Here’s the “Great” America a certain segment of the country wants to return to.While most Americans were getting by, a top tier was busy Making all the money they could hand over fist.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Here is a little short course.
And there was Matewan. Matewan is the home to some of America’s most colorful history. The town sits at the heart of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud country and hosted the beginnings of a movement to reform fair working conditions and the right to unionize following the Mine Wars, Matewan Massacre and Battle of Blair Mountain in the early parts of the twentieth century.
How about working conditions for the average Joe?
A working man was expected to put in a lot of hours.In 1851 the union of newspaper compositors in New York City recommended to the news-paper industry of that city a work week of six 12-hour days, or 72 hours. Employees in blast furnaces were expected to work a full time week of 84 hours as late as the turn of the last century Servants worked a 6.5 day week, usually with a half day off on Sunday and 12 hours daily.
And I know for a fact:
A relation worked farming as a share cropper as late as 1941. They had never been able to save enough to buy land for themselves. In the end the old couple was saved by a young relative. He allowed them to stay with him and they could finally stop working.
Here’s what the world looked like in 1901 for the average man. But as always the top tier didn’t give much in wages or to charity.
1901 As the 20th century began, the U.S. population was 76 million. Americans were young, white, and more
male than female. Relatively few women were in the workforce, and unemployment was low. The median
age in the country was 22.9 years, 23.3 for men and 22.4 for women. The percentage of Americans
who were white was 87.9, and the ratio of men to women was 104.4 men for every 100 women. The
average size of U.S. families was 4.9 people.Labor force participation was 80.0 percent for men
and 20.6 percent for women, while the workforce consisted of 82.0 percent men and 18.0 women.
The country’s unemployment rate in 1901 was 4.0 percent. Yearly household income averaged $750.
Several earners contributed to this income: 95.9 percent of households had earnings from husbands,
8.5 percent had earnings from wives, 22.2 percent had earnings from children, 23.3 percent had earnings
from boarders or lodgers, and 14.4 percent of households had other sources of income. Annual expenditures for
the average U.S. family averaged $769. Of this amount, 42.5 percent ($327) was allocated for food, 14.0
percent ($108) for clothing, and 23.3 percent ($179) for housing. That left $155 for all other items. On
average, household spending exceeded income by 2.5 percent. There were 7.2 million owner-occupied
housing units in the country, but only 19.0 percent of U.S.families owned a home, while 81.0 percent were renters.
At the turn of the century, three quarters of the states forbade married women to have property in their own name. In these states a woman’s property became her husband’s upon marriage. In a third of the states a woman’s earnings belonged to her husband. And in all states except Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Idaho, women were not allowed to vote. Frontiers were less conservative on the woman’s suffrage issue than the older, metropolitan areas – similar to Australia being ahead of England on this issue. Women active in the suffrage movement were described as neurotic, as suffering from an urge to imitate men, as hysterical or as homosexuals. It was argued that with their big sleeves, women would be able to hide numerous ballots and vote more than once.
At the turn of the century, to appear morally decent a woman had to wear dresses that went to the ankles, even when playing tennis. A short skirt was one that exposed the shoes. Women who wished respect remained virgins until marriage, while the common age for marriage among the middleclass was around 22. Men and women of blue-collar families found it more difficult to scrape together enough money to leave their parents, and it was common for them to wait until their early thirties before marrying.
A well-known fighter for morality at the turn of the century was Anthony Comstock, who opposed all forms of contraception. Because of Comstock’s influence, it became illegal for people to discuss birth control, including a doctor with a patient. It became illegal for a library to have a book on contraception. Comstock drove the word pregnant from books, and he campaigned against the works of Margaret Sanger. Sanger was twenty-one at the turn of the century, a nurse in New York who began advocating birth control, which was available to the affluent but not to the poor, and Sanger was arrested for sending birth control literature through the mail.