Jump Ropes, Jacks, and Endless Chores: Children's Lives in the 1800s
by Matthew Strange
For most of the 1800s, children were considered "small, unruly adults" who needed to be strictly disciplined and put to useful work as soon as they were able. The very concept of childhood itself, as a carefree, innocent time, is a result of increasing economic stability and changing family roles in the 1800s. Before child welfare laws were enacted and compulsory education enforced, children made up an important part of the industrial and agricultural workforce in 1800s America. Toys and time for games and fun may have been a luxury, but kids will be kids, and the adults that loved them made sure their lives weren't all work and no play. The establishment of public schools, more humane working conditions, and expanding economic opportunities helped improve the life of America's children in the 1800s, but they worked hard and their pleasures were simple ones.
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