Monday, September 12, 2005

Florence Kelley, 1859-1932

Today is the birthday of American reformer Florence Kelley (1859-1932). Besides being active in the suffrage, civil rights, and peace movements, and translating Engels, and living at Hull House, Kelley was Illinois' first chief factory inspector, appointed by the governor in 1893. In that role, she wrote reports of factory conditions, passionate reports that advocated child labor, minimum wage, and maximum day laws. The first report (1894) includes a section titled "Injurious Employments," where she describes disabled children exploited as workers, and child workers disabled by unsafe factory conditions (deafened by the noise, lungs and eyes damaged by the poor air quality, bones developed with curvatures from awkward positions, fingers and limbs lost to cutting machinery, hernias from heavy lifting, etc.). "The mutilation of children will continue to be a matter of daily occurrence," warns Kelley, without protective legislation.

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