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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 40

Introduction

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Introduction.

It was my intention to publish only the paper on the eight-hour system left with me by the late Major Sir John Richardson; but the question being of considerable moment, and so many attempts having been made to alter the law on the subject, I have modified my intention. In addition, therefore, I publish other valuable records all bearing on the subject, and a lecture delivered by the Rev. Joseph Cook in Tremont Hall, Boston, U.S. The lecturer shows, in forcible language, terrible results from overworking women and children in the factories in the United States of America. In Massachusetts alone, during a period of seven years, 72,700 died in their working period, and for every death there were two lying sick in bed.

The medical testimony shows that a great physiological law is violated when women and children are overworked (and this law of nature will never be repealed), and that it is physically impossible for a woman (or child) to work even in the best regulated factories the same number of hours as man without seriously injuring her constitution.

It is now eight years since the Factory Act of New Zealand was passed into law, and it may safely be said that in every district where the Resident Magistrate has done his duty by appointing an Inspector to see that the provisions of the Act are fulfilled, a favourable change in the comfort, independence, and well-being of those females and children employed in factories and workshops, and the consequent improvement in their social condition and physical health, have taken place.

I may be permitted to add the valuable opinion of one of our best writers on this subject. Benjamin Ward Richardson, M.D., M.A., F.R.S., Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, in his page 4 book on "Diseases of Modern Life," says: "Occupations of every kind, however varied they may be, require to be alternated fairly with rest and recreation. It is the worst mistake to suppose that most and best work can be done when these aids are omitted. Strictly, no occupation that calls forth special mental and physical work should fill more than one-third of daily life. The minds of men of all classes ought to be devoted to the promotion of a systematic method by which the productive labour of every life should be carried on within the limited term of eight hours in the twenty-four. The body of man is not constructed to run its complete cycle under a heavier burden of labour." If this be true what Dr. Richardson says of men, with what greater force does it apply to women and children.

And now I conclude with what Edmund Burke used to say, that "the object of Government being to make strong men and strong women, and good citizens, and to educate them, and that nothing is worth anything in Government unless good men and good women are the result."

J. B. B.-Bradshaw.

High Street, Dunedin, New Zealand,