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Age in AmericaThe Colonial Era to the Present$
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Corinne T. Field and Nicholas L. Syrett

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781479870011

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479870011.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM NYU Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.nyu.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of NYU Press Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NYSO for personal use.date: 03 December 2021

“Rendered More Useful”

“Rendered More Useful”

Child Labor and Age Consciousness in the Long Nineteenth Century

(p.148) 7 “Rendered More Useful”
Age in America

James D. Schmidt

NYU Press

This chapter, by James D. Schmidt, demonstrates that the spread of age consciousness in nineteenth-century America was driven largely by the interlocking enforcement of child labor, compulsory school attendance, and truancy laws. Beginning in New England in the 1820s, middle-class reformers aimed to prepare children for democratic citizenship by keeping them in schools and out of work until a particular age. Working families resisted these reforms, insisting that the capacity to labor depended upon physical size and ability, not chronological age. During the late nineteenth century, as officials demanded conformity to age-based laws, working people engaged in various forms of resistance, often fabricating or conveniently forgetting their dates of birth. This very resistance, however, immersed working people in a new system of knowledge where calendar age mattered more than individual capacity.

Keywords:   age consciousness, child labor, schools, truancy, work, laws, resistance, capacity, size, calendar

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