Truancy and Non-Attendance in the Chicago Schools

Appendix 3: Documents Relating to the Enforcement of Child Labor and Compulsory Education Laws in Illinois

Edith Abbott and Sophonisba P. Breckinridge

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(I) Extracts from the First Annual Report[1] of the Factory Inspectors of Illinois, 1893, pp. 8-15

Child labor.- Among the first work of the inspectors was a careful canvass of the sewing, metal-stamping, woodworking, book-binding, box, candy, tobacco, and cigar trades, and the discharge of a large number of children under fourteen years of age.

The requirement that an age affidavit be filed in the workshop or factory, before a child is employed, has already made it a general practice on the part of employers to hand to every child applying for work an affidavit blank to be filled by the parent. Children who cannot get such blanks filled because not yet fourteen years old, apply at one shop after another until they either find some unscrupulous employer, or grow discouraged and give up the quest for work. Although some affidavits are undoubtedly false, hundreds of parents have withdrawn their children from work rather than forswear themselves.

Principally to meet the contingency of perjury, the inspectors have required health certificates of children markedly undersized, as well as of those who are diseased or deformed . . . . .

Where the child was found able to continue at work, it was granted a health certificate. In a large majority of cases, however, the examining physician endorsed upon the age affidavit the following formula:

"It is my opinion that this child is physically unfit for work at his present occupation."

The employer was then notified to discharge the child.


It soon transpired that some occupations were more injurious than others; sweat-shops, tobacco, cutlery and stamping works being worse, or instance, than candy-packing rooms. On the other and, the lightest occupations are rendered injurious by long hours of work. Therefore the prohibition of work for delicate children has been rarer in factories having good sanitary conditions, and known absolutely to obey the eight-hour section of the law, than in factories concerning which there was any doubt upon this point . . . . .

The medical profession and the law.--The value of this provision of the law [i. e., the medical certificate clause], however, depends upon the intelligent co-operation of the medical profession. For if the certificates are granted merely pro forma, upon the representation of the employer of the child, the object of the law is nullified. The physician who grasps the situation and appreciates the humane intent of the law, will always find time to visit the factory and see under what conditions the child is working. Otherwise his certificate may be worse than valueless, and may work a positive injury to a child whom the inspectors are trying to save from an injurious occupation.

Thus a healthy child may wish to enter a cracker bakery, and unless the physician visits it, and sees the dwarfish boys slowly roasting before the ovens, in the midst of unguarded belting and shafting (a danger to health which men refuse to incur), he may be inclined to grant the certificate, and thereby deprive the child of the only safeguard to his health which the State affords him. Similar danger exists in regard to tobacco, picture-frame, box, metal-stamping and woodworking factories.

Unfortunately the law does not require that the physician shall visit the workshop or factory, and see the child at work, and certificates have in some instances been granted in a disgracefully reckless manner.

A delicate looking little girl was found at work in a badly ventilated tailor shop facing an alley, in the rear of a tenement house. The bad location and atmosphere of the shop, and the child's stooping position as she worked, led the inspector to demand a health certificate. Examination at the office revealed a bad case of rachitis and antero-posterior curvature of the spine, one shoulder an inch higher than the other, and the child decidedly below the standard

(404) weight. Dr. Milligan endorsed upon the age affidavit: "It is my opinion that this child is physically incapable of work in any tailor shop." The employer was notified to discharge the child. A few days later she was found at work again in the same place, and the contractor produced the following "certificate," written upon the prescription blank of a physician in good and regular standing:

(Dated.) Dr. M. Meyerovitz, 179 W. 12th St., cor. Jefferson.
"This is to certify that I examined Miss Annie Cihlar, and found her in a physiological condition.
(Signed,) "MEYEROVITZ."

A test case was made, to ascertain the value of the medical certificate clause, and the judge decided that this certificate was void, and imposed a fine upon the employer for failure to obtain a certificate in accordance with the wording of the law. The child then went to another physician, and was given the following:

(Dated.) Dr. Frank J. Patera, 675 W. Taylor St.
CHICAGO, November 26, 1893 
To whom it may concern: 

This is to certify that I have this day examined Annie Cihlar, and find her, in my opinion, healthy. She is well developed for her age, muscular system in good condition, muscles are hard and solid; the lungs and heart are normal; the muscles of right side of trunk are better developed than upon the left side, which has a tendency to draw spine to that side, as a result of greater muscular activity upon that side. I cannot find no desease [sic] of the spine. 
(Signed,) "F. J. PATERA, M.D."

The sweater, taught by experience, declined to re-engage this child until this certificate was approved by an inspector. The inspector of course declined to approve it. The charge made for these certificates, and others of the same sort, ranged from fifty cents to two dollars.

This experience of illiteracy and unscrupulousness on the part of physicians in good and regular standing, indicates a need of co-operation among the different functionaries of the State, for there is, so far as known to the inspectors, no public physician or body of medical men to whom children can be sent for careful examination free of charge. The gratis examinations made at this office are due, as has already been stated, solely to the generosity of Drs. Milligan

(405) and Holmes, and to the faithful work of Dr. Holmes' students, under his direction, in making measurements, tests, etc., with no other reward than a widened knowledge of the physique of children of the wage-earning class . . . . .

Physical deterioration.-Every medical examination made in this office has been scheduled and filed, and the record formed in this manner is a truly appalling exposition of the deterioration of the rising generation of the wage-earning class. The human product of our industry is an army of toiling children undersized, rachitic, deformed, predisposed to consumption if not already tuberculous. Permanently enfeebled by the labor imposed upon them during the critical years of development, these children will inevitably fail in the early years of manhood and womanhood. They are now a long way on the road to become suffering burdens upon society, lifelong victims of the poverty of their childhood and the greed which denies children the sacred right of school life and healthful leisure.

Illiteracy.-The enforcement of Section Four of the law brings to light a deplorable amount of illiteracy among working children. Thus, in the first case prosecuted, that against Gustav Ravitz for employing a girl under fourteen years of age in his tailor shop, it was shown in court that this child had been brought thirteen years before to Chicago from Poland, yet she could not read or write in any language, nor speak English. Neither she nor her mother knew the year of the child's birth, and an interpreter was required in speaking with them both.

A little girl thirteen years of age found at 120 West Taylor street (Baumgarten's knee-pants shop), sewing on buttons in the bedroom of the sweater's family, was discharged. She is a Russian Jewess three years in this country, and does not know her letters. She was taken bodily to the Jewish Training School and entered as a pupil.

Greek, Italian, Bohemian, Polish and Russian children are constantly encountered who speak no English, hundreds of whom cannot read nor write in any language. Children who cannot spell their name or the name of the street in which they live are found at work every day by the deputies.

(406) Where these children are under fourteen years of age, they are turned over to the compulsory attendance officer of the board of education, but for those over the age of fourteen the state prescribes no educational requirement, and unless they look deformed, undersized, or diseased, the inspectors have no ground upon which to withdraw them from their life of premature toil. And in no case can we insist upon rudimentary education for them.

In this respect the Illinois law is far from abreast with the laws of Massachusetts and New York. In Massachusetts every child must attend some school throughout the period during which the public schools are in session until fourteen years of age . . . . . New York empowers her inspectors to order peremptorily the discharge of any child under sixteen years of age who cannot read and write simple sentences in the English language. Such a clause as this last one would cause the transfer of many hundreds of Illinois children from the factory to the schoolroom.

Instability.-Nor do the children who are deprived of school life receive at work any technical training which might in part compensate for their loss. On the contrary, it has been most forcibly shown that the reverse is the case by Assistant Inspector Stevens, of this staff, in a valuable paper read before the International Convention of Factory Inspectors. Mrs. Stevens says:

"A surprising thing developed by the use of the affidavits is the migratory method pursued by the employed children. Our very thorough and complete system of handling the registers, records and affidavits, enables us to trace a child changing its place of work, and also to note the number of changes in any one place. I cite one instance typical of all: On August 22, 1 inspected a candy factory, where I found eighty children under 16. For sixty-three of these affidavits had been filed, of which I found forty-three correct and twenty worthless because improperly made out. The forty-three correct affidavits, were stamped, seventeen children unprovided with affidavits were sent home, and the twenty defective affidavits were returned to the children, who were given until the next day to get them right. On September 8, another inspector visited this factory and found seventy-one children at work with sixty-five affidavits awaiting inspection. Only one of these bore the stamp of my pre

(407) -vious inspection, two weeks before. The seventy children were a new lot, and all but one of the children I had found in this place had taken their affidavits and flitted off to other work. In the same factory on September 11 -- only three days later, and one of those a Sunday -- a third inspector found 119 children, and, of course, new records and an almost total change in the register were again necessary.

"From such experiences as these we are led to hope that the trouble employers will have over the affidavits, the posting of new records, the changing of registers, will lead them to the employment of older help. Indeed, this candy manufacturer is already seeking girls over 16.

"This drifting about of children at work indicates a most demoralized and demoralizing condition, which should be carefully studied by those who argue in favor of giving children employment. They talk with insufficient knowledge who say it is an advantage to boys and girls to have 'steady occupation,' a 'chance to learn a trade .. . . . . We may well ask what can be learned by a boy or girl who is to-day in one factory of one kind and to-morrow in another factory of another kind; one week wrapping caramels and the next week gilding picture frames ? . . . . What the child does learn is instability, unthrift, trifling with opportunity . . . . . It is a matter of the rarest occurrence to find a set of children who have been working together two months in any factory."


(2) Extracts from the Second Annual Report of the Factory Inspectors Of Illinois, 1894, pp. 12-21

Children under 14 years of age. -- Although the law prohibits absolutely the employment of any child under 14 years of age in manufacture, yet the children under 14 years can never be wholly kept out of the factories and workshops until they are kept in school. At present the school attendance law is almost useless, at least in Chicago, where the largest number of children have been found at work. Although the Chicago Board of Education employs attendance agents, yet children leave school to sell papers; to carry cash in stores and telegrams and messages in streets; to peddle, black boots, "tend the baby," or merely to idle about. Unruly children

(408) are expelled from school to suit the convenience of teachers. Principals of schools have sent to the inspectors children 11 years old, with the written request that permits be granted to enable the children to go to work (in violation of the factory law) because in each case the child is "incorrigible." As no factory can be a better place for a child 11 years old than a reasonably good school, this request voices the desire of the Principal to be relieved of the trouble of the child. For all these various reasons, and perhaps also because of the want of sufficient school accommodations, children are freed from school attendance at such a rate that the last school census, 1894, shows 6,887 children between the ages Of 7 and 14 years, in Chicago alone, who attend no school.

Of these thousands, hundreds are seeking work in shops and factories, and when they find work and the laws of the state are thereby violated, the task of prosecution, which should fall in part at least on the Board of Education of Chicago, devolves upon the State Factory Inspectors alone.

Co-operation with the Chicago Board of Education.-- In three months, September, October and November this department forwarded to the compulsory attendance department of the Chicago Board of Education, the names and addresses Of 76 children under 14 years of age who were found by inspectors during these months at work, in violation of Section 4 Of the Factory and Workshop law; also the names and addresses Of 27 other children who, in these three months, applied at the office for permission to go to work in violation of the law, and to whom we refused age affidavits because they were not yet 14 years old.

These 103 children under 14 years of age, found at work or seeking work since the present school year began, have all been seen and talked with by one or more inspectors of this department, and we therefore speak with knowledge of each case, when we say that none of these children has yet mastered the teachings of a primary school; a large number cannot yet write their own names; and some of them cannot yet speak the English language.

As to the environment in which the 76 children were found working, 30 were in sweat shops, six in cigar factories and 15 at the stock yards; leaving only 25 of the 76 in occupations relatively harmless.


To rescue in three months 51 children under 14 years of age from nicotine poisoning, from the miasma of the stock yards, and from the horrible conditions of the sweat shops is to accomplish something worth doing,-- if we could be certain that the rescue would result in added school life and opportunities for normal growth and development for the children. Unfortunately our experience has convinced us that we may find the child discharged today at work tomorrow, or next week, in some other shop or factory.

The State Inspectors having obtained the conviction Of 25 employers upon 33 charges of having in their factories or workshops children under 14 years of age, while no parent has been prosecuted under the school laws, it is manifest that parents are going unpunished who share the responsibility for their children's unlawful employment.

The Board of Education has kindly furnished us a report of the disposition made of such of the children reported by us as received the attention of its attendance agents during September and October. This report shows that the officers placed in school 3 1 children out of 64 investigated by them; a little less than one-half. Upon the remaining 33 cases the report shows that several children were not found by the attendance agents; a few were given permits to work in stores; some were dropped with the remark that the children were "incorrigible"; and in 15 cases the mere statement of the parent that the child was over 14 was received by the compulsory department as sufficient reason for dropping the case, although in each such case the parent declined, in dealing with us, to make affidavit to show the child to be more than 14 years old.

Nullification of Section 4.-- The humane intent of the first clause of Section 4 Of the workshop and factory law is obvious: that the child under 14 years is to be safeguarded by the State against employment injurious to it. This intent is nullified- if the child is not kept in school, but drifts from one workshop into another, or from the factories into the streets.

We therefore recommend that the legislature make the prosecution of derelict parents not as it now is, merely discretionary with the local school boards, but mandatory upon them; as the prosecution of manufacturers is made mandatory upon the factory inspectors by Section 9 of the factory law.

(410) Working children not yet protected by the law.-Among the 6,887 children shown by the Chicago school census of 1894 to be out of school between the ages Of 7 and 14, there is a horde of little peddlers of fruit, vegetables and other wares. These children learn no trade and form only habits of roaming the street, irresponsible and lawless. When children are expelled from school at 11 years of age, and prohibited from working in factories until 14, they are apt to fall into this class. They could be reached by requiring every peddler or vendor under 16 years of age to obtain a license from the State Factory Inspector, and prohibiting all such work for children under the age of 14 years, and for illiterate children under 16 years.

One evasion of the child labor clauses.-- One difficulty encountered in the work of inspection seems to require more than passing mention. It often happens that an inspector, on entering a cigar shop or sweat shop, sees a boy or girl drop into a chair, put on a cap or shawl, or pose as a visitor only, a pretense steadfastly supported by the "boss," and the other employes in the room. The child's hands may be stained with nicotine, or with the fluff of the half-made garment, and the inspector may see every indication that the work before the child was in its hands when the door of the shop was opened; but the story of the "visit" is told and maintained in the face of all indications to the contrary. Obviously, any court must hesitate to convict the employer of such a child on the unsupported testimony of the inspector, where the "boss," the child and the other employes of the shop appear in court to contradict the inspector. Again, the employer will insist that a child is a member of his family, or the child of a neighbor or a relative, and is not an employe; or that the child is waiting about to find an errand to do for some one in the place. An example of this is afforded by the report of two inspectors who visited a bottling place and found, in the room where the work was being carried on, three boys under 14 years of age. The)- were told that the boys "just waited around in the hope of getting an errand to do, and a glass of beer for doing it."

To enforce the law as it now stands in places where such subterfuges as these are resorted to, is difficult always, and sometimes impossible. We, therefore, recommend that the child labor clauses of the law be so amended that the presence of a child in any workshop

(411) or factory shall constitute conclusive evidence that it is employed therein.

Children in mercantile establishments.-Many of the more orderly and intelligent of the 6,887 Chicago children under 14 years, who are out of school, and who are kept out of factories and workshops by the law, find work in stores or as telegraph and messenger boys. The duty of extending to these children the same degree of protection now afforded by the law to the children in factories and workshops should not need urging. In Massachusetts and Pennsylvania all the provisions of the factory law apply to mercantile establishments.

Should Illinois protect such children less ? Is it not a discrimination both injurious and anomalous, which leaves the little cash girl without the safeguards afforded to her sister in the factory or workshop ? The situation is illustrated by the Christmas experience of one of their number. A little girl, 13 years of age, saw, in an evening paper of December 23d last, an advertisement for six girls to work in one of the best known candy stores; candidates to apply at seven o'clock the next morning at a branch store, one and one-half miles from the child's home. To reach the place in time she spent five cents of her lunch money for car fare. Arriving, she found other children, while but one was wanted. She was engaged, as the brightest of the group, and sent to a branch of the establishment at a distance of two and one-quarter miles. This time she walked, then worked till midnight, paying for her dinner and going without her supper. She was paid fifty cents and discharged, with the explanation that she was only required for one day. No cars were running at that hour, and the little girl walked across the worst district of Chicago to reach her home, and her terrified mother, at one o'clock on Christmas morning. No law was violated in this transaction, not even the law which limits the day's work of women and girls to 8 hours, as mercantile establishments are not yet subject to the provision of the factory law.

Fortunately the development of the pneumatic tube has begun to supersede cash children in the more respectable of the retail stores; and the extension of the workshop law to the mercantile establishment would therefore meet with less opposition now than at any previous time.


Children nominally over 14 years old.-Besides the children confessedly under 14 years of age, there are others whose parents do not accurately know the children's ages, or who perjure themselves for the sake of obtaining the children's wages. The experience of the notaries in this office has convinced us that large numbers of foreign parents keep no record of births and deaths, and literally do not know what to swear to in making affidavit to their children's ages. Many parents have been sent away from the office with the affidavit unmade for this reason, and others have gone away and come back after a family council, ready to testify to the date there fixed upon as the date of the child's birth. But notaries are not all scrupulous, and more than one has been found willing to fill out blanks to suit the letter of the law, leaving the ignorant parent to swear to an affidavit the perjury of which he was not intelligent enough to recognize, the whole performance remaining an empty form, so far as the parent and child are concerned.

Other parents deliberately state one age to the inspector and another to the notary, and the sworn statement must, of course, be accepted in the absence of records by which it could be proved untrue.

Insufficient protection afforded by affidavits.-For these reasons there are hundreds of children in the factories today provided with affidavits of legal age, whom we have reason to regard as being under 14 years old, and therefore insufficiently protected by the law as it stands. The only step which can be taken by us to meet their case is the enforcement of the last clause of Section 4, which authorizes inspectors to require a certificate of physical fitness for any child who may seem unable to perform the labor at which he may be engaged. This clause is weak, because it permits any physician in good and regular standing to issue such certificates, and does not Prescribe that the physician shall visit the workroom and see the child at work, or shall even thoroughly examine the child.

Parents have sworn that children are 14 years of age, and physicians have certified them physically capable of dangerous and exhausting work, while the children themselves say that they are but 11 or 12 years old; their small stature supports their assertion, and the records of the schools which they left bear entries of statements previously made by the parents which correspond with the present

(413) claim of the children. Boys weighing from 56 to 61 pounds have been thus sworn to and certified fit for injurious work, while a normal, healthy school boy of 8 years weighs from 59 to 63 pounds.

For the further protection of such children other limitations should be imposed upon the employment of children under 16 years of age.

Inadequacy of Child Labor Sections.-Reference to the table of prosecutions shows that three of these eight companies have found it more profitable to undergo conviction and the payment of fines than to dispense with the employment of children or to comply with the four labor requirements of the law.

On the other hand, the employment of go more children each, in places such as Kirk's soap factory, Spaulding &Merrick's tobacco factory, the Crane Company's iron works, or Norton Bros.' can factory at Maywood, where no violation of the child labor clauses are found, tends to show that the law as it stands does not sufficiently protect children under 16 years of age. At Maywood the company's notary makes affidavits, and the company's physician certifies the children fit for their work, and an efficient clerk keeps affidavits, certificates, records, and register corrected from day to day. The obedience of the corporation to the child labor clauses of the law is perfect, but the law itself is so inadequate that it affords virtually no protection to life, limb, health or intelligence. In the great factory at Maywood, through all the heat of last summer, little boys worked among unguarded shafting and belting, in the fumes of the soldering, or crouched on a shelf in every crooked and unwholesome posture, poking sharp-edged circles of tin through the holes of the shelf; or were seated at stamp and die machines where every fall of the stamp is a menace to the fingers and hands. Some of these children, Italians, Bohemians and Poles, speak no English, and can not understand the warnings given them as to the dangers which surround them - some of the,,, can not read or write in any language. . . .

Children at the stock yards.-Another illustration of the insufficiency of the law as it stands is the presence Of 302 boys and 18 girls in eight establishments at the stock yards . . . . 

Some of these children are boys who cut up the animals as soon as the hide is removed, little butchers working directly in the slaughter

(414) house, at the most revolting part of the labor performed in the stock yards. These children stand, ankle deep, in water used for flooding the floor for the purpose of carrying off blood and refuse into the drains-, they breathe air so sickening that a man not accustomed to it can stay in the place but a few moments; and their work is the most brutalizing that can be devised.

Other boys cut bones at a buzz saw, placed within fifty feet of the drying racks where skulls and horns are scorching over a flame, and the smell of the smoking bones and rags of hide excels in horror all the smells for which the stock yards are notorious. Here, in a dark, foul passage, young boys work at a machine of the most dangerous character, an unguarded buzz saw. No criminal in the United States could be punished by an hour's imprisonment in such a place without a horrified protest ringing through the land. But these young victims are kept there by their employers, day after day, and no voice is raised in their behalf. Nor is there any excuse for the existence of such surroundings. With the facilities for ventilation and deodorizing that are readily available, this passageway could be made inoffensive. Meanwhile the employment of any human being in such a place is an outrage and should be summarily stopped, but the law confers upon the inspectors no power to stop it.

(3) Extracts from the Third Annual Report of the Factory Inspectors Of Illinois, 1895, pp. 8-42

Child labor.-The legislature of 1895 made no change in the factory law, the child labor provisions of which are, therefore, the same as in previous reports, and apply only to children engaged in manufacture; the employment of children in offices, laundries, and mercantile occupations being still wholly without legislative restriction. The good effects of the law become more manifest each year, as well as the urgent need of extending it.

The percentage of children to total employes has fallen conspicuously in the brief time during which the law has been in force. In 1893 the percentage was 8.5; in 1894 it was 6. 2; in 1895 it is 4. S. During the panic of 1893, when the total number of employes fell to its lowest, and but 76,224 persons were found at work by the

(415) inspectors there were 6,456 children under 16 years of age. In 1895 there were 8,642 children, while the total number of employes found at work rose to 190,360. In 1893 there were 85 children under 16 years of age in the thousand employes; in 1895 the number had fallen to 45 in the thousand.

The standard of size and health of the children employed has visibly improved everywhere outside of the sweatshops; and the change in this respect is conspicuous when a comparison is made with the children employed in laundries and department stores where the minimum age is not yet prescribed by law . . . . .

Children in sweatshops . . . . . The report of this department for 1894 showed that the 721 children found in the sweatshops of Chicago during that year were illiterate, while a majority of them could not speak English. In this respect there has been no improvement. That statement applies equally to the 1,307 children found at work in these shops in 1895.

No staff of ten deputies, with inspections to make throughout the State, can successfully watch sweatshops employing 1,307 children, with employers and parents conniving to evade and violate the law, and the city Board of Education declining to enforce the compulsory education law by prosecution. It cannot be claimed that this policy of inaction of the Board of Education is without bearing on the children recorded as over 14 years of age, for it is a notorious fact (although legal evidence may be hard to obtain) that the stature of the children, and the entries of the public school registers, show at least a part of these children to range in reality from 10 to 14 years.

Nothing effective can be done to redeem the sweated trades or the condition of the children employed in them, unless the strong arm of the law comes to the assistance of the unfortunate children by prohibiting them from crowding into these shops, at least until they have learned to read and write simple English.

In no case has a child of purely American parentage been found at work among the illiterate children of the sweatshops.

The objection of a certain sort of immigrant parent to sending his children to school after they are old enough to earn 25 cents a week is a purely sordid one; and no other measure seems to offer so trenchant an answer to it as the assurance that he cannot put his

(415) child to work unless it has first received from school at least as much benefit as is embodied in a rudimentary knowledge of the English language.

Children in the glass works at Alton.-The child labor sections of the law have proved of great benefit to the children employed in glass works. Their condition when the law went into effect was more pitiable than that of any other working children in this State. It was a matter of very great difficulty to get the law obeyed in this industry, because some of the glass companies maintained that the work of young children was absolutely indispensable to the manufacture of bottles and other light wares. The inspectors insisted that the children under 14 years of age must be replaced by older ones, or by some technical improvement. The Illinois Glass Company, at Alton, maintained that this was impossible. This company was so certain of the impossibility of conducting its business in compliance with the law, that a special investigation of the condition of its works and of the children employed in them was ordered in January, 1895; all the other glass companies in the State having at that time taken steps to comply with the requirements of the law.

The following report sets forth the result of the special investigation. Since it was made, the company has accomplished that which it had declared to be impossible; making such a rearrangement of its "glory-holes" as enabled it to dispense with a large number of the smallest boys. While there are still children at work who are either dwarfish or have perjured affidavits, the number of larger boys has been increased, and 260 affidavits are kept on file. The Illinois Glass Company, the largest employer of child labor in the State, now finds it possible to comply absolutely with the child labor provisions of the law . . . . .

Hours of children.-Until the legislature acts upon the Court's suggestion and passes a law limiting the hours of minors, the children are the direst sufferers under the derision of the Supreme Court which sets aside the only legislative restriction in this State upon the hours of labor. [In the case of Ritchie v. The People, 155 Ill. 98, the eight hour law had been declared unconstitutional in 1893.]

Again, as before the factory law was enacted, the employer may extend the working day of his employes without let or hindrance,

(417) and among these employes may be delicate little children. There is no more protection for them against the cruel exaction of overtime work than there is for the strongest man employed. If the child has reached its 14th birthday, and the employer is armed with the parent's affidavit to that effect, the child may be lawfully required to work 20 hours at a stretch.

No law of Illinois is violated when little lads work all night in rolling mills where nails are made; when little boys, just 14 years of age according to the parent's affidavit (but 10 years old or less if judged by weight and size), fetch and carry bottles all night in glass works, trotting from furnace to cooling oven and back again at the call of the blower, in the glow of the melter's fires,- then going out into the cold, dark night to stumble, ill-clad and shivering, to their homes. It is the tradition of these two occupations that their trade life is, and has always been, among the shortest in the skilled trades.

In the sweatshops of Chicago, both men and girls faint from exhaustion at their machines, and during the "rush" season in the garment trades this is no rare occurrence. Yet when a girl in a sweatshop is unable to ply her machine, by foot power, from seven in the morning to four the next morning, the sweater tells her-and truthfully-that there are others who will take her place and do his work on his terms . . . . .

In Chicago children are employed long hours in two occupations which do not come under the factory law-the mercantile establishments and the laundries. In many sections of this city the stores are kept open five evenings in the week, and the children employed in these stores work 10 and 11 hours a day. Stores having special holiday trade employ thousands of children during the season, and exact of them the same number of extra hours that are exacted from the older employes. On Christmas Eve these children were dismissed from the great department stores at hours ranging from 10: 45 P.M. to 1 2: 20 A.m. During the working days of the two preceding weeks, these children had been obliged to be alertly on duty from 10 to 12 hours per day. It is believed by all who have investigated holiday employment of children that permanent injury to the children results, in many ways, from it; and that no real gain accrues, not even temporary alleviation of financial stringency in their homes.

(418) The employment is for a very short time, and the pay received is very little. The child, demoralized by the taste of money-earning, spends days and weeks in seeking another place, not understanding that no employer wants her until the holiday season comes around again. Thus, for a few days' earnings she sacrifices a winter's school life. The physical strain of the work throughout long hours, for which there has been no gradual preparation, exhausts her vitality; and, in this exhausted condition, overheated by running in the warm air of the store, she goes out into the cold night. When this has been done night after night, throughout the holiday season, the child may have sacrificed, in addition to her winter's school life, her chance for normal development into healthy womanhood.

In laundries, the only limit to the hours of work of children seems to be the limit of their usefulness. It has been found that their little fingers become expert at "marking," and at this they are much employed, although they are also found at mangles and other dangerous machines used in steam laundries. Marking is one of the occupations which superficial observers class as "light and easy," but handling soiled clothing on its way to the washing machine is not fit work for any child. Apart from the unfitness, there is great danger of infection; much greater in the case of young children exhausted by overwork in the heat and steam of the laundry than in the case of older persons. Marking is, unfortunately, one of the branches of laundry work which begins early in the day and holds far out into the night. The following complaint was received at this office on June 3, 1895: " Goodhart's laundry has a number of little girls who don't look to be 12-years-old. They worked last Saturday from 7:30 in the morning until Sunday morning at 3 o'clock. Their mothers were wild about them." As laundries do not come under the Factory Act, the inspectors could do nothing in this case-not even order the discharge of the children under 14 years of age. It was not, therefore, surprising that a second complaint was received concerning this plant, dated September 9, 1895, stating that "children under 11 years old are working there, and are made to work overtime until 9 o'clock every night." These conditions prevail in all laundries employing children.

In every trade and occupation, including those where the work is not, in itself, injurious, it is observed that the places in which

(419) children are employed in large numbers are those where the worst general conditions for the employes prevail . . . . .

In all computation of the hours of working children in Chicago, this time spent in going to and from the place of employment must be taken into account. The journey is generally some miles long, and not infrequently the small wage of the child necessitates its walking. The hours needed for the sleep of a young child are thus seriously curtailed. The exhausted children from the stores reach their homes at any time from 10 P.M. to 2 A.m., according to the hour of leaving work and the distance of the home from the store. In an investigation of the employment of children under 14 years of age in a pickle factory in Bowmanville, . . . . the inspector found that these children, aged from 10 to 14 years, were obliged to leave their homes before 4 o'clock in the morning in order to be at the factory when the whistle blew for the work to begin, which was at 6:30.

To the physical and moral deterioration of children consequent upon this failure to regulate the hours of their work must be added the educational loss. Their hours of labor being unrestricted, the poor opportunity is thereby rendered illusory which is offered through the night school to the working child in more progressive States, in which the hours of employment of minors are fixed by law. It frequently happens in Illinois that a weary child has no sooner begun to attend night school than a notice is posted in the factory that failure to work throughout the evening will be followed by discharge. Where evening work is not required, the long day of ten hours, followed by the journey home on foot, so exhausts the child that it creeps into the evening school utterly incapable of mental exercise. The experience of teachers of night schools is that it is impossible to keep children awake over their books who have been shut up in store and factory through the day . . . . .

The medical certificate clause. -- Section 4 Of the law provides that the inspectors may demand a certificate of physical fitness from some regular physician of good standing in case of children who may appear to them physically unable to perform the labor at which they are engaged.

The enforcement of this clause was expected to effect the removal from factories and workshops of the large number of children who

(420) are deformed or manifestly diseased. Persistent enforcement of it was also expected to enable the inspectors to obtain the discharge of all children engaged in occupations injurious, whether because of the nature of the materials used, or of the temperature, or of the processes carried on, or for any other reason. Incidentally, parents inclined to perjury were to be checkmated by the requirement of a certificate of physical fitness for all children conspicuously undersized.

Unfortunately, the statute did not empower the inspector to prescribe who shall make the certificate, nor that the making of it shall be preceded by the examination of the child or of its place of work. It was probably assumed by the legislature which enacted the statute that these essentials could be left to the faithfulness and honor of the medical profession. The experience of two and a half years compels us to the conclusion that this confidence was misplaced.

The medical certificate clause has been rendered nugatory by the reckless manner in which dispensary and "company" physicians have issued certificates gratis to all comers, irrespective of the physical condition of the child or the injurious nature of its occupation. In no case known to the inspectors has a child for whom a certificate has been required failed to obtain one, either from the sources mentioned, or from some ignorant practitioner, upon payment of a sum ranging from 25 cents to $2.

When the contractor in a sweatshop has been prohibited from employing a child until a certificate is obtained, it has been only a question where the nearest unscrupulous practitioner has his office. Sooner or later one is found who issues a certificate, correct in form, but bearing no relation to the child's size, age, physical condition, or to the nature of the occupation . . . . .

The Compulsory Education law . . . . interlocks so closely with the child labor provisions of the factory law that no report on the child labor found in this State would be complete, which did not give full weight to this intimate relation of the two laws and their enforcement

[The text of the Compulsory Education law is omitted; for its provisions are summarized in chap. v, ante, pp. 69-88.]

It will be observed that the law requires but 16 weeks of school attendance, of which but 12 weeks need be consecutive. This leaves

(421) 36 weeks free in each year, during which parents and employers are subject to the temptation to put an idle child at work in violation of the factory law.

The enforcement of the meager provisions of the Compulsory Education law is left to the option of local authorities. The inequality which grows out of this option is well illustrated by the condition of the children in two manufacturing cities in opposite ends of the State. In Alton, in January, 1895, there were found . . . . 200 children under the age of 14 years, at work in a single establishment. Their employment was in direct violation of both the Compulsory Education law and the Factory act. The school board of Alton had not appointed a truant officer or made any attempt to enforce the Compulsory Education law . . . . .

The attitude of the Board of Education of Chicago is illustrated by two passages from its report for the year ending June 28, 1895. In the course of his report to the Board, Dr. Bluthardt, Superintendent of Compulsory Education, says: "The work of the Compulsory Department, shown by the yearly report, placed over 3,700 children in school; including many brought in for the first time, and truants who have dropped out from time to time. The same spirit has been carried out as in the past, and the only forces brought to bear have been persuasion and watchfulness--no cases of prosecution having been made." In the list of accepted excuses occur the following:

Indifference (parent's carelessness) . . . .  160
Not vaccinated (parent's neglect)  . . . . .  237
Working at home . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   262

With such excuses accepted by the Board of Education for the non-attendance of children of compulsory school age and without prosecution, the Factory Inspectors cannot hope to keep all the children under 14 years of age out of the factories and workshops.

In the same report, Mr. Albert G. Lane, Superintendent of Schools, says: "The fifteen truant agents, appointed by the Board of Education to visit different sections of the city and to notify parents of children who do not attend school that the law requires them to do so, have done the best they could under the existing

(422) conditions. The law is ineffective, because no penalty can be enforced. Some good is accomplished by serving notices upon parents that the children should attend school, but wherever parents are indifferent or deliberately keep their children from school no effort has been made to enforce the law."

The question naturally arises: How can the Board of Education know that no penalty can be enforced, when no case has ever been tried under the law and no judicial decision obtained?

It is in part, by reason of the fact that "no effort has been made to enforce the law" by the Board of Education, that the inspectors of this department were, in 1895, under the disagreeable necessity of prosecuting 56 employers upon the charge of employing 80 children under the age of 14 years. Even where we order the discharge of the child, forward its name to the Board of Education, and prosecute the employer, we too often find the same child at work in a second or third shop, still under the required age. During the year, one boy was the cause of our prosecuting two different employers in less than two months. The parents of this boy were not prosecuted by the Board of Education, though they violated the Compulsory Education law every day that the boy worked.

It would strengthen the efforts of this department very much, if all the children were kept in school even the 16 weeks per annum which the law requires, and would remedy the injustice of holding the employer alone responsible, and letting the parent go unpunished, who certainly shares the moral responsibility and ought to be held to it under the Compulsory Education law.

So long as we are without a stringent Compulsory Education law and local boards able and willing to enforce it, we shall have children doing the work of men and women while they should be in school, and growing up unable to read and write, as we find children in the Illinois factories and workshops every day.

While the most helpless children are left unprotected by the non-enforcement of the Compulsory Education law, poverty-stricken parents and sordid employers will leave them in ignorance for the sake of the money which can be gained at the cost of the children. Nor can any effort of the factory inspectors, however faithful and painstaking, make good the wrong done the children


We therefore again recommend that the prosecution of derelict parents be made mandatory upon local school boards, as the prosecution of manufacturers who employ children under 14 years of age is made mandatory upon the Factory Inspector, by Section 9 of the Factory law.

The failure of the school authorities to supply school accommodations for the children who are ready and willing to go to school aggravates the failure to enforce the compulsory attendance law in some places. In Alton, while 200 children under 14 years of age were at work in the glass works, there were on the list of applicants for admission to the schools 240 children in excess of the seats provided. In Chicago the report of the Board of Education for 1895 (P. 42) shows that "the number of children in rented rooms at the close of the year 1894 was 9,661, and at the close of 1895 it was 11,674. The number of children in half-day divisions at the close of 1894 was 14,o86; at the close of 1895 it was 17,545." In addition to this, the latest school census of Chicago showed 6,887 children of school age who were attending no school whatever.

In a single ward of Chicago (the 19th) the seating capacity of the four public schools is 3,437, or 4,135 less than the number of children of school age (7,572), as shown by the school census of 1894. Thus less than 50 per cent of the children of school age in this ward are provided with seats in the public schools. These children cannot overflow into the schools of adjacent wards, for these also lack adequate accommodations. This 19th ward, with the three wards adjoining to the south and west (the 7th, 8th and 9th), form a vast working people's district. The residents are chiefly Italians, Bohemians, and Russian Jews, and among them are thousands of wageearning children. These children of immigrant toilers need the best educational facilities which any American city can provide, if they are to develop into useful citizens of value to the industrial life of their generation.

The ignorance of working children.--The logical product of the educational policy of Illinois is the presence in the factories and workshops of a large body of ignorant and illiterate children.

Some of the children who come to this office to have age affidavits made, born in Chicago and brought up under the shadow of the public

(424) schools, cannot write their names, and many who can do this can write nothing else. In general, it is true that children taken as witnesses from the stockyards, the sweatshops and the tenement house cigar shops, cannot write or read a simple sentence in the English language. In the course of the prosecutions carried on during the present year, children have been called as witnesses who, born in Chicago or brought here in infancy, yet cannot answer in English such simple questions, as " What is your name ? " " Where do you live ? " " Do you know how old you are ? " " What is the name of the firm you are working for?" Hence the evidence of the children is frequently taken through a Polish, Russian or Bohemian interpreter . . . . .

All the illiterate children ought to be turned out of the factories and workshops and into schools for purposes of instruction. But, besides this immediate purpose, there is another important point to be gained by requiring a certain grade of intelligence of all children before permitting them to go to work, viz.: the re-inforcement of the age limit.

In order to enforce the prohibition of the employment of children under the age of 14 years, the statute requires that before any child goes to work, there must first be obtained and placed on file an affidavit made by the parent or guardian stating the name, date and place of birth of every child employed under the age of 16 years. This provision is intended to throw upon the parent, where it properly belongs, the responsibility for the statement, under oath, of the exact age of the child. In the case of intelligent and conscientious parents this provision works well, and enforced by prosecution of all manufacturers found employing children without affidavits, has done much to raise the standard of age and stature of the children employed in factories and workshops compared with those in mercantile occupations where the minimum age of work is not yet prescribed by law. Put the provision breaks down in the case of the %-cry children who need it most, the children of illiterate and degraded parents.

Many of the parents who come to this office to make affidavit to the age of their children do not definitely know the age; or, if they know it, they can, for lack of available birth records, falsify it without fear of detection. -Many parents are ready to swear to any state-

(425) -ment, to trust the notary to fill the blank in any way which will enable the child to go to work at once . . . . . Whenever there is reasonable doubt as to the age of children, the parents are sent away with the affidavit unmade- but the first notary to whom they go after leaving the office usually fills the blank, and we have no authority to dispute its correctness, when we subsequently find it in a shop. Parents have sworn that children were 14 years of age, though the children themselves said they were but 11 or 12 years old; their small stature supported their assertion and the records of the schools they left bear entries of statements previously made by the parents which correspond with the claim of the children. Some parents deliberately state one age to the inspectors and another to the notary who makes the affidavit, and the sworn statement must be accepted in the absence of birth records by which it could be proved untrue . . . . .

(4) Extracts from the Fourth Annual Report of the Factory Inspectors of Illinois, 1896, pp. 10-30

Child labor.-The child labor provisions of the law have not been amended or altered since it was enacted in 1893, and apply only to manufacturing establishments, factories and workshops. Their object is to prohibit the employment of children under 14 years of age in manufacture. There is no provision for limiting the employment of illiterate children, or safeguarding life and limb of those who have reached 14 years. The clause which provides for health certificates is nugatory. There is no restriction upon the hours of labor. When children 14 years old are equipped with age affidavits and health certificates, there is no power in any officer of the State to regulate the nature of the work selected for them, or the conditions under which the work is performed. They may be required to work all night, or seven days in the week, and in the most dangerous occupations . . . . .

Education.-The educational status of the children found at work shows no improvement. From garment and cigar shops children are still taken into court as witnesses in factory cases who speak no English, some of them having lived several years in the

(426) State, in dense foreign colonies; and going to school, if at all, where English is not taught.

The Compulsory school law remains a dead letter, no prosecution ever having been undertaken, so far as is known to this department, for its enforcement by any board of education. The weakness of its provisions continues to serve as excuse for continued failure to prosecute parents for violating it.

It is therefore still the unpleasant duty of the inspectors to prosecute employers for hiring children under 14 years of age, in violation of the factory law. It is manifestly unfair to let parents go unpunished who share with employers the responsibility for this illegal work, and who should be held responsible under the compulsory attendance law, as manufacturers are held under the factory law. This duty properly devolves upon both the inspectors and the local school authorities, and neither can perform it effectively alone.

Until there are schools for the children, and a compulsory education law that is enforced, the factory inspectors cannot keep all the children under 14 years out of factories and workshops. While an effective factory law is the best possible supplement to a good compulsory education law, neither can take the place of the other; and the attempt to enable the factory inspectors to do the work of truant officers can never be successful . . . . .

In manufacturing centers there is the same lack of school accommodations to which attention has been called in previous reports, as one great reason for the illiteracy prevailing among working children in this State.

In Chicago, the City Council has taken a distinctly retrograde step in reducing the school appropriations by $2,000,000 for 1896-97, thus checking the building of school houses, and depriving thousands of working class children of the opportunity for school life which primary schools are supposed to extend to all alike. That the working children are thus vitally affected, the report of the Chicago Board of Education for 1.890 shows.

Mr. D. R. Cameron, president of the Board, says: "The number of sittings owned by the Board has increased during the past year 14,519, an equivalent of 16, 20-room school buildings. The total enrolment of pupils in our schools during the year 1894-5 was

(427) 201,380, and for the year 1895-6 reached the aggregate of 215,784 pupils, an increase of 14,404; whereby, it will be noted, the number of new sittings for this last year exceeded the additional enrolment of pupils by 115, not a great gain, yet a gain. This is a most satisfactory showing, for, so far as my knowledge extends, it is the first time in years that the work of this important committee (Buildings and Grounds) has outrun the increase of school membership. This gratifying record might have become a reasonable hope for the future had not the Common Council so seriously crippled the work of the Board by a reduction of $2,000,000 from its resources for the year 1896-7.

"The serious crippling of this department must re-act in adverse ways and meet its compensation in increased expenditure for police, judicial and penal institutions. The whole policy of a government is summed up in the requirement, educate or punish. To cheapen one is to multiply the cost of the other by a large ratio. The schools are our social and political safeguards, especially so when, in our cosmopolitan population, we are confronted not so much with the question of educating a homogeneous people, but with the far more difficult problem of providing educational facilities for children of every nationality under the sun."

The committee on Buildings and Grounds reports: "We have reduced the number of children in half-day divisions from. 20,000 in September, 1895 to 15,708 in June, 1896 . . . . . But it must be borne in mind that we have, besides those children in half-day divisions about 11,700 others in rented rooms, just as many as we had at the beginning of the school year. Were it not for the curtailment of our funds by the City Council, next year we should have made rapid strides towards the completion of enough schools to accommodate every child seeking an education

." No additional buildings can be started, and in accepting the situation we have simply to rest in the consciousness that no matter what our needs are, we cannot spend what we have not got."

How brief is the school life of the majority of the children, Mr. A. G. Lane, Superintendent of Schools, shows in his report, as follows: " Sixty-seven and three-tenths per cent. of the average daily membership, was in the primary grades; twenty-eight and a half per cent. was in the grammar grades, and four and 23/100 per cent. was in the

(428) high school grades. I repeat the statement and table printed last year, showing that nearly seventy per cent. of the children who enter school each year remain in school until they become members of the fifth grade, which is the first grammar grade, and embraces the fifth Year's work."

Children usually enter school at six years of age and finish a grade a year. Mr. Lane's figures, therefore, indicate that rather more than thirty per cent. of the children leave school under the age of eleven years, forty per cent. at about that age, while rather less than thirty per cent. remain longer in school. Conceding that a portion fail to pass a grade a year, and remain in the primary grades six or seven years, the inference would still be unavoidable that two-thirds of the children leave the public schools far below the legal age of work. While this state of things continues, the factory inspectors cannot obtain complete compliance with the law prohibiting employment of children under 14 years of age.

It is sometimes urged in mitigation of the early employment of children that the ambitious ones who really care for self-improvement, can continue their studies in the night schools. On this point Mr. Lane says: "There were 3,263 persons under 15 years of age in attendance (at the night schools). Many of the younger ones , pupils in the elementary grades, are irregular and lack interest, which is caused largely by physical exhaustion."

Children who have worked all day with the intensity demanded by the conditions of work in our time are in no state to profit by the best possible teaching in the evening.

The introduction of manual training into the public schools (it has been introduced into 66 schools in Chicago alone during 1896) aggravates the disadvantage of the boy who drops out of the fifth grade, or a lower one, to spend his days in some wretched brainless manipulation, which teaches him no trade, and leaves him less valuable, because less eager and wide-awake, than the boy who has never worked for wages.

In the three and a half years since the creation of this department a large number of affidavits have been filled out in the office for children just 14 years old, who were going to work for the first time. The eager ambition of these children (mixed, perhaps, with a certain

(429) pleasure in escaping from school) is to earn money and " make a living." But precocity is dangerous in this, as in everything else, and later acquaintance with many of these children shows a serious deterioration in moral fibre.

A lad going to work thus early, hoping to help his widowed mother, soon finds his work precarious, and his wages, even when he is steadily employed, insufficient to maintain the family, who remain dependent on charity. If the boy, starting with this noble impulse, escape all the accidents to which the rashness of childhood subjects him even beyond the exposure common to all employes; and if he retain his health, in spite of the injurious surroundings of his work, he is still likely to deteriorate into a weary drudge, lacking all the grit and energy which every man needs who is to hold his own in the industrial life of this generation.

No acquisition of a skilled trade compensates the child of today for loss of the education afforded by the primary schools. There might have been some such compensation in the early days when boys learned trades which assured them a livelihood. Far from having any educational value, the work which young children now perform, teaches them chiefly instability and disregard of the future. Having learned how little they can earn by their utmost exertion, and balancing this exertion against the pay, they too often settle down into mere "corner loafers," valueless to the community, to the family, and to themselves. This undermining effect upon character, of premature entry upon the work of life, though less conspicuous than some other dangers of child labor, is no less serious.

The New York compulsory school law extends to the age of 16 years, and the New York factory law authorizes inspectors to order the discharge of children under 16 years of age who cannot read and write simple English. Under this provision the inspectors ordered the discharge of 238 illiterate children in one year, and report a marked decrease in illiteracy since the provision went into effect. Parents have learned that an immediate commercial value attaches to some slight mastery of the English tongue by their children. This prohibition of employment of children who cannot read and write in English would be especially beneficial in Illinois, where a large body of the foreign-born population is not yet assimilated.


We recommend that the prosecution of parents derelict under the compulsory education law be made mandatory upon local school boards, as the prosecution of manufacturers who employ children under 14 years of age is mandatory upon the Factory Inspector.

For children over 14 years of age, we recommend the enactment of the requirement that they must be able to read and write simple English before going to work . . . . .

Some children are sent to work because the father drinks, and does not support the family. Others leave school because the tradition is wide-spread arid powerful that a child who has reached the age of confirmation is ready to enter upon the work of life. This tradition is deeply rooted among foreign colonies, where recent immigrants are eager to turn the earning capacity of the children to account at the earliest moment. "I have fed her 14 years, and now she can help me pay off my mortgages," was the reply of a stalwart, prosperous looking immigrant when asked why he wanted an affidavit for his crooked-backed, puny child, on her 14th birthday.

A secondary cause of employment of children is the belief that their labor is cheap. This cheapness is largely illusory. In the glass industry, when the youngest boys were removed by enforcement of the law, a slight technical improvement immediately took their place; and with its help their work is now done by older boys, without added cost to manufacturers. In the book-binding trade, the folding machine is replacing the smaller girls in all the best equipped binderies. Even when no new machinery follows removal of the younger children, a boy or girl just over 16 costs very little more in wages than one under 15.

If no child under 16 years of age were employed after tomorrow, it is doubtful whether the actual increase in cost to employers generally would be perceptible.

Premature work costs the children the years of education and normal growth which prepare for healthy and useful manhood and womanhood. It engenders incompetent employes, incapable of entire self-support. it disables a large proportion of workers, by undermining their health in childhood. It often ends in mutilation by exposing ignorant and reckless boys and girls to dangerous machinery and explosives. To the children and to the community, then, this work is not cheap, it is intolerably expensive.


  1. Mrs. Florence Kelley, chief factory inspector, see ante, pp. 72-84, 299.

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