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Child labor in commercialized agriculture, 1890--1966

Mary Therese Lyons-Barrett, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This is the first historical work devoted solely to the labor of children in commercialized agriculture and to the efforts of federal and state governments to restrict such labor. The central argument of this dissertation involves analyzing why it took so long for reformers to view child labor in industrialized agriculture in the same manner that they viewed child labor in mining, the textile mills, and other industries. Specifically, how did the romanticization of children working on farms delay the inclusion of child agricultural workers under protective labor legislation? Most reformers saw child labor in industry and mining as detrimental to the welfare of children at least by the late 1880's. On the other hand, the public and even many reformers tended to see the work of children in commercialized agriculture as healthy and beneficial to their welfare as late as the 1930's. The Keating-Owen Act of 1916 prohibited child labor in industries engaged in interstate commerce, but only indirectly affected agriculture through its inclusion of canneries. The earliest successful attempt to restrict child labor in agriculture at the federal level came with the passage of the Jones-Costigan Act in 1934, which regulated child labor in the sugar beet industry. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 restricted child labor in mining and heavy industry, but specifically exempted children working in agriculture. The exemptions under the FLSA for children working in commercialized agriculture continued up until 1966, when amendments were passed that restricted children working in agriculture outside of school hours. ^

Subject Area

History, United States|Law|Sociology, Industrial and Labor Relations

Recommended Citation

Lyons-Barrett, Mary Therese, "Child labor in commercialized agriculture, 1890--1966" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3055281.