Trends in Social Work, 1874-1956: A History Based on the Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work

By Frank J. Bruno | Go to book overview

16
CHILD LABOR

THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION changed the nature of the work of children from vocational preparation for adult responsibilities to mechanical and meaningless tasks. The compensation provided by schools in order to make good this vocational loss could not be enjoyed by the child who spent his daylight hours in a textile mill.

England, 150 years ago, noticed this deprivation of preparation for his life work suffered by the child, and her public- spirited men sensed the physical and moral hazards to be expected when many children work long hours under the harsh supervision of foremen rather than carrying out small tasks for their respective parents. The first law referring to child labor passed by England, in 1802, was called the Health and Morals Act.

Massachusetts took the lead in the United States, enacting restrictive legislation in 1836, at a time when it was estimated that two fifths of all employees in New England factories were between the ages of seven and sixteen. Up to the end of the nineteenth century it was said that less than a dozen states had passed laws to limit the legal age for working children and the hours within which they might work.

At this point the National Consumers' League was organized in 1899, and the National Child Labor Committee in 1904. The latter grew out of the interest in child labor which followed an address delivered at the Atlanta Conference ( 1903) by Edward Gardner Murphy, of Alabama, on "Child Labor as a Na-

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