Thursday, August 14, 2008

Let your light shine!

I've been spending the week with the Salvation Army doing some teaching at their arts conservatory and came across this story. I want to let my light shine like this.

In 1891 The Salvation Army opened its own match factory on Lamprell Street, in Old Ford, London, England, in answer to the pressing social problem of necrosis, popularly known as “phossy jaw”*.

In the match industry the work of making matches was usually done by young women, who hand-dipped the wooden match stems in white phosphorus, a chemical that was very dangerous and potentially fatal. Continuous exposure to this phosphorus on-the-job meant the jaw-bones of workers rotted away, facial skin glowed greenish-white in the dark and eventually led to brain damage. The Army challenged the industry by using non-toxic red phosphorus, providing better working conditions and by paying the workers higher wages.

Before long Army matches, known as “Lights in Darkest England”, caught the imagination of the public and forced the matchmakers to become aware of the social consequences of their work practices. Having accomplished its purpose, the Army closed its factory in 1901, though it took nine years before government legislation ensured that safety matches were indeed safe.