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Upon the Altar of WorkChild Labor and the Rise of a New American Sectionalism$
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Betsy Wood

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780252043444

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252043444.001.0001

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Seeds of a New Sectionalism

Seeds of a New Sectionalism

Southern Origins of Child Labor Reform

(p.51) 3 Seeds of a New Sectionalism
Upon the Altar of Work

Betsy Wood

University of Illinois Press

In the age of industrialization and American imperialism, the child labor issue was remade into a symbol of the collapse of the prevailing racial order in the South when the region’s textile industry increasingly employed poor white children. Led by Southern Progressive reformer Edgar Gardner Murphy, reformers redefined the child labor issue as a crisis of white racial deterioration and founded the National Child Labor Committee in 1904. On the basis of saving the South’s poor white children, Northern reformers justified expanded federal authority in the market, but Southern reformers rejected this approach, calling instead for local control of the issue. A split in the movement left in its wake a growing opposition to national child labor reform in the South.

Keywords:   industrialization, American imperialism, racial order, Southern Progressivism, Southern textile industry, Edgar Gardner Murphy, poor white children, federal authority, National Child Labor Committee

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