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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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Cultural Warriors

Cultural Warriors

A Southern Capitalist Vision

(p.113) 5 Cultural Warriors
Upon the Altar of Work

Betsy Wood

University of Illinois Press

This chapter discusses why the battle over a proposed Child Labor Amendment to the US Constitution in the 1920s came to embody the new sectionalism of the modern industrial age. This battle shaped opposing visions of work, freedom, morality, and the market within an emerging consumer society. The campaign for expanded federal authority over child labor through an amendment enabled Southern manufacturers to spur a collective grassroots protest against modern secular bureaucracy. Defining the amendment as a spiritual threat to rural America and farm families, opponents resurrected free labor principles—especially for boys—and traditional moral values based in fundamentalist Christianity as weapons against the encroachment of the modern bureaucratic state.

Keywords:   Child Labor Amendment, 1920s, Southern manufacturers, fundamentalist Christianity, free labor, rural America, farm families

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