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"Nine and Ten Years Old- They can earn 40c. in a ten-hour day, but they cannot read."
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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The idea of children working was not new: children always worked on farms or with their parents as they grew up. But with the industrial revolution of the early 19th century, factory owners found that children with their small size and nimble hands could perform many tasks better than adults. Although this was accepted at first, through the 1800s a reaction slowly built against child labor. By 1899 twenty-eight states had set a minimum age limit of twelve for manufacturing work, and a concerted reform campaign to ban all child labor under the age of sixteen began around 1900. Reformers argued that making children work during their most important formative years would cause deep harm, and that white children in particular were vulnerable. Child labor could lead to "race deterioration," as this pamphlet argues on its back cover. The National Child Labor Committee was one of the most effective reform organizations, utilizing poignant photographs on their informational materials.
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