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Federal Government Efforts to Regulate Oppressive Child Labor before The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938

VLibrary.info Logo  1842: Massachusetts and Connecticut limited the maximum workday for children under the age of 12 to ten hours.

VLibrary.info Logo  1901: The Alabama Child Labor Committee formed.

VLibrary.info Logo  November 1902: The New York Child Labor Committee formed.

VLibrary.info Logo  April 15, 1904: The National Child Labor Committee was formed following discussions between the Alabama Child Labor Committee and the New York Child Labor Committee.

VLibrary.info Logo  1904: The National Child Labor Committee drafted a Model Child Labor Bill, calling for a minimum age of 14 for employment in manufacturing, a minimum age of 16 for employment in mining, a limit of eight hours per day, no night work (from 7 PM to 6 AM) for employees under age 16, and a requirement for proof of age.

VLibrary.info Logo  March 31, 1905: During a meeting at the White House Lillian D. Wald (Henry Street Settlement in New York City), Edward T. Devine (General Secretary of the New York Charity Organization Society), Jane Addams (Cofounder of Hull House in Chicago), and Mary McDowell (founder of the University of Chicago Settlement in 1894) presented their proposal for a federal Children's Bureau to President Theodore Roosevelt, who gave them his private endorsement.

VLibrary.info Logo  January 10, 1906: Senator Murray Crane of Massachusetts introduced a bill (S. 2962) "...to establish in the Department of the Interior a bureau to be known as the Children's Bureau;". On May 9, 1906, Representative John J. Gardner (R-NJ) introduced an identical bill (H. R. 19115) in the House of Representatives.

VLibrary.info Logo  December 5, 1906: Senator Albert J. Beveridge, Indiana, introduced "A Bill to Prevent the Employment of Children in Factories and Mines" (S. 6562) that would ban the sale of products from any factory, shop, or cannery that employed children under the age of 14, from any mine that employed children under the age of 16, and from any facility that had children under the age of 16 work at night or for more than 8 hours during the day. On December 6, 1906, Representative Herbert Parsons of New York introduced the bill in the House of Representatives (H.R. 21404).

VLibrary.info Logo  February 8, 1907: The National Child Labor Committee was incorporated through a special act of Congress (S. 6364).

VLibrary.info Logo  January 25 and 26, 1909: President Theodore Roosevelt hosted a White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children.

VLibrary.info Logo  1910: (Report of the Special Committee on a Uniform Child Labor Law

VLibrary.info Logo  August 25 and 26, 1911: During their 1911 Annual Conference the Commissioners on Uniform State Laws adopted a Uniform Child Labor Law developed by the National Child Labor Committeee and the American Bar Assocition Special Committee on a Uniform Child Labor Law.

VLibrary.info Logo  1911: The American Bar Association adopted a recommended Child Labor Law.

VLibrary.info Logo  January 13, 1912: A bill to establish a federal Children's Bureau passed the Senate by a vote of 54-19. It was signed by President William Howard Taft on April 9, 1912.

VLibrary.info Logo  1912: A bill limiting the hours of work for women and children in New York factories to 54 hours a week was passed through the efforts of Frances Perkins, at that time a lobbyist for the National Consumer's League.

VLibrary.info Logo  April 9, 1912: President William Howard Taft signed the bill creating a federal Children's Bureau.

VLibrary.info Logo  January 6, 1914: The National Child Labor Committee announced support for the passage of a federal law regulating child labor.

VLibrary.info Logo  December 24, 1914: Representative A. Mitchell Palmer (D-Pa.) and Senator Robert L. Owen (D-Okla.) introduced a child labor bill (S. 4571 and H.R. 12292).

VLibrary.info Logo  January 7, 1916: The Senator Keating introduced Keating–Owen Child Labor Act of 1916, "H.R. 8234, A Bill for an Act to Prevent Interstate Commerce in the Products of Child Labor, January 17, 1916." Based on the 1906 child labor bill proposed by Senator Albert J. Beveridge, the bill banned the sale of products from any factory, shop, or cannery that employed children under the age of 14, from any mine that employed children under the age of 16, and from any facility where children under the age of 16 work at night or for more than 8 hours during the day. The Keating-Owen Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson.

VLibrary.info Logo  February 2, 1916: The Keating-Owen Act (H.R. 8234) bill to prevent interstate commerce in the products of child labor was approved by the House of Representatives by a vote of 337 to 46.

VLibrary.info Logo  June 3, 1918: Hammer v. Dagenhart, 247 U.S. 251. The Supreme Court declared the Keating-Owen Child Labor bill unconstitutional. This decision was overruled by the United States Supreme Court on February 3, 1941 in United States v. Darby Lumber Co. (312 US 100)

VLibrary.info Logo  September 19, 1918: Congress approved the District of Columbia minimum-wage law (40 Stat. 960) guaranteeing a minimum wage to women and children employed in the District of Columbia. The bill included the definition that "The term "minor" means a person of either sex under the age of eighteen years;"

VLibrary.info Logo  December 1918: The Child Labor Tax Law, (H.R. 12863, Revenue Act of 1919) passed as part of the Revenue Act of 1919, imposed a federal excise tax of 10% on annual net profits of those employers who used child labor in certain businesses.

VLibrary.info Logo  May 15, 1922: Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., 259 U.S. 20. The Supreme Court ruled the 1919 Child Labor Tax Law unconstitutional as an improper attempt by Congress to penalize employers using child labor.

VLibrary.info Logo  April 9, 1923: Adkins v. Children's Hospital, 261 U.S. 525. The Supreme Court ruled that the 1918 District of Columbia Minimum Wage Act, establishing a federal minimum wage for women and children employed in the District of Columbia, was an unconstitutional infringement of liberty of contract.

VLibrary.info Logo  June 2, 1924: The United States Senate approved the Child Labor Amendment to the Constitution (H. J. Res. 184) by a vote of 61 to 23, with 12 not voting.

VLibrary.info Logo  August 10, 1933: President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6246, requiring government contractors to comply with codes of fair competition issued under the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA). This became moot when the Supreme Court struck down the NIRA in Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States (1935).

VLibrary.info Logo  May 27, 1935: Schechter Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495. The Supreme Court declared that the National Recovery Act was unconstitutional.

VLibrary.info Logo  Secretary of Labor Francis Perkins wrote that "As the Administration perpared the language of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1937, "One last minute change was the insertion of a clause prohibiting the labor of youngsters under sixteen in industries engaged in interstate commerce or affecting interstate commerce, and providing for not more than eight hours of work a day for children over sixteen. As Grace Abbott, Chief of the Children’s Bureau, so eloquently pleaded, “You are hoping that you have found a way around the Supreme Court. If you have, why not give the children the benefit by attaching a child labor clause to this bill?” The President readily agreed and was delighted that we might make this bill cover child labor as well as low wages and long hours." [SEE: Perkins, The Roosevelt I knew, page 256.]

VLibrary.info Logo  May 24, 1937: The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1937 was introduced in Congress as S. 2475 in the Senate, and H.R. 7200 in the House of Representatives.

VLibrary.info Logo  June 25, 1938: The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) was passed by Congress and signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

VLibrary.info Logo  October 24, 1938: The Fair Labor Standards Act went into effect.

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      VLibrary.info Logo RESOURCES

VLibrary.info Logo  Stanley Coben. A. Mitchell Palmer: politician. New York, Columbia University Press, 1963.

VLibrary.info Logo  Philip Coltoff. The crusade for children : the Children's Aid Society's early years to present, New York : Children's Aid Society, 2008.

VLibrary.info Logo  Frances Perkins, The Roosevelt I knew. New York, The Viking press, 1946.

VLibrary.info Logo  National Conference of commissioners on uniform state laws. Special committee on a uniform child labor law. Report of the Special committee on a uniform child labor law. Boston, Wright & Potter printing co., state printers, 1910.