Child Labor

The West Virginia School Journal and Educator
April 1919

"West Virginia Did the Impossible" - OUR New Child Labor Law

OWEN R. LOVEJOY, Secretary Nat'l. Child Labor Committee

"If West Virginia can do the impossible other states can do the possible," says Mr. Lovejoy in a statement about our new child labor law sent all over the United States. With this model child labor law and our new compulsory school law on the statute books, officers, employers, and teachers will be directly responsible if the boys and girls are not properly protected and educated.

The statement of Mr. Lovejoy follows:

"In a long time the committee has received no more gratifying news than that which now comes from West Virginia.

"The new child, labor law which has been passed by the legislature of that state and signed by the governor marks a revolution in the public policy of West Virginia respecting the protection of working children.

"It also signifies the growing effectiveness of the growing public interest felt and manifested, especially in recent months, all over this country, in the problems of child welfare, the child labor problem included.

"The action of West Virginia is not only a credit to the people and legislators of that important industrial commonwealth, it is also an unmistakable sign of purpose and progress everywhere, in east and west, north and south. The stars in their courses are fighting victoriously for the children of America. Another emancipation is taking place.

The next few years will see an unprecedented advance in the application of the humane and patriotic spirit of American men and women to the protection and education of American children.

"If West Virginia can achieve the impossible, other states can achieve the possible. Not that West Virginia has gone farther that any of those other states, but she had farther to go than most of them at present have to go. She lagged behind until it seemed that she would never catch up with the progressive states. Now she has placed on her statute books a law establishing a minimum age limit of sixteen years for mines, quarries, and all occupations dangerous to life or limb or injurious to health or morals[.]

"Formerly she permitted boys of fourteen to work in mines and quarries when schools were not in session, and the law contained no special provision as to dangerous and injurious occupations. The new law requires that no child shall receive a permit to enter any gainful occupation covered by the statute - and all occupations except agriculture and domestic service are covered - until he has undergone a physical examination by a public health physician or a public school physician, to determine his fitness for the work he is to undertake. This is a new provision.

"The educational qualification for a work permit is raised from completion of the fourth grade to completion of the sixth grade. But the most striking contrast between the old and the new law is in the maximum length of the working day. No child under sixteen will hereafter be allowed to work more than eight hours a day or at night. Formerly there was no restriction whatever as to working hours - twenty-four a day as the maximum.

"Standards equivalent to those of the new West Virginia law are in force in many states, and in several respects the standards of some states are higher, but West Virginia has stepped into the line of forward marchers. The one lone senator who voted 'no' on the West Virginia bill repeated to deaf ears the ancient tale about child labor reform being the work of misguided mothers and impractical idealists. For some reason or other a good many people are thinking these days, that there is something in ideals after all, particularly ideals of highly developed manhood and womanhood, and nationhood."


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