In 1816, Robert Owen and Sir Robert Peel introduced a Bill to the British House of Commons to have stricter laws on the hours children worked.
It was purposed that children be at least nine years old and could not work more than twelve and half hours per day. At the time, children were working as early as six years old, up to sixteen hours per day.
Factory owners were outraged to say the least.
Despite doctors testifying of the potential health problems working in such harsh conditions, it was viewed that there was no other way to do tasks in tiny spaces (like cleaning flues or chimneys).
Of course, that really wasn’t the problem. Culture dictated that it was better for children to be working rather than engaging in pilfering. But not all children. Specifically, the poor. The view at the time was that the poor were poor because they deserved to be.
It took three years, before the minimum age of fourteen was passed. The Bill was heavily amended from its original and rarely enforced.
Unfortunately, change doesn’t happen overnight.
It happens little by little, drip by drip. This Bill while at the time seemed like a win for the factory owners was the first crack in the system. A couple of decades later, the Factory Act of 1833 raised the bar for working conditions. And 50 years after that, the eight-hour workday was introduced.
Here’s the thing, Rachael Carson didn’t think Silent Spring was going to start a global environmental movement (and eventually inspire the formation of the EPA). Rosa Parks didn’t think she was going to unite a divided nation. Jacqueline Novogratz didn’t think she would become a voice for the voiceless.
There are tipping points and then there are dominoes that need to fall before we reach critical mass. We don’t give enough credit to those who opened the door for someone who turn around and open doors for others.
But that’s how this work works.
Real change takes time. Sometimes longer than what we have here on this Earth. No matter where you are in the arc of the work you do, your contribution is making a dent.