Tuesday, February 10, 2009

History 112: Factory Regulations (Part II)

Part I

Apprenticeship Contract for Young Women Employed in the Silk Mills of Tarare, France, 1850s

Art. 1. To be admitted, young women must be between the ages of thirteen and fifteen, of good character and in good health, intelligent and industrious, and must have been vaccinated. They must present their birth certificate, a certificate of vaccination, and a trousseau.
We are dealing with girls from the country. How many of them have been vaccinated or have birth certificates? In order to get these things these girls are going to have to spend money, which likely means borrowing money. So many of these girls are already going to be starting off in debt. It is a lot easier to take advantage of people who are in debt and are, therefore, not in a position to leave.

Art. 4. The pupil promises to be obedient and submissive to the mistresses charged with her conduct and instruction, as well as to conform to the rules of establishment.
What does it mean to be obedient and submissive? Not to complain about conditions, report abuses or anything to upset the management.

Art. 6. If the sick pupil remains in the establishment, every care necessitated by her condition will be given to her.
Medical care for those who get sick? Not exactly. The management only has to take care of those sick girls that they decide to keep in the establishment. They can just kick out every girl who gets sick and save themselves the trouble.

Art. 8. The director along has the right to authorize or refuse leaves. Hey will be granted only on the request of the father or guardian of the pupil.
Most of these girls are not from the immediate area and their fathers are not on hand to ask for leave. A girl would have to get letter or telegram sent to their father who would then have to send a message back. So for all intents and purposes no requests to leave can be made.

Art. 10. The effective work time is twelve hours. Summer and winter, the day begins at 5 o’clock and ends at 7:15. Breakfast is from 7:30 to 8:15; lunch is from 12:00 to 1:00; snack is from 5:30; supper is at 7:15. After the second year, pupils will receive lessons in reading, writing, and arithmetic. They will be taught to sew and do a little cooking.
So these girls are to be given an education to help them move up in the world. The funny thing is that with all the emphasis on the specific times for everything there is no time given for education. So, for all intents and purposes, we can assume that these girls are not being given a meaningful education. It is not in the management’s interest to do so. People who do not have an educated have fewer options and can be forced to work for less.

Art. 12. Wages are not due until the end of the year. …
Art. 13. Any apprentice who leaves the establishment before the end of her term, or who has been dismissed for bad conduct, conspiracy, rebellion, laziness, or a serious breach of the rules loses her rights to wages for the current year; beyond this, in such a case, the father or guardian of the pupil agrees to pay the director of the establishment the sum of one hundred francs to indemnify him for the non-fulfillment of the present agreement. …
The management can decide to fire a girl in December for bad conduct, conspiracy, rebellion or laziness, which of course can mean anything that upsets the management, and the girl would lose a full year’s pay. Not only that but her father would have to pay the management.

Art. 16. On her arrival, the apprentice will submit to inspection by the house doctor. Any girl who has a skin disease or who found to be sickly will not be accepted and will be sent away immediately at her own expense.
The management can just send girls home whom they decide they do not want and do not have to pay anything. Where would these girls get the money for a return trip? Many of them would have likely needed to borrow money just to make the trip. So will they will have to borrow more money and go further into debt.

(From Documents in European Economic History, vol. 1, the Process of Industrialization, 1750-1870 and Victorian Women: a Documentary Account of Women's Lives in Nineteenth-Century England, France and the United States)

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