How was life 50 years ago

Child in the past - child today

On this page you will find out:

  1. How children's lives have changed over time.
  2. How children's rights influenced this change.

Child in the past - child today

The child's life has changed a lot through history. Today's life is very different from the life of a child in the past - for example in the Middle Ages. Children's rights have made a significant contribution to improving the situation. It is important to know what a child's daily life was like 100 years ago in order to understand these changes.

The child before ...

What is a child In the Middle Ages, children were considered incomplete adults, speechless miniature people. In this context, speechless means not having or being able to represent your own opinion. With industrialization, the image of the child changed. Compulsory schooling was introduced in bourgeois society. However, the lives of the children of farm workers, craftsmen and workers were not shaped by school lessons, but by work. They became members of the working society at a young age and contributed to the livelihood of families through their work. The child did not have an opinion of their own and was not allowed to decide for themselves.

...and today

Today the child is no longer seen as a young adult, but as a young person in development. In the Swiss Federal Constitution and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), all people under the age of 18 are referred to as children. The CRC describes children as adolescent people who, because of their young age, need support, protection and encouragement. This task is shared by parents and society.

These portraits show children from different eras: the girl and the boy belong to high society. Only the facial features show that children are depicted. The clothing corresponds to the typical clothing of adults in the 15th and 19th centuries.

Parents and family

In the past, parents had complete control over their children's lives. They could decide what their children's future should look like. Children were the property of their parents, especially the father. In many cases they were beaten or neglected.

Today childhood is there so that children can develop. Parents have to look after their children during this time. In addition to a home, this concern also includes food and security, as well as advice and help. Parents should help their child to get to know and accept their own personality with all its strengths and weaknesses. The child should be motivated to form his or her own opinion through the support of the parents.

Lessons, schools, education

Up until the 20th century there were great differences in the schooling of girls and boys. The children of the rural population did not attend school during the summer months because they had to work on their parents' farm.

Today in Switzerland there is general and compulsory school attendance. Every child is obliged to attend classes. The compulsory schooling lasts at least nine years and ends with the 16th birthday. Girls and boys attend the same subjects.

Child labor

"They started working at 5:30 in the morning and didn't stop until 7:00 pm. Children, six years old, go home to lie on a straw mat until work starts the next morning." Quote: Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones.

Mary Harris 'Mother' Jones was a woman who campaigned in the USA in the 19th century for children who had to work in mines and factories in dire conditions.

Before the industrial revolution, child labor was no exception, especially in agriculture, trade and unfamiliar households. Many children had to support their families with money. After industrialization, children often worked in factories. 6 to 10 year olds, sometimes younger, worked up to 16 hours a day. Often children had to work at night. These children could not go to school.

Today child labor is prohibited in Switzerland.

  • Think about how your classroom differs from the 1930 class room. What do you particularly like about your classroom? What would you like to change? If possible, talk to your class and teacher.
  • Look at the picture of the boys working. What do you think were the great dangers of child labor?