Another Labor Day has arrived, closing the summer season of 2016. However, Labor Day was celebrated as early as the 1880s to recognize the American labor movement, but it didn’t become a national holiday until 1894.
Source: My Personal Collection
Labor conditions remained difficult for many, but were especially hard on children, who often were sent to work in factories, mines and other settings instead of attending school.
Where did the United States stand on child labor one hundred years ago? Congress passed the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act of 1916 largely in response to photographer Lewis Hine’s work exposing working conditions of young children. This act prohibited interstate commerce of products made by children younger than 14 fourteen, or items made in factories where children 14-16 years old worked for more than eight hours a day, overnight, or more than sixty hours a week!
These children often worked in dangerous settings. They didn’t attend school because their parents needed the extra income that their labor brought in. They were not only growing up illiterate, but they often had health issues because of the work environment. If they weren’t injured or killed on the job, they often had health issues caused by the work environment.
The Keating-Owen Act, also called Wick’s Bill, was declared unconstitutional by the U.S Supreme Court only nine months after it was passed. The court decided that the federal government had no right to interfere in internal work rules of these companies. That’s quite astounding to think about today.
Enjoy your Labor Day holiday, but remember the sacrifices our ancestors made, hoping for a better future.