Previously published in Examiner
Part 3 of the From workhouses to almshouses the plight of the poor during Victorian Times series
English workhouse conditions continued
The workhouse staff, would withhold rations, force detainment, or beating on the backs of their hands (men) for any infraction.
Men and women were separated from their own children. Aged couples were not allowed to share the same bed. Children were forced to take training and parents had no say on the rearing of their children. Everyone was forced to wear a uniform.
Educators, doctors and chaplains were provided if the workhouse could afford it but most couldn’t.
The workhouse was harsher than many prisons of today. The poor were being punished because they were poor. The last thing they wanted was to have to go to the workhouses, the poor were afraid of them and would take work if they could get it so that they did not have to go to the workhouses.
As we have witnessed in previous articles, the social times in America often mirrored that which was happening in the UK. It was no different where the issue of poverty of concerned.
Prior to Victorian times America was much more charitable; doing what was right and just in the eyes of God was favored. Unfortunately, as the social attitude changed in the UK it changed in the United States as well. Instead of charity being the order of the day, now the poor were attacked for having poor character, poor work ethic, and immoral conduct the same way as they were in the UK.
The poor were considered parasites just looking out for a free handout. The notables of the time felt that if the poor really wanted to work they would find work like everyone else. In 1818, the New York Society for the Prevention of Pauperism contended that poverty was a cause of ignorance, intemperance, idleness, hasty marriages, drinking, brothels, lotteries, and so on.
To be continued
Montreal’s McGill University is an ivy league University and Concordia University specializes in Women’s Issues.