"The Cry of the Children" by Eliabeth Barrett Browning is about the working conditions of children in England around the turn of the Century between the mid 1800's up through the very early 1900s. Children as young as 4 or 5 would work in the coal mines as draft animals pulling carts filled with coal through the mine shafts. Others called trappers would sit in the dark and open and close trap doors for the coal carts. Many children were killed in the mines and in factory work during that time period as there were no OSHA laws or safety equipment.
Cottage industy had always created a situation in which children worked alongside their parents learning the skills of their paritulcar craft as they grew. The factory system brought young children into factories with 13 and 14 hour days, no time for rest and only one day off, Sunday. The children were hungry, tired, and simply exhausted after doing the work of an adult for 13 or 14 hours a day. The wages paid were not sufficient for a family to have only one parent working, so everyone in the house had to work in order to survive.
Children suffered maiming in factories by getting their hands or feet tangled up in equipment. Children suffered black lung or brown lung from being in the coal mines or in the textile factories from breathing in the dust.
This is a protest poem designed to get the attention of the public regarding the unsafe conditions for children in England.