Who On Earth Was Robert Owen?

There are three distinct generations of the Jarvis family in which a son is named Charles Robert Owen Jarvis. Most families name their children after prior generations, but my family named theirs after a famous social reformer.

Robert Owen was born in Wales in 1771 and showed entrepreneurial spirit, management skills and progressive moral values from an early age. After a formal education that ended at the age of 10, he first made his mark in the cotton and milling business. In those days, Mill owners had scant regard for the health and welfare of their workers because they were easily replaced, and many Mill owners retained control over their workers by paying them in part or wholly in worthless tokens which could be redeemed for goods that were only sold by the mill owners themselves.

Robert Owen, however, had a different philosophy - he pioneered infant care for his workers and encouraged them to improve their nutrition by offering them food at wholesale prices. He worked tirelessly to reduce alcoholism, a scourge of all employers. His principles became the basis for the cooperative (co-op) shops which continue in britain today. Furthermore, he introduced education into his factories, giving his workers the ability to have their children learn for a better future.

Ultimately, history looks at Robert Owen as a utopian socialist who became a champion of the people. As a result of that, many children were named after him in the middle of the 19th century, including my great great grandfather - Charles Robert Owen Jarvis who lived from 1831-1887. My grandfather's youngest son, born in 1876, was also named Charles Robert Owen Jarvis and he died in Lewisham in 1960. But the name didn't just end there. My great great grandfather's eldest son named his second-born son, who was born in 1894, Charles Robert Owen Jarvis too - a man who would go on to be my grandfather.

After three successive generations of Charles Robert Owen Jarvis's in my family, my grandfather chose to name his first-born son Charles Jarvis, thereby ending the "Robert Owen" link in my family.

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