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A Class by HerselfProtective Laws for Women Workers, 1890s-1990s$
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Nancy Woloch

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691002590

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691002590.001.0001

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Roots of Protection: The National Consumers’ League and Progressive Reform

Roots of Protection: The National Consumers’ League and Progressive Reform

(p.5) 1 Roots of Protection: The National Consumers’ League and Progressive Reform
A Class by Herself

Nancy Woloch

Princeton University Press

This chapter describes the context in which the Progressive campaign for protective laws arose, assessing reformers' rationales and the oppositions they faced. Passage of the 1893 Illinois law marked the start of the Progressive Era campaign for protective labor laws. Through law, reformers hoped to impose standards on factories and improve the lives of industrial workers. Resistance to laws that affected men—from courts, legislators, unions, and public opinion—made protective laws for women and children imperative; reformers hoped that they would provide precedents for more “general” laws. Thus, single-sex laws became a crucial link in protectionist plans. The campaign for protective laws involved a range of supporters but rested largely on a dynamic organization, the National Consumers' League (NCL), and its determined leader, Florence Kelley (1859–1932), and the small group of activists that shaped its development.

Keywords:   Progressive Era, protective labor laws, protective laws, 1893 Illinois law, industrial worker, single-sex laws, National Consumers' League, Florence Kelley

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