Australian Left Review


Betty Reilly


For many centuries, women and children have been associated with spinning and weaving in one form or another. But it wasn't until mid-19th century capitalist development in Britain, when the old cottage-style, or domestic textile industry was replaced by mechanical devices, that they were congregated together in large factories. New steam-driven machines promoted new divisions of labour and boosted production. This enabled employers to sack most males, with the exception of maintenance staff and overseers, and replace them with the much cheaper, flexible-fingered labour power of women, aged between 16 and 20, and children, many under the age of 10, who controlled all the processes of production.



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