Children's Bureau under Miss Julia Lathrop--- General Federation of Women's Clubs and other organization intensify work in interest of Nation's children--- Women work to make Federal Child Labor Law effective----New department of Children's Bureau under Miss Abbott.
It did not take a declaration of war to bring the Government of the United States to a realization of the importance of caring for the moral and physical welfare of its children, nor did it take a declaration of war to direct the attention of women to this work, much of the responsibility of which naturally fell on their shoulders.
For many years the General Federation of Women's Clubs, through a special department, and many of its cooperating organizations, such as the National Congress of Mothers and Parent-Teachers' Association, had been giving a great deal of attention to this all important subject.
The Government had also given recognition to its importance by the creation of a Children's Bureau under the Department of Labor of which Miss Julia Lathrop of Illinois is chief.
It was logical that the child welfare work that developed directly because of the war should be definitely linked with this great governmental agency and that the emergency plans for meeting the situation should merely involve an expansion of the existing machinery for looking after the welfare of the nation's children, and an intensification of its efforts. The Woman's Committee promptly asked Miss Lathrop to act in the capacity of Executive Chairman of its Child Welfare Department. The Committee was happy to be guided by her experienced hand and trained mind.
The aim of this Department is to safeguard the character and the education of the children of the United States during the war, by helping to make the Federal Child Labor Law effective; by aiding teachers and superintendents of schools in the care and welfare of children; by visiting through its state organization school authorities and labor officials, and cooperating with them in an effort to keep children under fourteen in school, decently clothed and well nourished.
"The least a democratic nation can do, which sends men into war, is to give a solemn assurance that their families will be cared for-not kept from starvation but kept on a wholesome level of comfort," Miss Julia Lathrop said soon after war was declared.
When the United States declared war the Children's Bureau under Miss Lathrop at once began a study of conditions in foreign countries. "As we studied infant and maternal mortality, "said Miss Lathrop, "delinquency and dependency, child labor and school exemptions, the relation of all those evils to the economic status of the family became increasingly plain, and it was clear that in a country with a vast number of men in arms, the first question in a review of social conditions is what protection will the Government afford the family. Canada is our next door neighbor, and her standard and ideals are so analogous to our own that her methods of dealing with her soldiers are of especial interest."
Captain S. Herbert Wolfe generously offered his services to make a special study of the Canadian provisions and this study was published by the Bureau under the title "Care of Dependents of Enlisted Men in Canada. "At the request of the United States Secretary of Labor, Captain Wolfe aided in making a similar study of the laws for soldiers' pay in the United States and upon these two reports was based the bill for soldiers ' compensation which was subsequently introduced into Congress.
Believing this bill to be of the most vital import the Woman's Committee, through its Chairman, Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, sent a letter to the Chairmen in the various states asking their interest in the support of the bill. Dr. Shaw stated that she considered it a great opportunity for women to urge the maintenance of the families of the soldiers, to prevent untold sufferings and to bring us through this war with families stronger than they otherwise could be. The Woman's Committee made a thorough drive to bring about a complete understanding of this measure among the women of America. Accompanying each letter to the state chairmen were fifty copies of Secretary McAdoo's digest of the bill, to be sent to county chairmen. The Committee urged women to write or telegraph Congressmen urging prompt passage of the law.
In an effort to assist in the enforcement of the Child Labor Law, which became effective September 1, 1917, the Woman's Committee, on August 17, 1917, sent to each state chairman the following letter:
Will you help to make the Federal Child Labor Law effective This law goes into effect on September 1, 1917. It provides that no child under fourteen shall work in any mill, cannery, workshop, factory or manufacturing establishment which ships in interstate or foreign commerce. Thus it sets free children under fourteen who are today at work in any of these industries. It sets them free to give them a better chance in the world-so that they may go to school. Children under fourteen who have been at work have already lost time that can never be made up to them.
The full benefit to be gained from the new Federal Child Labor Law cannot be secured merely by its complete enforcement. The final responsibility rests with the citizens of each locality and demands a service outside of the law itself. If every child released from work can be sent, well nourished and decently clothed, to a good school, under a good teacher, then the full benefit of the Federal Child Labor Law will be reaped for the country's children.
This will cost money. It means sacrifice on the part of older people; it means taxes for more schools and better schools. It means unstinted effort in communities where poverty may necessitate scholarship. There is reason to believe that comparatively few scholarships will be required, and that the important matter is to provide the schools and see that the children attend them.
No words can be too strong to express the importance of giving to the nation's children nurture and education in fullest possible measure as a war time protection of our last reserves. It cannot but stir American women to know that England, after three years of war, is urging through the Departmental Committee on Education, a new law, keeping children in school until fourteen, allowing no exemptions and including all rural children and thus going far greater lengths than the United States law.
Indirectly our new law will help rural children in those areas where the greatest problem of illiteracy now exists, for the nation will not long permit rural children to grow up untaught if the education of all other children is secured.
If children are not decently clothed and properly fed they cannot get the full value of school. Scholarships are raised for college and university students to help pay living expenses for those who could not otherwise attend the highest schools. These scholarships have proved an investment of incalculable value to the citizens of the United States.
Scholarships in elementary schools will lay the foundation for perhaps a greater addition to national power.
Here is something to do: Please visit your school authorities and labor officials and find out whether all the children in your community under fourteen years of age are in school. If the school census and the attendance records differ greatly something is wrong.
Will you find out where the children under fourteen are if not in school
If you wish to help, please begin to help by filling in the accompanying blank as soon as practicable after September 1st and returning it to the Woman's Committee
Through answers to the questions on the accompanying blank much valuable information was secured.
The Committee strongly urged the appointment of a chairman for Child Welfare in every state and in a second letter to the state chairmen, Dr. Shaw said: "No other patriotic service should be permitted to take the place of the care and welfare of the children in our own country. This should be our first consideration. The future of our country depends upon the character and intelligence of its citizens. Already the claim is made that juvenile crime is increasing since the declaration of war and the mobilization of our armies. If this is true, we should need no greater incentive to see to protect our children than this danger with which as a nation we are confronted.
"If you have not yet appointed a chairman for the Department of Child Welfare, do not delay it longer, that each county may be equipped to safeguard the future of our country by safeguarding the character and education of our youth. Do everything through your committee possible to secure the cooperation of superintendents and teachers to advise and aid you in the common interest of the home, the schools and the country."
After the Child Labor Law went into effect September 1, 1917, the Secretary of the Department of Labor caused to be created a new division of the Children's Bureau, in order that the country may reap the full benefit of the law.
With the beginning of the fourth year of the war in Europe and the unceasing preparations still going forward, which are swallowing up billions of dollars, Great Britain, France, Belgium and Germany have found that in spite of the woeful need of economy long every line, now boiled down to the last dregs, there must be no economy exercised when it comes to the care of babies, young children and mothers. These are the bulwarks upon which the warring nations must rest after the carnage has ceased and normal conditions must be reëstablished.
America, already awake to the danger, and to the necessity of continuing and strengthening the prevention measures then in operation, believed that the new Federal Child Labor Law was vital to the upbuilding of the new generation. This law forbids the shipment in interstate or foreign commerce of the product of a manufacturing establishment or of a mine or quarry in the United States in which within thirty days prior to the removal of the product from such establishment, mine or quarry, children have been employed contrary to the following provisions: First, no child under fourteen to be employed at any time in any mill, cannery, workshop, factory or manufacturing establishment; second, no child between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years to be employed in establishments specified in the first provision for more than eight hours in any day, or more than six days in any week, or between 7 P.M. and 6 A.M.; third, no child under sixteen to be employed at any time in any mine or quarry.
The Attorney General, the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of Labor constitute a board to make regulations for carrying out the provisions of this act. The problem of enforcement is complicated and inadequate provisions in many states have had a tendency to frustrate the very purpose for which child legislation has been willingly passed.
In six states child labor laws have been passed which do not call for the appointment of an enforcing official, and the result is wholesale violation of the law. While some states recognize the need of such enforcement to the extent of providing one official, with a clerk, to administer the labor law, to collect and publish manufacturing and agricultural statistics and to perform other varied and numerous duties which render it impossible to do justice to the work, the result is that neither the spirit nor the letter of the law is fulfilled.
The Children's Bureau of the Department of Labor has not only been far-reaching in its work for the woman and child welfare of the present generation, but has been far-seeing in its plans for resulting good to those who will come later. The new child labor division is the logical outcome of this work. The young woman who has been placed at the head of it is one whose life work has been spent along the practical lines, a knowledge of which will go far toward making the enforcement of the new federal law a success.
This woman is Miss Grace Abbott of Chicago, who brings to the work a broad experience in industrial matters, both in this country and abroad; executive ability of a high order, and an interesting and compelling influence over those with whom she comes in contact. For a month or more before the law went into effect she was at work on the details of the administration of the division, with a staff of temporary assistants, in order that there might be no delay in enforcing the law. The permanent assistants will be taken from those experts passing a competitive examination in child welfare.
Miss Abbott lived for many years in an industrial neighborhood and was a resident of Hull House, Chicago, for seven years. She has visited Europe repeatedly to observe industrial conditions, especially in countries from which immigration has been large in recent years. Since 1908 she has been actively engaged in work on industrial problems as they have affected immigrants, part of the time as executive secretary of the Massachusetts immigration commission, and more recently as director of the Immigrant's Protective League of Chicago.
In northern and western Hungary and Cracow, Miss Abbott lived among the people, studying their habits, their environment and religious and social conditions which had a bearing on their daily lives, thus making it easier for her to help immigrants from those places to learn to readjust themselves to conditions in America.
When studying the districts in Galicia, northern Hungary and Croatia, she, in company with the village priest, visited the people in their homes, went to the parish church where they worshipped, to the public square where their amusements were carried on, and to the fields where they worked long hours of the day.
The new law will reach the following conditions as set forth by the national child labor committee: "Three states, permitting children under fourteen to work in factories and mills at all times, and nineteen more states permitting it by exemption; sixteen mining states permitting children under sixteen to work in mines; three more by exemption; nine states allowing night work of children under sixteen, five more by exemption; twenty-four states allowing children under sixteen to work more than eight hours a day in factories, four more by exemption."
With the national departments actively enlisted to safeguard its children; with such women as Miss Lathrop and Miss Abbott at the head of the work; with the Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense standing squarely behind the Children's Bureau in everything it undertakes and with leading women in every state in the Union on guard for the safety and welfare of the children, America need have nothing to fear for the generation of its citizens now being developed amidst the difficulties and dangers of war.
Chapter VII. Health and Recreation
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