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Child Labor

Child Labor



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Timeline of Child Labor Developments in the United States

1832 – The New England Association of Farmers, Mechanics and Other Workingmen officially condemns child labor.

1836 – Massachusetts creates the first state child labor law requiring factory children under 15 to go to school a minimum of 3 months per year.

1836 – Early trade unions at the National Trades’ Union Convention propose requiring state minimum age laws for factory work.

1842 – Massachusetts limits children to working 10 hours per day. Many states do the same but are not consistent in enforcing their laws.

1876 – The Working Men’s Party proposes prohibiting the employment of children younger than 14.

1881 – The American Federation of Labor at their first national convention calls for states to enact legislation barring children under 14 from wage labor.

1883 – The New York labor movement, under the leadership of Samuel Gompers, attempts to end child labor in the cigar industry by successfully sponsoring legislation that bans production in tenements, where many of young children work in the trade.

1889 – Florence Kelley publishes “Our Toiling Children,” which outlines the state of child labor and urges consumers to use their influence to improve working conditions.

1892 – The Democratic Party adopts a plank in their platform, which recommends banning factory employment for children under age 15.

1899 – The National Consumers’ League under the leadership of Florence Kelley launches its “white label” campaign in the women’s garment industry. The white label certified that goods were produced following minimum fair labor standards and were free of child labor.

1901 –Jane Addams founds the Juvenile Protective Association to advocate against racism, child labor, exploitation, child abuse, and child prostitution in Chicago and their effects on child development. [N1]

1903 – Mother Jones organizes working children in the “Children’s Crusade,” a march from Pennsylvania to the home of President Theodore Roosevelt in New York with banners demanding “we want time to play” and “we want to go to school.” Though the President refuses to meet with the marchers, the incident brings the issue of child labor to the forefront of the public agenda.

1904 – The National Child Labor Committee is formed with the goal of abolishing all child labor.

1908 – In the case of Muller v. Oregon the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the right of states to limit the number of hours women could work in certain industries. Louis Brandeis argues the case on behalf of the National Consumers’ League, and it sets a legal precedent whereby child labor laws could be instituted.

1912 – The U.S. Children’s Bureau is founded with Julia Lathrop as its first head. The organization is poised to monitor the situation of children at home and at work.

1916 – Congress passes the Keating-Owen Act, which bans the interstate sale of any article produced with child labor (factory, cannery, and mine) and regulates the number of hours a child could work. The Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court two years later.

1924 – Congress adopts a constitutional amendment barring child labor and sends the amendment out to be ratified by the state legislatures. Not enough states ratify the child labor amendment for it to become law.

1936 – The Walsh-Healey Act sets safety standards, minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor provisions on all federal contracts.

1938 – President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Fair Labor Standards Act, which includes putting limits on many forms of child labor.

1949 – An amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act directly prohibits child labor for the first time.[N2]

1976 – The International Labour Organization’s Convention 138 becomes international law. Known as the “Minimum Age Convention,” it sets out to abolish child labor among school-aged children.

1989 – At the conclusion of a successful congressional forum on child labor, the National Consumers League and the International Labor Rights Fund establish the Child Labor Coalition, a U.S.-based member organization to work on domestic and international child labor issues.

1992 – Senator Tom Harkin first proposes the Child Labor Deterrence Act, which would ban the importation of products made with child labor. He reintroduces the legislation in 1993, 1995, 1997, and 1999.

1994 – Kailash Satyarthi founds Rugmark, an organization seeking to stop the exploitation of children in the carpet industry by building up the supply and demand for child labor free products. A year later the first child-labor-free certified carpets are exported from India.

1995 – Iqbal Masih, a former child slave in the carpet industry in Pakistan, is murdered for his international advocacy of child rights at the age of 13. His courage and determination continues to inspire children, activists, and officials.

1997 – The Associated Press publishes a series entitled “Children for Hire” on the continuing exploitation of children working in US agriculture.

2000 – Human Rights Watch publishes a report outlining the exploitation of children in US agriculture entitled “Fingers to the Bone: United States Failure to Protect Child Farmworkers.” A follow-up report in 2010 reveals that these conditions still exist.

2000 – The International Labour Organization’s Convention 182 becomes international law. This convention defines and condemns the worst forms of child labor, which include slavery, forced recruitment for armed conflict, prostitution, trafficking, and any other “work which, by its nature… is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.”

2001 – The Children’s Act for Responsible Employment (CARE) is introduced by Senator Tom Harkin in the Senate and Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard in the House. This bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to increase penalties for violations of child labor laws and repeal certain exemptions from child labor prohibitions for agricultural employment.

2002 – The United States ratifies the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, enacted by the UN in 2000. The Convention on the Rights of the Child has still not been ratified by the US.

2012 – Under strong pressure from the Agriculture lobby, the White House forces the US Department of Labor to withdraw proposed rules to protect children working for wages in US agriculture from known hazards. In a complete abdication, the Obama Administration announces it will not revisit these rules during its tenure. These hazardous occupation orders for agriculture have not been updated in over 40 years.

2013 – The International Labour Organization releases quadrennial estimates that reveals a drop of 47 million child laborers over the last four years internationally, leaving 168 million youth still in child labor and 85 million trapped in hazardous work.


Labor Conditions

Child labor existed long before the Industrial Revolution, but with the increase in population and education, it became more visible. Furthermore, unlike in agriculture and cottage industries where children often contributed to the family operation, children in the industrial employment were independent workers with no protective mechanisms in place. Many children were forced to work in very poor conditions for much lower pay than their elders, usually 10–20% of an adult male’s wage. Children as young as four were employed. Beatings and long hours were common, with some child coal miners and hurriers working from 4 a.m. until 5 p.m. Conditions were dangerous, with some children killed when they dozed off and fell into the path of the carts, while others died from gas explosions. Many children developed lung cancer and other diseases. Death before the age of 25 was common for child workers.

Those child laborers who ran away would be whipped and returned to their masters, with some masters shackling them to prevent escape. Children employed as mule scavengers by cotton mills would crawl under machinery to pick up cotton, working 14 hours a day, six days a week. Some lost hands or limbs, others were crushed under the machines, and some were decapitated. Young girls worked at match factories, where phosphorus fumes would cause many to develop phossy jaw, an extremely painful condition that disfigured the patient and eventually caused brain damage, with dying bone tissue accompanied by a foul-smelling discharge. Children employed at glassworks were regularly burned and blinded, and those working at potteries were vulnerable to poisonous clay dust.

Workhouses would sell orphans and abandoned children as “pauper apprentices,” working without wages for board and lodging. In 1800, there were 20,000 apprentices working in cotton mills. The apprentices were particularly vulnerable to maltreatment, industrial accidents, and ill health from overwork and contagious diseases such as smallpox, typhoid, and typhus. The enclosed conditions (to reduce the frequency of thread breakage, cotton mills were usually very warm and as draft-free as possible) and close contact within mills and factories allowed contagious diseases such as typhus and smallpox to spread rapidly, especially because sanitation in mills and the settlements around them was often poor. Around 1780, a water-powered cotton mill was built for Robert Peel on the River Irwell near Radcliffe. The mill employed children bought from workhouses in Birmingham and London. They were unpaid and bound apprentices until they were 21, which in practice made them enslaved labor. They boarded on an upper floor of the building and were locked inside. Shifts were typically 10–10.5 hours in length (i.e. 12 hours after allowing for meal breaks) and the apprentices “hot bunked,” meaning a child who had just finished his shift would sleep in a bed just vacated by a child now starting his shift.

Children at work in a cotton mill (Mule spinning, England 1835). Illustrations from Edward Baines, The History of the Cotton Manufacture in Great Britain, H. Fisher, R. Fisher, and P. Jackson, 1835.

Children as young as 4 were put to work. In coal mines, children began work at the age of 5 and generally died before the age of 25. Many children (and adults) worked 16-hour days.


What is child labour

Not all work done by children should be classified as child labour that is to be targeted for elimination. Children&rsquos or adolescents&rsquo participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling, is generally regarded as being something positive. This includes activities such as helping their parents around the home, assisting in a family business or earning pocket money outside school hours and during school holidays. These kinds of activities contribute to children&rsquos development and to the welfare of their families they provide them with skills and experience, and help to prepare them to be productive members of society during their adult life.

  • is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children and/or
  • interferes with their schooling by: depriving them of the opportunity to attend school obliging them to leave school prematurely or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.

The worst forms of child labour

The worst forms of child labour involves children being enslaved, separated from their families, exposed to serious hazards and illnesses and/or left to fend for themselves on the streets of large cities &ndash often at a very early age.


A Brief History of Child Labor in America

For many years, child labor was seen as necessary and helpful not only to businesses but also to families who desperately needed the additional income.

Since Colonial times, children in the United States had no protection against harsh working conditions and pitiful compensation. Children were sent from impoverished families in Europe to the New World as indentured servants. Under contract, they were required to serve their hired master for a designated number of years to pay for passage, room and board. Even those who came without such obligations had to work in factories, mines, mills and other harsh environments to earn their keep or help support their families. Until as late as 1900, one in six children from ages 10 to 15 worked outside the home.

Massachusetts First to Pass Child Labor Law

From the earliest days of the United States, efforts were made to curtail child labor. In 1836, Massachusetts became the first to pass an actual law prohibiting children under fifteen years of age from working in factories. That law also required children to attend school for at least three hours per day. Six years later, again Massachusetts led the way by limiting working hours for children to ten hours per day. A few other states followed, but these laws were seldom enforced.

Several political and labor groups made noise for the next several years objecting to various working conditions for children, but little change was made. In 1916, an attempt to stop interstate and international commerce that involved child labor (although only within the 30 days immediately preceding shipment of such goods) was passed, then declared unconstitutional, then passed again in 1918 and again found unconstitutional. It seemed there was little heart for interfering in profitable business.

Congress attempted in 1924 to give the federal government power to regulate child labor rather than have it under the jurisdiction of each state. There were too few states supporting such an idea and it never passed.

Great Depression Increased Use of Child Labor

The onset of the Great Depression only made those conditions worse. Children were seen as cheap, exploitable labor with little regulation. Companies fought for their right, calling it “a child’s right to work” rather than pay an adult two or three times as much for the same job.

According to an article in Survey Graphic magazine, published in 1937, 10 to 14 year old boys (and a few girls) in southern states worked as “chippers” – those who scarred trees and set pans to catch the gum for turpentine – and “dippers” – those who collected the gum – for little more the eight cents per hour. Children of the same ages often worked in factories as machine helpers or operators for less than 75 cents per day.

“Breaker Boys” worked in coal mines, pulling rocks out of processed coal, then sorting chunks of coal into sizes for commercial sale. From early morning until after dark, these children worked in tunnels, breathed clouds of coal dust and saw little daylight. Those who didn’t die of black lung or lung cancer faced a life time of chronic respiratory and other disease, as well as a generally shorter life expectancy.

National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933

In 1933, Congress passed the National Industrial Recovery Act as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. For the time it stood, three important changes were made that improved conditions for children and eased the terrible burden borne by adults caught in the Great Depression. First, child labor was outlawed in most industries besides agriculture and domestic work. Thousands of positions that had been filled by children were now open to unemployed adults. Second, a maximum number of hours were set for a standard work week. Employers who had been able to use a single worker for 60 to 80 hours a week would now have to hire two instead. And to help those workers with few hours than before, a minimum wage was established.

According to Beulah Amidon, a writer for Survey Graphic magazine in 1937, “the NRA code period was the first time in this country that child labor figures went down while employment figures rose.” This was clear evidence that the removal of children from the work force also greatly benefited unemployed adults in the U.S.

Although the NRA was declared unconstitutional in 1935, Roosevelt came back with the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 which made the minimum wage, maximum hours and anti-child labor provisions set out in NRA permanent.


Child Labor Reform and the U.S. Labor Movement

1832 New England unions condemn child labor

The New England Association of Farmers, Mechanics and Other Workingmen resolve that “Children should not be allowed to labor in the factories from morning till night, without any time for healthy recreation and mental culture,” for it “endangers their . . . well-being and health”

Women's Trade Union League of New York

1836 Early trade unions propose state minimum age laws

Union members at the National Trades’ Union Convention make the first formal, public proposal recommending that states establish minimum ages for factory work

1836 First state child labor law

Massachusetts requires children under 15 working in factories to attend school at least 3 months/year

1842 States begin limiting children’s work days

Massachusetts limits children’s work days to 10 hours other states soon pass similar laws—but most of these laws are not consistently enforced

1876 Labor movement urges minimum age law

Working Men’s Party proposes banning the employment of children under the age of 14

1881 Newly formed AFL supports state minimum age laws

The first national convention of the American Federation of Labor passes a resolution calling on states to ban children under 14 from all gainful employment

1883 New York unions win state reform

Led by Samuel Gompers, the New York labor movement successfully sponsors legislation prohibiting cigar making in tenements, where thousands of young children work in the trade

1892 Democrats adopt union recommendations

Democratic Party adopts platform plank based on union recommendations to ban factory employment for children under 15

National Child Labor Committee

1904 National Child Labor Committee forms

Aggressive national campaign for federal child labor law reform begins

1916 New federal law sanctions state violators

First federal child labor law prohibits movement of goods across state lines if minimum age laws are violated (law in effect only until 1918, when it’s declared unconstitutional, then revised, passed, and declared unconstitutional again)

1924 First attempt to gain federal regulation fails

Congress passes a constitutional amendment giving the federal government authority to regulate child labor, but too few states ratify it and it never takes effect

1936 Federal purchasing law passes

Walsh-Healey Act states U.S. government will not purchase goods made by underage children

1937 Second attempt to gain federal regulation fails

Second attempt to ratify constitutional amendment giving federal government authority to regulate child labor falls just short of getting necessary votes

1937 New federal law sanctions growers

Sugar Act makes sugar beet growers ineligible for benefit payments if they violate state minimum age and hours of work standards

1938 Federal regulation of child labor achieved in Fair Labor Standards Act

For the first time, minimum ages of employment and hours of work for children are regulated by federal law


In order to establish background, students will be introduced to the causes and effects of the Industrial Revolution. Students will then critically analyze primary source materials with the help of organizers and teacher-guided questions, developing additional questions to support their own inquiry. Students will then react to their encounter with these materials by selecting among a menu of projects, with each student assuming the role of an early 20th century journalist.

Activity One: Introduction and Background (1 - 2 class periods)

  • Discuss or review the causes and effects of the Industrial Revolution. This can be done using a variety of methods depending on your time needs. An encyclopedia or textbook section would offer basic introduction. Consider the possibility of class field trips to a local museum or role play to highlight the effects of industrialization.

Activity Two: Primary Source Analysis - Documents (1 - 2 class periods)

  • Start with an open-ended question such as "How do we discover our history? How do we learn about our family's past?" Discuss the role of oral or written histories. Read definitions of primary and secondary sources in Using Primary Sources and discuss with students as necessary
  • Access Lewis Hine's Report on Child Labor in the Cotton Mills of Mississippi, 1911.
  • Have students respond to the report. Possible questions to discuss include:
    • Why did Hine make "quiet visits?"
    • Why did he visit during "working hours", "noon-hours" and "around homes?"
    • What kind of information would Hine collect from the children?
    • Why did Hine keep such accurate records?
    • Why did Mr. Mitchell move to Meridian, Mississippi?
    • Why is the statement "miles from any railroad" important?
    • How would you describe the Mitchell household?
    • Do you think the Mitchell story is typical? Why or Why not?

    Activity Three: Primary Source Analysis - Photographs (1 - 2 class periods)

    • Pass around several personal snapshots, and discuss what can be learned from examining a photograph.
    • Distribute or project the image of Coal Breaker Boys from Detroit Publishing Company on a large screen. Feel free to use any other appropriate image.
    • Brainstorm observations.
    • Students analyze the photograph, recording their thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Photographs and Prints to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
    • Discuss the experience of investigating the photographs.
    • Solicit any additional questions relating to the photograph. You may want to ask:
      • How are photographs used by historians?
      • What other types of primary sources do you know about?
      • What is the importance of using primary sources in understanding history?
      • What if no one took photographs of these children?

      Activity Four: Guided Practice (2 - 3 class periods) (May be adapted for lab or classroom)

      • Divide students into pairs or small groups.
      • Students will independently select, examine and analyze photographs. Students analyze the photographs, recording their thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool. Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher's guide Analyzing Photographs and Prints to focus and prompt analysis and discussion. Here are some photographs worthy of study:
      • Gather the class back as a large group. Solicit observations and discuss the images with students. Compare student findings, attempt to draw consensus, some teacher guidance may be needed. (It may be helpful to project each image on a large screen to prompt discussion.)

      Activity Five: Student Project (4 - 6 class periods)

      • Form small research groups, approximately four or five students per group.
      • Distribute a copy of the simulated Confidential Memo from the editor of The New York Examiner to each research team. Please understand that this memo is a prompt for this activity it is NOT a primary source.
      • Acting as journalists, students will select tasks. Each group should have at least one of the following:

      1. Historian
      Historians will create a graphic and visually appealing timeline. The purpose of the timeline is to present readers with an overview of the issue of child labor as it relates to industrialization, immigration and economic cycles. Background should reach back to 18th century Europe and conclude with the Great Depression.

      2. Editor
      Student will choose a persona (a parent, factory owner/employer, reformer or politician) and write an editorial aimed at persuading readers to take some form of action relating to changing child labor conditions or defending the conditions which make it necessary for children to work. Work should display an emotional involvement in the issue and definite point of view.

      3. Photojournalist
      Photojournalism is an important part of telling a news story. Often photographs present accounts far more powerfully than text. Your task is to locate compelling photographs which deal with the issue of child labor and present these photographs with original captions.

      4. News Reporter
      The task of the news staff is to present readers with accounts of children at work as news stories. Your work is not editorial. Rather, you should present the facts, represent opinions only as quotes, and attempt to present balanced news stories.

      5. Other tasks to reflect student talents or interests, such as poet, political cartoonist, etc.

      • Groups will select a presentation format from among the following options:
        • Traditional print newspaper (a cut and paste activity on large paper)
        • Newspaper story boards on trifold cardboard displays
        • Desktop published newsletter
        • Multimedia presentation or Web site

        Extension

        1. Children continue to work in our own country and around the world and modern-day social reformers are still concerned. Research and respond to the current issue of child labor.
          • Using the simulated Modern Memo prompt, create a newspaper activity which deals with the issue in today's world, mirroring the activity presented above.
          • On a map of the world, label areas where children are working and describe the working conditions.
          • Write a letter to a policy maker or editor expressing your opinions, based on your research.
        2. Search for and select a photograph that you find especially moving from the Library of Congress digital collections. Write a poem expressing the feelings of the child/children in the photograph.
        3. Consider a field trip to a museum which focuses on the work of children.
        4. Write a letter from the perspective of a working child. Imagine yourself writing to a friend. Describe a typical day working at a mill, factory, cannery, a mine or a farm.
        5. Read a work of fiction to get a greater understanding of the life of a child during the Industrial Revolution. (e.g. Katherine Paterson's Lyddie or Dicken's Oliver Twist or Hard Times)
        6. Compare a photograph of children working from the early 20th century with a photograph of children working toward the end of the 21st century.
        7. Create a simulation of a town meeting in which the issue of child labor is discussed. Participants may play the roles of: parents, employers, children, mayor, social reformers, journalists.
        8. For high school, examine issues relating to child labor in the United States. Research the issues and consider whether students who work in malls or fast food restaurants are exploited in any ways. For class discussion or debate:
          • Should there be stiffer legislation?
          • Should there be more careful monitoring of children's work by parents and teachers?
          • What should the rules be regarding the hours and responsibilities of young workers?
          • Should there be rules be regarding interference with school work?

        Child Labor

        Child labor presents an economic problem that is intertwined with the other problems of our communities. It is caused by sheer poverty, by the poverty of parents, by the ambition of parents and by the ignorance of parents as well as by the law of market which demands that a product be turned out a the least possible cost to sell at the highest possible price." -- Jane Addams, "Who is to Blame for Child Labor?," July 23, 1914

        The advent of industrialization in the early to mid 1800’s introduced brand new conflicts in regards to the labor force. When industrialization began in the United States, the labor conditions were dangerous and low-paying. Child labor became so commonplace that in 1900, 18% of all American workers were under the age of 16. This was largely because children were able to fit in tight spaces and operate small machinery. Employers could pay children lower wages than an adult, which saved them money. Young children, many below the age of seven, worked twelve-hour shifts for only a dollar or less a day. Young workers were injured while working and some were killed. Many had visible injuries such as missing fingers or limbs, while others developed tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases from the conditions. The working class accepted these dangerous industrial jobs for their children because they needed the extra income to survive. Most child workers were from poor families, and many were immigrants. Some families even argued that child labor was ‘good’ for their kids, as it would teach them responsibility. But when children worked, they did so at the expense of education, limiting their chances to a better life.

        Improving working conditions was one of Jane Addams' focuses at Hull-House. In those times there were few checks on what employers could do, and some employers made no effort to protect the safety of their workers. Addams wanted better workplace conditions, better compensation for labor, and protection for women and children workers. Living at Hull-House, Addams and the other residents got to know their immigrant neighbors, and once they understood that hard lives the poor lived, they worked to improve them in the workplace, the city streets, and in the home.Addams believed that child labor laws had to be changed on municipal, county, state, and federal levels. Laws, where they existed, were weak and full of loopholes or were not enforced. This is why Addams believed that the protection of child welfare should be directed at the federal level.

        One example of the ways that child labor laws worked was the situation faced by child actors. Despite Illinois' 1903 Child Labor Law, efforts were made in 1911 to enact a bill to exempt child actors from the 1903 law. Addams and others fought these efforts, arguing that the late nights, lack of education and temptation towards dangerous behavior for stage children was not outweighed by the minimal stage experience they received. Addams was helped form the National Child Labor Committee, a national organization of activists who exposed the problem of child labor. One of the ways they brought more attention to the topic was by hiring photographer Lewis Hine to bring the horrific working conditions American boys and girls were subjected to to light. His photos sparked national outrage. In 1912, the National Child Labor Committee suceeded in lobbying for the establishment of the United States Children Bureau. Its mission was to improve the lives of children through research and reform.

        Although many strides were made to combat child labor, there were some pitfalls along the way. For instance, in 1916 Congress passed the Keating-Owens Act, which prohibited sales of goods from factories or companies that had children under the age of fourteen through sixteen (dependant on nature of work) working for them, or had anyone under the age of fourteen working during the hours of 7:00 PM to 6:00 AM. Although this was a win for child labor reformists, it was deemed unconstitutional just a year later. Despite years of setbacks, the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938. The act prohibited the employment of minors, established a minimum wage, and introduced the 40-hour workweek presently used in the United States.


        Child Labor

        History of Child Labor in America
        There had always been forms child labor in America that ranged from the enforced work of indentured servitude to child slavery. But child labor also provided the help needed in farming families and communities. Child labor was needed in the rural farming areas, dictated by essential daily chores and the requirements of the agricultural seasons. Poor families relied upon child labor in order to attain basic necessities and living essentials. The jobs allocated to children depended on their age and whether they were boys or girls.

        Farm work could be hard, but working conditions were not dangerous and at least allowed kids to breath the fresh air. The use of child labor, and the risks and working conditions of children, underwent a enormous change in the 1800's. Industry developed on an extensive scale and the mechanization of industry resulted in the abuse of children who were forced to work in terrible conditions in factories, mines and mills. This article provides the history of child labor in America during the 1800's, the following links provide facts and information about events that were particularly relevant to the subject of child labor.

        1800's Child Labor in America
        This article provides facts and information about child labor in America during the 1800's. This was the time when the Industrial Revolution and the process of Industrialization transformed America from a rural, agricultural to a city based industrial society that resulted in a massive increase in child labor during the 1800's.

        Child Labor Causes in the 1800's

        Child Labor Causes in America: Inventions and new technology of the Industrial Revolution

        Child Labor Causes in America: The Process of Industrialization and the mechanization of industry that led to the building of factories and the factory system

        Child Labor Causes in America: The Rise of Big Business and Corporations and the emergence of the ruthless Robber Barons whose unethical, uncaring working practices led to mass production and the depersonalization of workers

        Child Labor Causes in America: The need for cheap labor - the power driven machines could be operated by children

        Child Labor Causes in America: Urbanization, the movement of millions of people from rural locations to the cities made possible by new transportation systems

        Child Labor Causes in America: Poverty - children were forced to work to help their families

        Child Labor Causes in America: Labor Shortages - the massive influx of immigration in the 1800's fed the demand for labor including the extensive employment of immigrant children

        Child Labor Causes in America: Lack of government regulation to enforce safety standards, working conditions and working hours. A variety of laws differed from state to state

        Child Labor Causes in America: The opposition to Labor Unions prevented workers from protecting children and making it more difficult to improve labor standards and living standards in order to eliminate child labor.

        Child Labor Causes in America: Reform movements, who worked to abolish child labor, did not emerge until the 1890's with the start of the Progressive Movement and Progressive Reforms.

        Child Labor Causes in the 1800's

        1800's Child Labor in America for kids: Wages and Hours of Work
        During the period of Industrialization child labor was the norm. Child labor made up 20% of the workforce. Their parents had no choice to send them to work as their meager wages helped to support the families. The working children had no time to play or go to school, and little time to rest. The prevalence of child labor in America meant that the poor could not receive an education to enable them to get better, skilled jobs. Children were deprived of a decent education and entered the spiral of poverty from which there was no escape for the growing number of unskilled and uneducated workers.

        ● How long did children work and what were they paid? The typical hours of work lasted from sunrise to sunset, 11 or 12 hours per day, six days a week. They had less than one hour break in their working day.
        ● How much did they earn? They earned an average weekly wage of one dollar.
        ● How old were the children? Some were employed in child labor as young as five years old and were paid low wages until they reached the age of sixteen
        ● According to the 1900 US Census, a total of 1,752,187 (about 1 in every 6) children between the ages of 5 and 10 were engaged in "gainful occupations" in the United States of America.

        1800's Child Labor in America for kids: Types of Jobs and Work

        Child Labor jobs and work: Agricultural Industry - Jobs included chasing away birds, sewing and harvesting the crops.

        Child Labor jobs and work: Textile Industry - Children worked spinning and weaving cotton and woolen goods in the mills. Bobbin boys were employed in the textile mills bringing bobbins to the women at the looms and collecting the full bobbins.

        Child Labor jobs and work: Mining Industry - The mining industry was an extremely dangerous, unpleasant and filthy occupation. Young boys called "Breaker Boys" processed raw coal by breaking it into various sizes for different types of furnaces. Other children were employed as coal bearers, carrying coal in baskets on their shoulders. The smaller children worked as "trappers" who opened trap doors in the mines to move the coal.

        Child Labor jobs and work: Manufacturing Industry - The factories were often damp, dark, and dirty with few toilet facilities. The machines and sharp tools used performing various jobs caused many injuries. Glass factories were notorious and boys under 12 where expected to carry loads of hot glass

        Child Labor jobs and work: Laboring work - Children were also employed to help the laborers engaged in construction and transportation projects including the railroads and canals. Water Boys were employed to carry water to workers who dug canal beds and railroads

        Child Labor jobs and work: Domestic Work - Children performed domestic work in large houses up to 16 hours per day, seven days per week. The hall boys, scullery maids, kitchen girls or drudges performed the worst jobs such as emptying chamber pots. .

        Child Labor jobs and work: Sweatshops - Children worked in the dirty tenement sweatshops making clothes and other small items

        Child Labor jobs and work: Street Work - Children performed a variety of jobs on the streets and sewers. Ragpickers made a living by rummaging through refuse in the streets collecting items and scraps for salvage including cloth, paper, broken glass and even dead cats and dogs could be skinned to make clothes. Other street jobs included delivery boys and shoeshine boys

        1800's Child Labor in America for kids: Types of Jobs and Work

        1800's Child Labor in America for kids: Deaths and Injuries
        The children worked in dangerous conditions. According to statistics in 1900 there were 25,000 - 35,000 deaths and 1 million injuries occurred on industrial jobs, many of these victims would have been children.

        ● Children had higher rates of injury and death at work than adults and over 50% of child labor was involved in hazardous and dangerous work.
        ● Many worked in confined spaces and underground in unhealthy environments.
        ● They were exposed to extreme heat and cold.
        ● There was no government regulations for health and safety and no state safety regulations existed.
        ● There were some safety instructions on factory machines but as most workers were completely illiterate these were as good as useless.
        ● The causes of the most deaths were fires, explosions, cave-ins and train wrecks.
        ● The main causes of injuries were the factory machines and sharp tools. Children lost fingers, hands were mangled and some were scalped when hair that got caught in the machinery.
        ● Some children were killed when they fell asleep and fell into factory machines.
        ● Carrying heavy loads caused lifelong deformities and handicaps.
        ● Children not only suffered from physical stress they were also subjected to mental stress due to appalling working conditions.
        ● The health of children suffered working in back-breaking jobs in dark, gloomy environments with poor ventilation. They suffered from lung, ear and eye infections and unsanitary conditions led to terrible diseases and illnesses such as cholera, bronchitis and tuberculosis

        Child Labor Laws in America for kids: Progressive Reforms
        The 1916 Keating-Owen Child Labor Act was a federal law passed limiting how many hours children were allowed to work, prohibiting the employment of children under the age of fourteen in factories producing goods for interstate commerce.


        10 Facts on Child Labor


        Child labor is work that steals a child’s childhood. Defined in International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions, child labor is work that children should not be involved in given their age, or – if that child is old enough – work that is too dangerous and unsuitable.

        Forcing children to take part in often dangerous and strenuous work and preventing them from attending school, child labor stands in the way of a child’s healthy physical and mental development in addition to his or her education.

        In some cases children are enslaved laborers, engaged in the agricultural, mining and manufacturing sectors, or in domestic service, subsequently pushed into homelessness and living on the streets. However, others are trafficked and enslaved in prostitution, or forced into armed combat as child soldiers. These are all forms of child labor the latter qualifying as some of the worst forms of child labor given that such bondage is especially harmful and in direct violation of a child’s human rights. Child labor is a continuing global phenomenon and following are some shocking, but important, facts regarding the practice.

        Important Facts about Child Labor

        1. Currently, there are nearly 30 million people held in slavery and an estimated 26 percent are children.
        2. In 2012, 168 million children – from 5-years-old to 17 – were involved in child labor. Of this number, 85 million worked in hazardous conditions, enduring beatings to sexual violence.
        3. Around the world one in six children are forced to work, with children below the age of 18 representing between 40 to 50 percent of laborers.
        4. Children living in more rural areas can begin working as young as the age of five.
        5. According to the ILO, an estimated two thirds of all child labor is in the agricultural sector.
        6. The highest proportion of child laborers is in Sub-Saharan Africa where 49 million children are forced laborers.
        7. The highest numbers of child laborers are in Asia and the Pacific, where over 122 million children are forced into work.
        8. According to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there are over 300,000 child soldiers forced into armed combat.
        9. In most regions, girls are just as likely as boys to be involved in child labor however, girls are more likely to be involved in domestic work.
        10. According to the ILO, only one in five child laborers is paid for their work, as the majority of child laborers are unpaid family workers.

        So why are some children forced into labor?

        Poverty is the most often cited reason why children work. Pressured to provide food and shelter, as well as to pay off debt owed by the parents, some children have no other choice but to become involved in labor in order to support their families. However, some children are sold against their will and forced into slavery. Other factors that influence whether children work or not include barriers to education and inadequate enforcement of legislation protecting children.

        Child labor is a complex issue, as are the solutions, but the following steps must continue to be pushed for in order to see further progress. First and foremost, child labor laws must be enforced. Another strategy would be to reduce poverty in these areas so as to limit the need for children to be forced into these situations. Finally, providing access to quality education ensures that each child has a chance for a better future.


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