Our feminist issue was that of sweatshops in the 1890s. A sweatshop is a working environment that poses 3 major characteristics: long hours, low pay and unsafe or unhealthy working conditions. Many may also have policies that strip workers of their freedom, bathroom breaks and even conversations with fellow workers. We decided to work on this topic because it is one that is not often highlighted. Previously, discourse about women in labor has been brought up however, the poor working conditions that the women faced are often left out. We wanted to bring attention to these conditions and the hardships that many women endured just to make a living.
With regards to the search for information on our topic, we found this step to be difficult when it came down to finding information on this issue in the United States. Sweatshops are not seen as a problem in the U.S. and, although sweatshops can be a main source of income in some countries around the world, it has not been a pressing issue in the U.S.. Because of the time period that we chose to focus on, it was also difficult to find enough information and pictures from that era.
For this topic, what we found to be most important was the significance that the sweatshops held in the 1890s as well as the criticism that the sweatshops received. Sweatshops often served as a critical source of income for many poor women and their families, and an opportunity for women to get involved in the labor force. Despite this, sweatshops were denounced because of the poor working conditions involved. The women that were working in these sweatshops worked long hours from sunrise to sundown, seven days a week, all year round with low wages. Mothers spent more of their time at the factory than at home with their family.
We believe that this issue is important and worth researching because the mistreatment of women in these sweatshops and their poor working conditions incited a stream of activism. The treatment of employees and the conditions of the sweatshop ultimately led to boycotts of the employees, which created bad publicity for many companies and forced the owners to move their business/factories out of the United States. Additionally, men helped to resolve some of the issues with sweatshops once they witnessed the conditions of sweatshops for themselves. As a result of the boycotts, bad publicity, and male intervention, work hours were shortened to eight hour days with allotted days off.