The New Interest In Child Labor -- By: W. E. C. Wright
BSac 60:239 (July 1903) p. 585
The New Interest In Child Labor
Early in the nineteenth century shocking revelations were made in England of the extent to which, in the developing factory system, even very young children were employed at continuous labor. Years of agitation passed before the defense of parliamentary statute was thrown around England’s children. The poetic sympathy of Mrs. Browning
BSac 60:239 (July 1903) p. 586
and the eloquence of Macaulay were enlisted in the cause before it triumphed . It was necessary to argue seriously against the short-sighted fear that England would lose her industrial supremacy if she did not use the hands of her children in coal-mine and cotton-mill and brick-yard. The nation proved wise enough to forbid dwarfing its future laborers for the sake of a little present gain.
In the United States those parts of the country where the factory system developed earliest were the first to follow England’s example. Most of the Northern States have long had laws putting more or less restriction on child-labor. The North often pointed the finger of scorn at the South in this matter. The South had little legislation on the subject. It is but a few years ago that a Southern congressman published over his own name an urgent invitation to Northern manufacturers to come to his State. One of the inducements which he emphasized was the liberty they would find there to use child labor!
But in most of the Southern States agitation is now active and persistent to remedy this gross lack in their statutes. Meanwhile we have become aware of grievous lacks in the laws of the Northern States, and grievous deficiencies in the execution of present laws. It has been brought out by the Coal Arbitration Commission, that Pennsylvania, in spite of laws, employs many more children in her mines and shops than Georgia, which has no laws. Illinois has discovered that many young children have been employed on night work in some of her industries, and has just enacted a new law intended to stop this shame completely. Fortunately her legislators were not deluded by the plea that glass-blowing would be driven out of the State if little children could not be employed in the night-time at the glass-factories. It is a safe proposition that the production of efficient men and women is more important for a State than the production of glass bottles or cheap cotton cloth. We bid Godspeed to our brothers and sisters in Georgia and other States who are making so earnest a fight to secure the practice of this principle. We are ashamed that so much of their opposition comes from absentee owners of industrial stock. The question is nowhere one of merely local interest. The welfare of the nation hangs on keeping childhood sacred to education...
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