By Robert McIntosh
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Additional resources for Boys in the Pits: Child Labour in Coal Mines
The young child was seen as sexually innocent. To prolong this desired state, the experts advised restraint: late hours, sensational novels and illustrations, even the ballroom, were all considered to hasten the problematic puberty. 89 Cruelty to children was a particular focus of concern, and one area where men were as prominent as women. Often growing out of initial efforts to protect animals, anti-cruelty societies shifted the focus of their concern in light of evidence of widespread neglect and abuse of children.
15 The articulation of appropriate responses produced the reconstructed childhood. Children were segregated so that they could be protected from the coarse and vicious examples found in adult society. The preferred environment for the child was to be the nurturing family. But for delinquent children, or for those who had lost their natural family, special institutions were created by the middle of the nineteenth century, and before its close, systems of juvenile justice and child welfare had emerged.
In the family’s struggle for subsistence, all available help was necessarily enlisted. Children worked to the extent they were able. 13 The forms and intensity of child labour, if not its extent, altered in significant ways as Canada urbanized and industrialized. While most children in Victorian Canada continued to work within the household, generally on the farm, new sites of child labour reflecting a more urban era emerged. To contemporaries, labouring children were most visible on the streets.