Home » European emigrations in the 19th century / Immigrations in the 20th century » Tyrolean Children in the Austrian emigration

In the 19th century, industrialisation was established in many European regions. Factories were built, new railway lines were constructed and a number of new posts were created. To a small degree in the western districts of Tyrol, a large part of the Tyrolean population lived from the proceeds of agriculture. In the agriculturally less productive areas of the Upper Inn Valley and the Upper Vintschgau (area on the upper reaches of the River Etsch), the inhabitants were in a terrible predicament. Many families were no longer able to feed their children. As a result, every spring thousands of boys and girls went on foot into Swabia, an agriculturally rich area around Lake Constance, where they sought work as farming assistants for the summer. They offered their labour on the child labour markets in Friedrichshafen and Ravensburg. Now an old man, a witness at the time, Adolf Thurnes, remembers his time as a Swabian child thus: “At the child labour market in Friedrichshafen, the children stood positioned between ropes; the farmer picked up whichever child he liked the look of, lifted him over the ropes and took him home with him”.

In late autumn, the children returned home with the little money they had earned in their pockets. The migrations of the Swabian children ended around 1920 when the Austrian school authorities insisted on the observance of compulsory education.

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