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Massachusetts' lead in the reform of labor took a huge leap in the 1880s. Although the commonwealth had taken important steps to reform labor in the 1840s to 1870s, conditions for workers remained awful by modern standards. The Knights of Labor, a labor reform group, initiated more than 300 strikes in Massachusetts in 1886 alone. In response the Democratic Party pushed through a number of new laws regulating the amount of time worked and other work conditions. All workers would eventually benefit from these regulations, but they were controversial. Thus the party concentrated on reforming the work conditions of women and children, the groups in society viewed as vulnerable and in need of protection.