DURING THE LAST HALF of the eighteenth century, many communities in England dreaded Sunday. It was the only day the children working in the factories had off, and not surprisingly they let out all their rowdiness and mischief on that day. From 1702-1801, the population of England had doubled; more and more people were moving to the cities and towns to find work in the factories. The traditional social and religious ties of village life were severed. Very often there was no place for the immigrants from the countryside in the churches of the industrialized towns, and a generation or two of children grew up without any religious or moral guidelines.
Robert Raikes, owner and printer of the Gloucester Journal, pondered the fate of the young ruffians disturbing the peace on Sunday. He had visited the prisons of Gloucester and saw how easy it was for the children to slip into crime. Raikes knew the parents of the poor children were "totally abandoned themselves, having no idea of instilling into the minds of their children principles to which they themselves were entire strangers." Some other means of teaching these youngsters must be found, or many more would end up in prisons.
Since the children of the poor worked in the factories all week, they could not go to schools and hence had no education. Raikes decided to establish schools for these children to attend on Sundays. He hired four women in the neighborhood to teach the children to read. With the help of Reverend Thomas Stock, Raikes was soon able to enroll one hundred children, from six years old to twelve or fourteen, in these Sunday Schools.
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