‘Deathly Palour’ - The description given to the skin of children in workhouses and in service.
Rights for children in the Victorian era were scant. In 1861 the legal age of consent was 12; although it was only at under the age of 10, would it be considered as a felony, at ages 10-12 it was merely a misdemeanour. In 1875 it was raised to 15 and subsequently to 16 in 1875. The former rise was mainly to protect the children of their rich, the latter rise was an attempt to combat or curtail white slavery.
The human trafficking we see today is unfortunately not a modern malaise. The trafficking of children for work and sex was rife between Britain and Europe in the 1800s.
W. T. Stead was the senior editor of the Pall Mall Gazette in the 1800s. He was in every respect, what we consider today and investigative journalist. In 1885 he was approached to pen an article investigating those involved in the ‘flesh trade’. It was published in serial form from 6-10 July 1885, titled ‘The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon’ with the help of Bramwell Booth of the Salvation Army, he set about buying a girl, for transport out of the country to show, (regardless of its illegality) how simple a procedure it was, with the appropriate means.
He chose a 13 year old Eliza Armstrong from Lisson Grave, West London. They paid for the girl, drugged her and transported her to France, with no hinderance. They were met in Paris by a representative from the Salvation Army to not only corroborate their story, but more importantly, secure the girls safe passage beck to Britain. It is not documented where she was returned to.
It is impossible to know how the article was received - considering the circles it would have been read, in that, those who affected it were unlikely to read it, (surmising they had even the ability to - compounds the tragedy).
Between Jan. 1884-July 1885, when the piece appeared, only 5 sex offences against children were reported in London. From Aug.-Sept. 1885 65 were reported. With children being sent out to work in textile mills coal mines, etc. and some as young as 5 in domestic service - a few nobles, as well as W. T. Stead, sought change. In 1840 Lord Ashes, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, set up the ‘Children's Employment Commission’ and the ‘Ragged School Union’.
His work was cut out for him. In 1862 the ‘Royal Commission on Popular Education’, declared compulsory education / schooling was ‘neither obtainable, nor desirable’ - ‘It is far better that it should work at the earliest age at which it can bear physical exertion, than that it should remain at school’.
In 1891, over 100,000 girls aged 10-14 worked as domestic servants.
W. T. Stead never gave up his task and conviction to address the rights of children and become a thorn in the side of the ‘establishment’.
Having achieved changes in legislation regarding consent, working age and working practice, he decided to take a well earned sabbatical. He boarded a ship to New York. It is documented that he considered furthering his work for the children in that city. His passage was booked on board the Titanic. He perished.
Certain circles within the Lords, government and high society, did their best to ensure his name was struck from those of ‘note’ who lost their lives that fateful night in the north atlantic.
For a time they were successful.
I feel Mr Stead would have cared not.
The delicate water colour faces reflect the transparency of the skin of the young girls working in unimaginable conditions – slowly poisoned by invisible chemicals.
As in Sulphur Skies the inclusion of nature – a bird, a flower, a pine trees – enforces the idea of their transience of life but also the beauty of the outside world robbed of these young lives in the daylight hours. The use of ink and calligraphy script is simply the tool of communication in that era.
The factory and chimney photo copies – show the change in the environment post industrial revolution and also those in the world of printing at the time.
Colours used signify pollution and sweat stained clothing.
3 Shillings, sold
100cm x 70cm, acrylic & pencil on cavas
30cm x 40cm, acrylic & ink on canvas. Available as a print via shop.
No 1, sold
13cm x 9cm, acrylic & ink on paper, framed
No 2, sold
14cm x 10cm, acrylic & ink on paper, framed
No 3, sold
15cm x 11cm, acrylic & ink on paper, framed
No 4, sold
15cm x 11cm, acrylic & ink on paper, framed
No 5, sold
15cm x 10cm, acrylic & ink on paper, framed
No 6, sold
16cm x 11cm, acrylic & ink on paper, framed
No 7, sold
11cm x 9cm, acrylic & ink on paper, framed
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14cm x 9cm, acrylic & ink on paper, framed
No 9, sold
14cm x 9cm, acrylic & ink ion paper, framed
No 10, sold
18cm x 13cm, acrylic & ink on paper, framed