Children in Victorian England led lives reflective of their parents’ social stature. The minority of children, those of affluent families, led a frivolous lifestyle that included luxuries such as warmth, clothing, and education. Boys were afforded a classical education while girls were brought up to be mothers.
The majority of children, poor children, led lives of toil and strife that often ended abruptly due to harsh labor conditions. Due in large part to industry, children were more than farmhands and grunt labor around the home; they were unskilled labor in factories, coalmines, and textile mills. They worked like adults. Often 8-12 hours a day, six days a week for mere pennies. Because children were small and clever, they could fit into narrow spaces, an attractive attribute to employers.
The growth of towns during industrialization coupled with the lack of birth control produced an abundance of children living and working in unsanitary conditions. Cholera was rampant. Sickly children dominated the child population. Although child labor was not a new concept, the visibility of urban industrialization heightened the visibility of overworked, undernourished youngsters.