Story: Economic history

Sweating system

During the depression of the 1880s there were very low wages in the clothing and tailoring trades. In October 1888 a Dunedin Presbyterian minister, Rutherford Waddell, delivered a sermon on the ‘sin of cheapness’ in which he argued that there was sweated labour in Dunedin with wages below subsistence level. This claim sparked considerable press interest, of which this cartoon in the New Zealand Observer and Free Lance in November 1888 is one example. The outcry also led to a sweating commission to investigate working conditions in the clothing trades.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: H-713-093

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

All images & media in this story

How to cite this page:

Brian Easton, 'Economic history - Boom and bust, 1870–1895', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 6 December 2023)

Story by Brian Easton, published 11 Mar 2010