Child Labor Progressive Era

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Children were welcome to work as a factory workers during early 1900s , due to pay cuts, long hours and lack of attention to safety, and the fact that many of these children were employed in sectors were they would be conducting tasks that usually adults would not be able to do, these children were at great risks. During the progressive era, the unions formed which would go against the child labor. Child labor was at times be even more attractive for employers considering the fact that they would pay them half as much as an adult.

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It was during this era that National Child Labor Committee, a private nonprofit organization, hired Lewis Hine to document the working conditions of children and women in the country which was had a great influence in the reform movement. The influence was to the extent that Senator Beveridge in a 1906 on child labor mentioned “ When the lords of gold tremble for the safety of their widespread investments, let them remember that child labor is daily creating an element in this republic more dangerous to their physical property itself than ever was packed in dynamiters’ bombs” (Finnegan, p.104). In other words, working from an early age and under unprotected conditions could lead to adults who would not be a good member of society and who would be against the human society since they would feel like they were robbed of their rights.

This committee and many efforts that followed resulted in the regulation of child labor, “the New York Child Labor or “Factory Act” of 1886 was the first meaningful attempt to protect children working in factories” ( Perera, p.1865). That is to say, before this act there were practically no regulation for child labor. I think overall there may not have been a great influence on outlaw child labor and get it into the great control that we currently have over the age and conditions for workers. However, it did lay the foundations for the progress that was made to make the laws regarding working conditions and legal age and safety


Perera, F. (2014). Science as an early driver of policy: Child labor reform in the early Progressive Era, 1870-1900. American Journal of Public Health, 104(10), 1862-1871.

Finnegan, C. (2008). “Liars May Photograph”: Image Vernaculars and Progressive Era Child Labor Rhetoric. 5(2), 94-139.

Michael Schuman, “History of child labor in the United States—part 2: the reform movement,”Monthly Labor Review, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2017,

The Fight to End Child Labor, HISTORY.COM EDITORSTV-PG1:25, retrieved from:

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Child Labor Progressive Era. (2020, Jan 28). Retrieved from