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Obliged to Get a Living

Mary Barrett (age 14)

June 15, 1841 — Testimony given to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Children’s Employment, at a coal mine near Halifax, Yorkshire, England


I have worked down in pit five years; father is working in next pit; I have 12 brothers and sisters — all of them but one live at home; they weave, and wind, and hurry, and one is a counter, one of them can read, none of the rest can, or write; they never went to day-school, but three of them go to Sunday-school; I hurry for my brother John, and come down at seven o’clock about; I go up at six, sometimes seven; I do not like working in pit, but I am obliged to get a living; I work always without stockings, or shoes, or trousers; I wear nothing but my chemise; I have to go up to the headings with the men; they are all naked there; I am got well used to that, and don’t care now much about it; I was afraid at first, and did not like it; they never behave rudely to me; I cannot read or write.



Source: Parliamentary Papers, 1842, vols. XV-XVII, Appendix I, pp. 252, 258, 439, 461; Appendix II, pp. 107, 122, 205.


Also: Readings in European History Since 1814, ed. Jonathan F. Scott and Alexander Baltzly (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc.) 1930.