The working experiences of individuals and families during the Gilded Age time period in America, which refers to the late nineteenth century, are varied due to many factors. These factors include but are not limited to age, level of skill, gender, economic class, language(s) spoken, and ethnic origin. It can be said that different groups of people faced drastically different challenges in the world of work; however, some of these challenges are more common within more groups of people than just one. Without a doubt, all Americans faced economic and social issues during this time because of corporate corruption and the lack of laws and programs that protected families from being overworked and provided insurance and care when workers were injured. Industrialization made the United States a greater economic power, but it seemed as though the wealthier the country became, the poorer the citizens thereof became.
The comparison of working experiences during the Gilded Age will include two groups: White farmers and immigrants. The first aspect of working experiences will focus on the type of work performed, which did vary greatly. For the most part, white farmers of the populist movement were tenant farmers, the rest being poor farming families. Tenant farmers were farmers who rented land and grew crops on land that someone else owned. After the crops were harvested, they had to pay back the debts of living to the landowner. If anything was left over, they were allowed to keep that as profits. Tenant farmers were referred to as “the elite of the poor” because they tended to make more money than other farming families (1/27 lecture notes). They owned their own equipment and they were able to make more profit because they didn’t have to pay back equipment leasing fees.
Work performed by immigrants was vastly different. Immigrant laborers were often unskilled and unable to speak English. These lack of skills left immigrants scrambling to find work. They were forced to find and compete for the few odd jobs that were available. These jobs were mostly seasonal and temporary, one such example is scavenging (1/22 lecture notes).
Working conditions between the two groups also varied. Tenant farmers were fortunate enough to be able to own their farming supplies and equipment. This in turn made their working conditions a bit easier because they were used to using the equipment that they had. Because of this productivity was increased and allowed them to have more control over the volume of goods produced, and consequently, profits. Immigrants were not as lucky. With whatever jobs they could find, conditions were just as bleak and unpromising. The average annual wage for unskilled immigrant laborers was $270 per year (1/22 lecture notes). For example, with scavenging they had to go and clean waste from outhouses. This was probably one of the dirtiest jobs one could have during this time. Assuming the...