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The earliest and most persistent movement for social reform concerned child labor Children formed an important component of the industrial labor force because employers could pay them lower wages From a very young age they worked the same hours as their parents in the same difficult conditions Parliament first limited the hours children could work in textile factories in 1833 following a public outcry over a parliamentary inquiry into working conditions for children The law prevented children under nine years of age from working more than nine hours per day In 1842 a law extended this protection to children working in mines Limitation of the hours that children worked fed naturally into the movement for child education In the 1860s less than one in seven British children had any formal education and literacy was declining Elementary schools were operated by private individuals or religious societies and were financed by charitable donations personal grants or fees paid by students The Education Act of 1870 mandated that local districts establish public schools supported by local taxes An act of 1881 finally made education compulsory for children aged five to ten Another area of reform centered on improvements in public health and in living conditions particularly in the crowded industrial towns Social reformer Edwin Chadwick was the primary leader in establishing boards of health creating standards for drinking water and overseeing the construction of effective sewage disposal systems Social legislation aimed at improving safety and sanitary conditions in the workplace also made headway in the general movement for social reform Trade Unions The most significant issues for workers such as wages hours and working conditions could only be addressed by organizations of workers themselves Efforts at trade union organization went back to the late 18th century but they were isolated and sporadic until socialist Robert Owen founded the Grand National Consolidated Trades Union in 1833 Although this experiment quickly failed it raised the prospect of
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