I've been reading through Hamilton's Report on Manufactures recently, and he suggests that women and children work in factories to help ease the labor competition between the North and South. However, this was highly controversial and people hated it. However, it was normal in Great Britain and it wasn't quite as contested. Why was Hamilton's idea so controversial and not Great Britain's?

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    Please present evidence that someone thought this idea was controversial. – MCW Mar 19 '17 at 16:35
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    VtC, question is incomplete per Marc C Wallaces comment. – KorvinStarmast Apr 28 '17 at 12:31

I don't see how "people hated" the idea of women and children working in the manufactures. The criticism came mainly from Jefferson and Madison. And they of course these proponents of a weak federal government mainly opposed the idea of more subsidies. But it's true that the idea of giving these subsidies to places where women and children work along men, was especially preposterous.

Jefferson privately strongly preferred a society where women had different employments from men. You could say "segregated" in some sense. It was just his opinion though, and he didn't try to force on others by making it a law. A striking example of his views is his rant against men in Europe working as "shoemakers, tailors, upholsterers, staymakers, mantua makers, cooks, doorkeepers, [...]". Yes, he really considered it "a great derangment in the order of things". Source: Thomas Jefferson and American Nationhood p. 74

I imagine many people white men holding the same views at the time, especially in the agriculture. Agriculture traditionally has a strong separation of gender roles; the idea of man making a direct monetary profit of a woman's work seemed surely weird; the idea of woman actually keeping her wage for herself even weirder.


The fear was that women and children working alongside men in the factories would "corrupt" them, by leading to "dating" before marriage, etc.

Here is an example of contemporary thought.

"The factory] operatives are well dressed, and we are told, well paid... This is the fair side of the picture . . . There is a dark side, moral as well as physical. Of the common operatives, few, if any, by their wages, acquire a competence . . . the great mass wear out their health, spirits, and morals, without becoming one whit better off than when they commenced labor...

What becomes of them then? Few of them ever marry; fewer still ever return to their native places with reputations unimpaired. “She has worked in a Factory,” is almost enough to damn to infamy the most worthy and virtuous girl. (emphasis added).

Orestes Brownson, The Laboring Classes: An Article from the Boston Quarterly Review, Boston: Benjamin H. Greene, 1840.

America is was a Puritanical society that was more concerned with such issues than England or European countries.

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