Use the links at the top to explore our site and find out what the ILGWU can do for you!

National Child Labor Committee Meets in Washington

Nurses’ Settlement, New York
THE National Child Labor Committee met in Washington in
December last, a serious gathering of a few overworked men and women
in the interests of the working children of this great nation, whose
condition is fast becoming the humiliation of America. England had
the scandal of wage slavery of children of tender years in the beginning
of the last century, but the people of the United States have not
had enough wisdom or humanity to learn by her experience how to protect
those who are helpless to protect themselves against the exploitation
of sordid-minded employers or an indifferent public.

In respect to the employment of young children, America does not
rank with highly civilized countries like England, Germany and France, but with Spain, Italy, and Russia. Child labor has been extending with
frightful rapidity in our midst for a number of years, and it was discouraging
to learn, from the reports read at the convention, that in spite of
agitation going on in many States, and the fact that some thirty-five
States now have some kind of restrictive legislation, child labor is on
the increase, owing to the multiplication of factories, both of cotton
and glass.” The great manufacturers who employ children as young
as seven and eight years old for from twelve to fourteen hours
a day and from ten to twelve at night, make various excuses to defend
their greed. Sometimes it is the plea of giving the children knowledge
of a trade; sometimes it is the sentimental explanation of a widowed
mother; sometimes the frankly mercenary declaration that without child
labor they cannot run their business.

Owen R. Lovejoy, in his paper read at Washington, said in regard
to the “widowed mother :” ” The excuse most frequently met is the
plea for the ‘poor midow’ who will be left without support if her little
boy and girl are taken from the factory or store. In every community
she is found, and the advocates of her cause are both numerous
and powerful. Men of commanding position in the community, as
business men and as philanthropists, openly avow the justice of the
employment of children of tender years, in labor that dwarfs the body
and stifles intellectual growth, because the poor widow would suffer
for bread if they were to be emancipated. The plea is a plausible one,
but the facts do not justify its claim. Only a small proportion of those
whose little children are employed at hard labor are ‘poor widows,’
and for these we dare believe society can better afford to make adequate
and honorable provision, recognizing their service to the community
in the care of their young, rather than that the young, the only real
wealth the community can boast, should be made a meat offering to the
hunger of the parent. Let us forever put to shame this brazen slavemaster
of childhood which poses as philanthropy by showing that whatever
the sacrifice, the children of our generation shall not be made the
means of livelihood to any member of the community.”

Comments are closed.