Describe the impact of industrialization on working class family life and how did industrialization affect the relationship between men and women? How does this transformation parallel the...

Describe the impact of industrialization on working class family life and how did industrialization affect the relationship between men and women? How does this transformation parallel the development of the agriculture revolution and its role in the development of the industrial revolution?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Working class family life was significantly changed as a result of industrialization. Families were driven by the need to generate money. This transformed the structure of the family.  Men were the primary earners of wages and worked long hours.  This specialization of labor created an alienated family where family members went long stretches without seeing one another. Women remained at home while men went to the factories to work.  

As it became evident that working class families could not make appropriate economic realities meet with one wage earner, women and even children ended up working equally long hours.  The result was a broken family unit in which work dominated most, if not all, aspects of being.  Testimonials of mothers like Jane Goode speaks to a condition that most experienced:

I have had five children that have all worked at the factory. I have only one that works there now. She is sixteen. She works in the card-room. She minds the drawing-head. She gets 5 shillings 9 pence. She pays it all to me. She has worked there nine years. She has been at the drawing-head all the while.

Working class family life was significantly impacted in industrialization.  As economic reality drove all, the family unit became fragmented and broken up as a result of advancing industrialization.  Low wages drove families to embrace a reality in which wages dominated all aspects of consciousness.  The pre- industrialization emphasis on the family shifted to a condition in which economic advancement supplanted emotional ties and nurturing.  

This shift can also be seen in the emergence of the agricultural revolution.  One of the most significant shifts in agricultural that was facilitated by the Industrial Revolution while also feeding it was the emergence of the capitalist farmer. As a result of advances in transportation and infrastructure, the farmer was no longer dependent on their own local market.  Crops could be transported and sold at higher profits in other markets.  The expansion of profit centers initiated the process of both farmer wealth, but also a distancing of the family. Farmers felt the need to leave their families for extended period of time in order to generate profit.  In a similar move of devaluing the family within industrialization, the agricultural revolution helped to move capital profit in place of familial centralization.  

In writing about the world in which he saw in industrial Manchester, Friedrick Engels made observations about the reality of human life as a result of shifts in consciousness.  The world that Engels saw was a result of the agricultural and industrial revolution that reconfigured the individual's world and their place in it:

The whole assemblage of buildings is commonly called Manchester, and contains about four hundred thousand inhabitants, rather more than less. The town itself is peculiarly built, so that a person may live in it for years, and go in and out daily without coming into contact with a working-people's quarter or even with workers, that is, so long as he confines himself to his business or to pleasure walks. 

Engels caught the change in reality that underscored both industrialization and agriculture.  Both sought to lessen the connections between human beings and increase the tethering toward profit. The result of this world was one in which people no longer came into contact with one another. It is in this pivot where the transformations in both domains paralleled one another.

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