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Capt. Isaac Paine Elementary School Library: Grade 5

Industrial Revolution / Child Labor

Children worked in factories and on farms in the late nineteenth century. Child welfare became a cause for social activists in the Progressive Era, 1890-1920. Organizations worked to create the definition of a happy and healthy childhood and to help get legislation passed. Learn what life was like for the children who worked in mills, factories, and mines. Read about pediatrics during the era. Public health initiatives were brought about to prevent childhood diseases. What was play like in the country and in the city streets? Social organizations sprang up, such as the Boy Scouts (1910), the Girl Scouts (1912), the 4-H club (1914), and summer camps.
Before child labor laws, it was expected that children did some sort of work to help their families. People also believed that children should not have extra time on their hands. This article about Iowa's history describes some of the jobs done by children in the country and in cities. Learn about the dangers of some of these jobs and find out why children often did jobs intended for adults. Click through the photos to see kids at work.
Santos was just six years old when he started work as a migrant farmworker. He remembers blisters, headaches, a hurting back, and bad weather. For ten summers, he joined nearly a million American children in the fields who help their families survive through their labor. A new day brings 12 hours of work in hot weather with the potential of injuries and poisoning from pesticides. Now he is working to change that and build a new future for himself and other migrant children. Analyze the difficult decisions these children and their families face.
This story was originally printed in the Child Labor Bulletin between 1912 and 1919 in order to make people aware of the problem of child laborers. In this story, a girl who attends school and doesn't have to work, tells about her trip to the south to see the cotton workers. She was shocked at how the children had to work. There are many pictures to go with this story. They show real children who worked for 10 or 12 hours each day. It made the original author appreciate how the material was made for her clothing.

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