THE RIGHTS OF THE
1. The Congress shall have power to limit, regulate, and prohibit
the labor of persons under eighteen years of age.
Section 2. The power of the several
States is unimpaired by this article except that the operation
of State laws shall be suspended to the extent necessary to give
effect to legislation enacted by the Congress.
The rights of the young became a national
issue soon after the nineteenth
amendment gave women the vote. Squalid and dangerous working
conditions in sweatshops and factories were ruining America's
children, amendment proponents said.
Cotton Mill opened in the spring of 1892. In its best years,
about 50,000 bales of Texas cotton were transformed into 76,000
yards of cotton cloth per year. Drought, depression and increased
freight costs forced the mill to declare bankruptcy in 1901.
First piece of cotton cloth ever
commercially woven in Nebraska.
Cotton Mill. Several young children can be seen at the machines
in this photo of the Kearney Cotton Mill, taken around 1893.
Nebraskans recognized the vices of child
labor, but they also knew children
were essential to the success of agriculture. Though working
with thousand-pound animals or weeding beets in the heat of a
Nebraska July were just as dangerous and difficult as factory
labor, Nebraskans did not feel child labor needed federal oversight.
In 1929, the Nebraska Senate voted to ratify the Child Labor
Amendment, but the Legislature's lower house did not.
G.A. Spade beet field in Dawson,
County, Nebraska, 1904.
fields of the State Industrial School, Kearney, Nebraska,
Dr. Hattie Plum Williams, a professor of sociology at the University
of Nebraska in the early 20th century, made the study of Germans
from Russia in Nebraska her life's work. These 1908 letters are
from her work with elementary students at Howard Elementary (now
Park Middle School). She encouraged the children to record their
experiences working in the beet fields in western Nebraska and
"It will tach us about 20 or 30 days to work all our beets.
And we can go swimming in the river when it is warm." John
Children of all ages were expected
to help with chores on the farm, from milking cows to field work.
L-R: Rose, Martha, Esther (milking) Dietrick, Jacob (arm around
cow), and Herman (hand on cow) Regier with their milk cow.
boy sells the Lincoln Evening Journal in Lincoln around