Period 1

The Problem(s)

As industry grew from the late 19th to early 20th century, a great deal more workers began working in factories. The conditions under which they worked were nothing short of deplorable. The working environments were very unsafe, and workers had little or no protection. Workers also worked many hours, as high as 14 a day, and 6 or 7 days a week. Wages were also very low. Although labor unions tried to fight back with strikes, immigration was so high that striking workers were often simply fired and replaced. Unions also got very little public support, and the government almost always sided with big business. Even worse was the fact that many children were subjugated to these conditions. It is estimated that almost 1 in 6 children was employed full-time, and they made up nearly 1/3 of the labor force.

The Solution(s)

To solve labor problems some proposed that the government should remain neutral in any labor disputes. They tried to get laws passed that would give labor Unions the right to exist, as well as to strike. Laws were also proposed to set standard working condition, and well as standards in working hours and wages. Child labor was also becoming illegal. Investigations were launched to investigate conditions, leading to safety standards. The state governments also passed workers’ compensation laws which protected workers if they were injured while working. Finally, state governments proposed laws limiting the number of immigrants who could come in so that if unions struck, it would not be as easy for businesses to simply replace them. In 1916 Congress finally began working against child labor. It passed the Keating-Owen act, prohibiting the interstate transportation of goods made by companies employing children, though this law was overturned two years later by the Supreme Court case Hammer v. Dagenhart, on the grounds that it violated the constitution.

The Images ||
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|| An 8 year old child works on Picking Shrimp

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Boys working at a coal factory in Pennyslvania in 1911.

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A 5 year old picks cotton in Oklahoma.

The Primary Sources

An outgrowth of the progressive|movement, the Child Labor Amendment was an attempt to end the practice of employing children in factories. In 1924, the amendment passed both the U.S. House|of Representatives, by a vote of 197 to 69, and the U.S.|Senate, by a vote of 61 to 23, but only 28 states ratified the amendment in the coming years, which was not enough to put the amendment into effect. During the New|Deal, many of the amendment's provisions were incorporated into other legislation regarding labor.
Child Labor Amendment

The Citations

Progressive Era Class Sheet
"Child Labor" ABC-CLIO 2007. ABC-CLIO.. February 21, 2007 <>