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Children and Youth During the Gilded Age and Progressive Era$
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James Marten

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781479894147

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479894147.001.0001

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Of Families or Individuals?

Of Families or Individuals?

Southern Child Workers and the Progressive Crusade for Child Labor Regulation, 1899–1920

(p.59) 3 Of Families or Individuals?
Children and Youth During the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

Gwendoline Alphonso

NYU Press

This chapter examines the rhetoric of reform and opposition to reform as well as the “lived experience” of children by focusing on congressional testimony and policy debates over the issue of child labor involving child workers in the South during the period 1899–1920. It first considers legislative bills, legal codes, and policy developments related to child welfare and child labor policy in Congress in the Progressive era, with particular emphasis on the competing notions of children and families in the North and South. It then explores how children were conceptualized by three key policy actors at the time: progressive reformers who crusaded for child labor regulation, southern industrialists and their supporters who opposed it, and members of Congress who interrogated them. It also discusses the various ideals of children and their families that were tackled in child labor policy debates in the Progressive period. It argues that proponents and opponents of child labor regulation differed in their ideals regarding children, parents, work, and childhood.

Keywords:   reform, children, child labor, child workers, legal codes, child welfare, Congress, families, child labor regulation, South

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