The Industrial Age brought great innovations as well as suffering to working women caused by their employers
IIt’s been a long time and these girls seem to have faded from our memories, one thing is certain, the matchmaking girls of 1888 launched one of the greatest industrial strikes this world will ever see. They were girls whose age started from the age of 15 and each of them worked 14 hours a day perceiving the deadly poisonous phosphorous gas.
If you’re familiar with science, you know that the tip of a match must be made of white phosphorus to strike anywhere. The vapor released by this compound is highly poisonous and deadly as a large percentage of these girls have started showing bizarre symptoms of a disease called Phossy’s Jaw.
The major significance of this disease is that the jaw bone begins to rot, releasing a terrible smell and a disfigured face with unbearable pain.
Hospitals in the area recorded a large number of sick people from the match industry, there was no sure treatment other than to remove the jawbone before the effect spread to the brain and caused more damage. Even with this method, doctors predicted that the long-term effect of these vapors was enough to shorten the lives of these girls.
It was necessary to establish a safe working environment, a method of getting rid of that life-destroying vapor, but that was in the industrial age where rich men still regard the poor as material and government is still far from getting their hands on them.
The majority of these girls lived in poverty, some of them with dependent families, they could not leave work for another because the job market seemed so competitive that they would rather stay than join millions. of unemployed. In addition to low pay, these girls were often fined for being late, wasting raw materials, and other petty crimes.
Annie Besant, made changes to match labor girls in one of her published articles titled White Slavery in London, where she exposed the horrific working conditions of these girls.
Annie Besant’s article has gone viral and appears to have caught the attention of government, media and human rights activists. Employers who were afraid of running out of business decided to take the plunge. They handed agreement papers to each of these girls asking for their signature. They wanted the girls to sign that they were working under the best conditions and that their salaries had never been reduced or delayed.
They said NO, they refused to sign the agreement, one of the workers who allegedly spoke with Annie was fired and over 1000 workers flooded the streets of London fighting for their rights. All their demands were met, but the white phosphorus poison continued to ravage the lives of these workers for two decades.
The match girls strike proved the kind of power the labor market can attract, several other organizations have also followed suit.
The British government banned the use of white phosphorus in the production of matches and with the punitive tax imposed on phosphorus, the phossy jaw disease came to an end.