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The Shadow Of The Mills

The Shadow Of The Mills: Working-Class Families in Pittsburgh, 1870–1907

S. J. Kleinberg
Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 440
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  • Book Info
    The Shadow Of The Mills
    Book Description:

    The profound disruption of family relationships caused by industrialization found its most dramatic expression in the steel mills of Pittsburgh in the 1880s. The work day was twelve hours, and the work week was seven days - with every other Sunday for rest.

    In this major work, S. J. Kleinberg focuses on the private side of industrialization, on how the mills structured the everyday existence of the women, men, and children who lived in their shadows. What did industrialization and urbanization really mean to the people who lived through the these processes? What solutions did they find to the problems of low wages, poor housing, inadequate sanitation, and high mortality rates?

    Through imaginative use of census data, the records of municipal, charitable, and fraternal organizations, and the voices of workers themselves in local newspapers, Kleinberg builds a detailed picture of the working-class life cycle: marital relationships, the interaction between parents and children, the education and employment prospects of the young, and the lives if the elderly.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7147-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  2. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-2)

    Writing in 1909, the director of the Pittsburgh Survey described Pittsburgh as “not primarily a woman’s town.”¹ Yet without the labor of women, Pittsburgh could not have existed as the leading iron and steel producer in the United States. To be sure, female employment levels were lower in the Steel City than in all other U.S. cities, other centers of heavy industry excepted.² No women poured molten metal, but they were as necessary to industry as if they guided the flashing iron bars through the great rolls. Women’s place in Pittsburgh’s main industries was completely peripheral but absolutely vital. Peripheral...

  3. 1 Iron and Steel in Pittsburgh’s Economy
    (pp. 3-40)

    Visitors to nineteenth-century Pittsburgh agreed that it looked like “hell with the lid off,” its skies colored by the fire and dust spewing forth from the teeming iron and steel mills.¹ The mills dominated the city and the lives of its inhabitants, reaching into the very households of the working class to structure their daily lives, relations within families, and the life cycles of both males and females. The organization of work and power in the iron and steel industries affected almost every aspect of working-class family life: relations between husbands and wives, the role of women in the family,...

  4. 2 Population Growth and Mobility
    (pp. 41-64)

    The end of the nineteenth century witnessed a reorganization of inhabitants and industry in Pittsburgh similar to that experienced by other rapidly growing urban centers. Its population tripled between 1850 and 1880 and then doubled by 1900, making Pittsburgh the eleventh largest city in the nation. Rapid economic growth inspired by the burgeoning steel industry caused the city and its industries to spill over the original settlement, a narrow wedge of land known as the Point, at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers. The enormous size of the new steel mills led manufacturers to look east along the...

  5. 3 Home and Neighborhood
    (pp. 65-99)

    The nature of Pittsburgh’s industries, rapid population growth, the suburbanization of the middle class and the high residential turnover of the working class, when overlaid by certain political decisions regarding the provision of municipal services, resulted in cramped housing in unsanitary neighborhoods for the majority of the city’s laboring population. Differentiation and segregation of the classes highlighted the inadequate nature of much of the housing near the mills and the unhealthy conditions in these districts. Although Pittsburgh’s laboring families experienced less overcrowding than those in Manhattan and other very large cities, the divergence in population density, housing soundness, safety, and...

  6. 4 Childhood and Education
    (pp. 100-140)

    All classes march through the various stages of the life cycle, but those at the bottom moved most precipitately toward adulthood, impelled by economic imperatives to earn their keep at an early age.¹ Reformers, feeling that children’s activities were too important to be determined solely by their parents, reacted against working-class child-rearing patterns through the imposition of laws regulating parent-child interaction and the institution of compulsory education for children. External forces, whether poverty or the truant officer, did not operate in a vacuum. Parents and children in this era determined the extent to which children would be educated and when,...

  7. 5 Women’s Work
    (pp. 141-173)

    The extent to which industrialization altered the family economy and women’s place within it can be seen by examining the work women did, whether waged or within the home, and the use of children as wage earners. This analysis of women and the family economy is in three parts: women’s employment, the entrance of children into the labor market, and women’s domestic work. This chapter discusses the family economy as industrialization shifted the locus of work. It places Pittsburgh’s employment patterns in national perspective, comparing the Steel City with other large urban areas, and exploring the variation in female employment...

  8. 6 Children’s Work
    (pp. 174-196)

    Pittsburgh’s working class used the labor of their children to advance the family’s well-being. The average industrial family required work contributions from more than one member if it was to do more than barely survive in the uncertain economic climate of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.¹ Unskilled laborers rarely earned enough to support and house their families unaided, which led some segments of the working class at this time to agitate for a family wage, which would enable men to be the sole support of their wives and young children.² The Pennsylvania Bureau of Industrial Statistics found that...

  9. 7 Marriage and Family
    (pp. 197-230)

    The Industrial Revolution had profound consequences for familial relations and sex roles, separating home and workplace, family life and sustaining labor.¹ Nowhere was this more apparent than in Pittsburgh, where industrial patterns channeled women’s and men’s lives into totally different spheres. The Pittsburgh pattern was an extreme variation of the basic pattern of family relationships repeated in other heavy industry and mining centers, where married women were excluded from the labor force and men spent long hours away from their families in order to earn the cash income that made life possible in the industrial setting.² In other cities, “the...

  10. 8 The Final Stages of the Life Cycle: Aging, Widowhood, and Death
    (pp. 231-267)

    Most women devoted their adult lives to caring for their families, raising their children, and making their homes as comfortable as possible within the constraints of the urban, industrial environment. Men’s role was to earn the money needed to support their families, assisted by older sons and, increasingly, daughters. As the entire family aged, if the husband died, the children left home, or an elderly parent moved into a grown child’s household, these roles could alter radically. Indeed, any change in the composition of the family forced the remaining members to accommodate their behavior to the new reality. Widowed women...

  11. 9 The Response to Urban Industrial Life: Mutual Assistance and Social Services
    (pp. 268-302)

    Personal and familial resources could be insufficient bulwarks against the onslaughts of the urban industrial economy upon working-class women and their families. As long as the family economy remained intact, if the wife took in boarders or the older children worked, even unskilled families could make ends meet. They had little margin of safety in case of emergencies, however, unlike skilled workers’ families, whose incomes were usually large enough to enable them to set money aside for a rainy day. The death of the breadwinner, an industrial accident, or failing strength could all result in impoverishment. Although the working class...

  12. 10 Conclusion
    (pp. 303-316)

    The major changes that occurred in Pittsburgh between 1870 and 1907 resulted in a more stratified, segregated society. Without positing some mythical golden age in the past, it is still possible to see how industrialization, urbanization, and bureaucratization had negative consequences for Pittsburgh’s working class that were not shared by the middle class. Irregular employment, a deteriorating urban environment, increased bureaucratic intervention in family matters, and rising infant mortality and industrial accident rates were ill winds blowing through the daily life of the working class, chilling and challenging their families, but leaving those of the middle class relatively unscathed. Survival...