl runs for several installments, but apparently was never concluded.
The Story of a London Factory Girls' Club, by Mary Canney (GOP 1895)
The Working Girls of London (GOP 1880)
An appeal to help establish homes for the working girls of London.
What Working Girls Say About Sunday, by Ruth Lamb (GOP 1893)

DOMESTIC SERVICE

My Daily Round (GOP 1896)
The five top-winning essays in a competition for working girls, including entries from girls in domestic service, dressmaking, factory work, and farming.
Lady Laundresses, by Josepha Crane (GOP 1892)
My Laundry, by a Laundress (GOP 1902)
How a professional laundry business is managed.

See also the section on Servants.

DRESSMAKING & MILLINERY

A Contrast (GOP 1880)
A parable on the working conditions of dressmakers.
The Emancipation of Seamstresses, by Anne Beale (GOP 1891)
Dressmaking as a Trade in Life (GOP 1892)
Dressmakers and Milliners at Work and at Leisure (GOP 1896)
My Daily Round (GOP 1896)
The five top-winning essays in a competition for working girls, including entries from girls in domestic service, dressmaking, factory work, and farming.

FOOD SERVICES

Barmaids and Waitresses in Restaurants, Their Work and Temptations (GOP 1896)
"...of all occupations undertaken by girls for a living, there is none more difficult and dangerous than that of serving at the "bar," and waiting in restaurants, nor any that calls out less the sympathy of outsiders... One girl said with tears in her eyes, 'The modest, well-behaved ones among us suffer the most; their lives are one long torture.'"
"Called to the Bar," by Anne Beale (GOP 1896)
A look at the working conditions of the "thousands" of young woman who work in London's restaurants and railway bars.

MILL & FACTORY

The Cinderellas of the National Household: Jute Girls in the East End, by Lloyd Lester (GOP 1896)
Details of work in the jute factories.
The Cinderellas of the National Household: The Match-Makers of East London, by Lloyd Lester (GOP 1896)
The match-making industry employed over 1000 women and girls, as well as out-sourcing "match box-making" to women working from home!
Factory Girls at Work and Play, by Lloyd Lester (GOP 1895)
"These papers...are written with the object of interesting and guiding our sweet girls into the exercise of...tender comprehending sympathy with and for their toiling sisters, the best part of whose youth is spent in dull factories helping to manufacture the thousand and one pretty trifles or useful indispensibles which girls, in more favoured circumstances, only associate with amusement or pleasure."
Girls Who Work With Their Hands (GOP 1896)
Subtitled "Insight into the Life and Work of Factory Girls Given by Themselves," these are the results of an essay competition.
Girls' Work and Workshops, by Ruth Lamb (GOP 1882)
"In what number of handicraft trades are girls employed, and almost every fresh invention finds them more work to do." This multi-part article looks at girls working in cotton mills, lace factories, and silk mills; as sewing machinists and needleworkers; as makers of braid and trim; and as blacksmiths!
My Daily Round (GOP 1896)
The five top-winning essays in a competition for working girls, including entries from girls in domestic service, dressmaking, factory work, and farming.
A Specimen Factory Girl, by Frances Hicks (GOP 1895)
This girl's life in the factory begins at age 10...

OTHER

My Daily Round (GOP 1896)
The five top-winning essays in a competition for working girls, including entries from girls in domestic service, dressmaking, factory work, and farming.
The Standing Evil: A Plea for Shop Girls (GOP 1880)
An intriguing article suggesting a form of "standing seat" to ease the strain upon shop girls.
A Word to the Wise, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1882)
On the proper etiquette of, and toward, shopkeepers, shop-girls, and customers.
Copyright © 2017 by
Moira Allen.
All rights reserved.

Magazine Abbreviations:
CFM = Cassell's Family Magazine GOP = Girl's Own Paper ILA = Illustrated London Almanack S = The Strand
AM = Atlantic Monthly C = Century Magazine D = Demorest's Monthly Magazine G = Godey's Lady's Book H = Harper's Monthly
Find out more about the magazines used on this site!
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