Date of Award

Fall 12-2017

Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of arts (BA)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Alex Morrow


Child labor in America was a pivotal component of the Progressive reform movement throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Beginning my research, I looked into the role of child labor in the creation of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The FLSA was the first federal law to abolish child labor successfully. Throughout my research, I noticed a trend of law passage and Supreme Court denial.

The most referenced events involving child labor as an evil to society came in the early part of the twentieth-century. The two most famous events were Mary “Mother Jones” Harris and her “March of the Mill Children” and photographs taken by Lewis Hine. I knew I had to include these events, for my research to be complete, so I set out to find a connection between these early events and those of the FLSA.

This led me to notice the Progressive Era was not one continuous era, but rather an era split in two parts. The first Progressive reform movement lasted from 1900-1917, and then the Progressive Era was broken apart by the Conservative Counter Movement until somewhere around 1933 when Franklin Roosevelt took office. FDR brought Progressivism back in style as he would eventually culminate the era of Progressivism with the FLSA. A final conclusion is that child labor is the only major issue to last from the beginning of the Progressive Era to the end.