If history is not your brand of fun, no worries. I just thought it was interesting.
(Information and text from Factory Girls: Women in the Thread Mills of Meiji Japan by Patricia Tsurumi)
A little background- the thread industry in Japan circa late 1800's was originally worked by prestigious (but poor) former samurai women and men- But around 1880, the manual jobs were predominatly worked by poor tenant women and children, with men as supervisors- Tsurumi speculates that the economic conditions (depression in Japan, competitive + technologicaly superior European Silk markets) married with the new (very poor) class of employee caused employers to pretty much uniformly increase working hours, decrease wages, implement harsh penalties, start sending around dubious recruiters (whose travel expenses were debted to the recruited's future paycheck), and block strikers from finding positions at other factories.
The Quote (refers to the living conditions of the factory women):
"With recruits coming from distant places, company dormitories became common features of silk establishments. Dormitories kept workers from tgoing elsewhere to work or running home, but they also enabled managers to extract longer hours from workers who no longer had to be alloted time to commute home and prepare meals there. Under strict discipline, dormitory inmates could be controlled so thoroughly that nearly all their energies were spent on thread production. Sumiya Mikio's blunt assessment is accurate; "The dormitory system was originally developed to tyhe convenience of employees from distant places, but it now functioned virtually as detention houses." Solidly constructed and equipped with heavy metal screens, dormitories were surrouned by eight-foot fences or connected to the adjacent plant bya bridge high above ground. Sometimes fences were crowned with broken glass, sharpened bamboo spears, barbed wire, and other forbidding objects to discourage runaways. Management claimed that workers were locked in after working hours "to protect their morals." However, that claim rings hollow. The women and girls endured sexual abuse at the hands of male mangers and supervisors as well as male workers" (67).
So, clearly I was interested by the intersecting class/gender divisions that seem evident in the conditions- what do you all think about this? If this sounds too history class, feel free to ignore me :D