Historical Essays: The Victorian Child

This image, taken at a Robinvale Uniting Church service, is cute yet meaningful. The children are either smirking or caught mid-laughter but it’s obvious that the smiles and joy come from a love for the little girl reciting a memorised Bible verse into the microphone.

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The preschool is primarily child-centered in terms of its organization, meaning it incorporates a lot of child directed activity, and less structured, or adult directed, learning (Berk, 2008).

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As children became more visible on the stage, the question naturally arose: did such work constitute labor? Considerable controversy arose over this issue in the 1880s. Educational activists like Millicent Garrett Fawcett insisted that children under ten should be banned from full-time theatre work as they had been from factories and workshops. Theatre people and other artists, including Carroll and the poet Ernest Dowson, strongly disagreed. Acting was not a labor but an art, they maintained, and children benefited from and enjoyed doing it.

My first few visits at the nursery Child C appeared boisterous and obnoxious.

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Similarly, in creating the pathetic character of Jo the street-sweeper in Bleak House (1852-3), Dickens was inspired by the testimony of a real child laborer interviewed in an 1850 law report. Both boys admit, under questioning, that no one has ever bothered to teach them anything, not even the shortest prayer. Jo’s dramatic death scene enables Dickens to fulminate on the fate of such forlorn waifs:

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Thus, although legislation aimed at regulating and reducing child labor was passed throughout the century, there was no attempt to outlaw it completely. Loopholes in laws like the 1833 Factory Act and the 1867 Workshops Act, coupled with a lack of local enforcement, meant that many children continued to work. As late as 1891, over 100,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were still employed as domestic servants in England and Wales. That same year, the British government dragged its feet at raising the minimum age for part-time factory work from 10 to 11, even though they had promised to extend it to 12 at an 1890 European congress on child labor.

For my observation, I noticed many things that were associated with class discussions in the child.

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Education reform also proceeded at a slow pace. In the early 1860s, the Royal Commission on Popular Education declared that compulsory schooling for all children was “neither obtainable nor desirable.” If the child’s wages are crucial to the family economy, they wrote, “it is far better that it should go to work at the earliest age at which it can bear the physical exertion than that it should remain at school” (Horn, Town Child 74). Another powerful impediment to the creation of a public school system was religious; dissent between the Church of England and nonconformists over the content and amount of religious instruction stalled legislative efforts until 1870, when the Elementary Education Act finally created a national network of primary schools. A similarly provision for secondary education was not passed until 1902. Middle- and upper-class families could employ tutors, or send their children to private schools, but these were unregulated and varied widely in quality. Girls were worse off than boys, since many people believed that domestic skills and basic literacy were all they needed to learn.

I’ve concluded that there are 4 types of children, I have been blessed with one of each....

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It is important because it focus on the problems that arise when a child‘s situation is not taken seriously and consequently have harsh consequences for both worker and child (Climbié Report, 2002)....

Is children physically, emotionally, and socially ready to precede into kindergarten....

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The novels of Charles Dickens, the most popular author of the Victorian era, also reveal an intense concern about the vulnerability of children. When Dickens was twelve, his father was imprisoned for debt and he was sent to work in a blacking factory, an incident that haunted him his whole life. His novels are full of neglected, exploited, or abused children: the orphaned Oliver Twist, the crippled Tiny Tim, the stunted Smike, and doomed tykes like Paul Dombey and Little Nell. Like Barrett Browning, Dickens was galvanized by revelations of real-life horrors facing the poor. Oliver Twist (1837) was written in response to the draconian New Poor Law of 1834, which had been inspired by the theories of utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham. This law relegated the needy to prison-like institutions called workhouses, splitting up families and subjecting them to repugnant living conditions and hard labor.