In Poison, the second Diamond & Doran mystery, I deal with one of the many social issues that plagued Chicago during the Gilded Age. While many Chicagoans were enjoying the fruits of their innovation and entrepreneurship many more were suffering working conditions that would become the focus of labour unrest and reforms. One group of workers was more vulnerable than most, Newsies.
Child labour in the 19th century was common. Most poor families relied on their children to work inside and outside of their homes just to scratch enough money to pay rent and put minimal food on the table. Newsies were another group entirely.
Child labour came under intense scrutiny towards the end of the 19th century. Reformers like Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr, having visited the Settlement movement’s Toynbee Hall in London’s East end where Sinead’s friend Sally worked, came back to Chicago and began work on founding what would become Hull House, a place where the poor could receive the help they needed to improve their situation.
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