As to the families affected, the reports from state and local [child labor] committees to be presented at this conference will show that the dread of causing sick fathers and widowed mothers to starve because little children are forbidden to be crushed under excessive industrial burdens is a needless dread.
-- Owen R. Lovejoy, 1909178
For the most part, historians tend to see mothers' pension laws as part of a broad Progressive Era movement for the betterment of the child. 179 While the adult poor might not merit public intervention, it seems as if no effort would be spared on behalf of the child, be it the creation of pure milk standards, the establishment of juvenile courts, or the implementation of the "new education." Reviewing a decade of social reform in 1912, Judge Julian Mack said: "The golden age of childhood had arrived. However we might deal with the adult victim of social wrongs, to the child we were determined to accord the birthright of every human being -- the opportunity for the development of its highest powers."180 Clearly there is much in the rhetoric of the child labor reformers to indicate an unusual concern for children.
Although children certainly did have a special place on the Progressive agenda, it is insufficient to say that a broad interest in children "caused" the enactment of mothers' pension laws. While such an interpretation correctly describes the "child-centered" character of many Progressive reforms, it does little to explain the precise timing of mothers' pension enactments or to explain the varying levels of coverage within a given state. In this chapter, we aim to establish a number of points that are crucial to showing there is a more powerful, more precise causal connection between mothers' pensions and child labor laws. Empirically we will show that the child