From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 33COMMUNICATION FROM THE ILLINOIS WOMAN'S ALLIANCE CONCERNING CHILD LABOR
April 16, 1890
The Illinois Woman's Alliance was established in Chicago in November 1888. It was composed principally of women from suffrage, medical, temperance, ethical, labor and other reform groups and its object was to obtain and enforce legislation for the protection of women and children. Acting on this communication the full council passed an ordinance forbidding the employment of children under age fourteen. The Board of Education could exempt children over age ten if their labor were required to support their families. If a child were exempted he or she was required to obtain a permit which stated age, residence, and prior school attendance. Employers of children were made to collect and maintain these permits and to keep a listing of all children employed. Both the lists and permits had to be produced on demand for school or police officials. Fines from five to fifty dollars could be imposed for each violation of the ordinance and they could be levied on both employers and parents.
In Chicago by the early nineties the number of children under age fifteen who were fully employed was less that 1,500. The introduction of the pneumatic tube in particular reduced the need for call boys and girls in retail establishments. As the number of working children decreased the number of adult female workers increased.
Points to Consider
What was the purpose of the Illinois Woman's Alliance?
Besides reducing child labor, what other specific causes might the Alliance have championed?
In which types of jobs would children have been employed?
Why should the city council have been involved in regulating the age of Chicago's workforce?