1913 Observations of Lowell by Alexander Jeffrey Mckelway
 
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UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL

CHILD WAGES IN THE COTTON MILLS: 
OUR MODERN FEUDALISM: 
BY ALEXANDER JEFFREY MCKELWAY

LOWELL 1913

Two years ago in Georgia we attempted to change the limit of 66 hours a week, 12 a day, to a 10-hour day for children. The Legislature began to receive petitions from the mill operatives protesting against any shortening of the hours. Then the manufacturers thought they had better compromise on a 60-hour week and the 11-hour day, and thereafter the operatives petitioned for a 60-hour week, but sought to be saved from the dire distress of working less than 60 hours a week. On the other hand, the only organized mill I know in the South recently petitioned a legislature for a nine-hour day for women and an eight-hour day for children.

The same feudalism existed in New England cotton mills not many years since. Eight and a half years ago I took a trip through the New England mill cities. We learned that at Lowell any operative who was found even attending a labor union meeting was discharged. Last fall, eight years afterward, I went to Lowell again. I found that the Industrial Workers of the World, generally styled the I.W.W., had called a strike at one mill, because, having about 90 per cent. of the operatives members of that organization, they insisted that the mill should discharge those who would not join them. And now the New England mills are falling over themselves in the effort to get the American Federation of Labor to organize them and thus deliver them from the I. W. W.

 

 
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