Farm Labor and "City-Centered" Child Welfare
It is a pretty rough country. School is kept during the months when there is nothing to do in the fields. We let them go in planting time and cultivating time and picking time, and there are short terms in January and in July and August when there is not work to be done. . . . I admit that is not ideal, but then there is a saying down here that ignorance and cotton naturally go together.
-- Texas farmer, 1908484
A large number of southern states were early enactors of mothers' pension laws despite their high levels of child labor. Such evidence appears to contradict a child labor explanation, since in a state such as Tennessee a child labor rate of 23 percent in 1910 did not prevent its legislature from adopting a mothers' pension law in 1915. The explanation for this puzzle lies in the character of the mothers' pension programs that arose in early- enacting southern states such as Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. These states repeated the pattern seen in Missouri and Maryland of providing pensions limited to a few major cities. This pattern even appeared in the late-enacting state of Kentucky, where the 1928 mothers' pension law applied only to the city of Louisville.
This pattern of city-centered mothers' pensions will be explained herein by making reference to the greater efforts southern cities made to enforce child labor and compulsory attendance laws. We will argue that the South's