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You ought to be out raising hell. This is the fighting age. Put on your fighting clothes.
                                                      -Mother Jones

Saturday August 1, 1903
From The Comrade: Part I of "Child Slaves of Philadelphia" by John Spargo

John Spargo, editor of The Comrade, accompanied the Children's Crusade for the first few days of the journey. This article is included in the August edition of the magazine:

John Spargo in 1902
Child slavery's awful curse eats at the vitals of the nation. But nowhere to a more alarming extent than in the City of Philadelphia. The great textile industries rest upon the enslavement of children and women. Not even in the South are conditions worse than here. At present the majority of the mills are idle owing to a strike for shorter hours of labor, and the children, or those of them who have not been cowed into submission, being on strike they are free to enjoy the fresh air. But when the mills are working the boys and girls are caged up for sixty hours a week in the unhealthy atmosphere common to these industrial hells.

The present strike in an effort on the part of the textile workers to obtain a reduction of the working hours to fifty-five per week. Although wages are miserably low they are willing to forfeit five hours' pay if only they can obtain the desired reduction of hours. In 1892, the year of the great panic, wages in the textile industry fell enormously. The Dingley Tariff of 1894 was to restore wages and improve conditions all round. So the workers voted for "Protection." They continue to vote for "Protection" despite the fact that wages are still lower than in 1892, and that women and children — especially children — are employed in ever increasing numbers.

The law fixes the minimum age at which children may be employed in factories at thirteen years. The cold, calculating brutality of men deliberately passing a law permitting boys and girls of thirteen to be employed sixty hours a week is even more disgraceful than neglect of the question altogether would be. It is certain, however, that the law has very little effect so far as maintaining even the minimum is concerned. There are said to be sixteen thousand children at work in the textile industries of Philadelphia, and it is certain that thousands of these are below the legal age.

Factory inspection is of the most perfunctory kind; false certificates are not difficult to obtain, and it is easy to use certificates of older children to cover any "suspects." More over, the parents themselves are, in too many cases, ignorant enough — or poor enough — to swear falsely as to the ages of their children. In thousands of cases this is exactly what happens. No one who knows anything whatever about the subject doubts that there are thousands of children between the ages of ten and twelve employed in the textile industries of this city in normal times.  

On the morning before "Mother" Jones started to march to New York with her little "army of crusaders" from the Kensington Labor Lyceum, early in July, I saw a number of such children of both sexes. Whenever "Mother" or myself asked one of them his or her age we got the stereotyped reply "Thirteen!" But even if one could believe they spoke the truth, the fact remains that not a few of them had been employed for periods ranging from a few months to two years or even more. One little fellow told me how, in the factory where he worked, when the inspector came round, the smallest of them were either hidden or sent out to. play. In not a few cases the "inspection" of the factory all takes place in the employer's office as every intelligent mill worker knows

The Comrade
-of August 1903

To read on google:
(includes photos of first day of march & a great cartoon of Mother Jones and President Roosevelt.)
Search google books with:
The Comrade: An Illustrated Socialist Monthly, Volume 2
Search the book with:
"Child Slaves of Philadelphia"
Choose page 253

More on John Spargo:

Friday August 1, 1913
From The International Socialist Review: "Debs Denounces Critics"

The controversy over the report on the miners' strike in West Virginia by the SPA's National Committee continues to split the American Socialist Movement. In this month's issue of the Review, Comrade Eugene Debs has his say on the matter. The issue also reprints a reply to Debs by Comrade W.H. Thompson, the editor of the Socialist and Labor Star of Huntington, West Virginia. We will reprint parts of Debs' article today. Thompson will have his say tomorrow. This answer by Debs to his critics was previously printed in the N.Y. Call:

Terre Haute, Ind., June 27. — The National Committee of the Socialist party in its regular session in May appointed a committee of three to investigate conditions in West Virginia. That committee, of which the writer was a member, was instructed to work in harmony with the United Mine Workers....

When our committee was appointed, more than sixty of our comrades were in the bullpen, martial law was in full force, two Socialist papers had been suppressed and there was a terrible state of affairs generally. Within four days after our committee arrived upon the ground every prisoner was released, martial law was practically declared off, the suppressed papers were given to understand that they could resume at their pleasure, and the governor of the state gave his unqualified assurance that free speech, free assemblage and the right to organize should prevail and that every other constitutional right should be respected so far as lay in his power.

It may be that our committee had nothing to do with bringing about these changes. As to this I have nothing to say. I simply state the facts...

I am an industrial unionist, but not an industrial bummereyite, and those who are among the miners of West Virginia magnifying every petty complaint against the United Mine Workers and arousing suspicion against every one connected with it, are the real enemies of industrial unionism and of the working class.

I am quite well aware that there are weak and crooked officials in the United Mine Workers, but to charge that they are all traitors without exception is out rageously false and slanderous.

The whole trouble is that some Chicago I. W. W.-ites, in spirit at least, are seeking to disrupt and drive out the United Mine Workers to make room for the I. W. W. and its program of sabotage and "strike at the ballot box with an ax."

To this I was, and am, and shall be, opposed with all my might, and if this be treason, I am guilty without a doubt.

The I. W. W.-ists have never done one particle of organizing, or attempted to, in the dangerous districts of West Virginia. The United Mine Workers have been on the job for years and all that the sabotagers have done is to denounce their officials and organizers as crooks and attempt in every way possible to defeat their efforts.

The United Mine Workers is steadily evolving into a thoroughly industrial union and in time it will certainly become so, but never in a thousand years will the efforts of these disrupters unionize the miners of West Virginia or any other state.

I now want to ask those who are denouncing our report under the false pretense that we have whitewashed Governor Hatfield, if Mother Jones and John W. Brown are also crooks and traitors? Both have been and are today in the employ of the officials of the United Mine Workers.

Will these I. W. W.-ites charge that Mother Jones and John Brown
[a militant Socialist miner, held in the bullpen for many months] are in the service of crooks and traitors? That is exactly what their charge, stripped of its false pretense, amounts to, but they will not dare to put it in that form....

The charge has been directly made that our committee betrayed its trust. If there is even the shadow of a foundation for this charge, then not only should the report of the committee be repudiated, but the committee itself be expelled from the party.

Let those who have made this charge against us produce their proof and make their appeal to the party for a referendum vote.

So far as I am concerned the report stands. I have no apology for a word in it. During the two weeks our committee was in Charleston we worked day and night with painstaking care to conscientiously perform our duty, and I am more than willing that the party shall decide whether we did it or whether we betrayed our trust.

The International Socialist Review
-of August 1913

See also:
Hellraisers Journal: Comrade Fred Merrick on the Betrayal of the West Virginia "Red Necks"

Thursday August 1, 2013
From PBS News Hour: "Fighting to Unravel India's Widespread Child Labor Abuses"


Sweet Child of Mine

Originally posted to Hellraisers Journal on Thu Aug 01, 2013 at 11:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Invisible People, In Support of Labor and Unions, Anti-Capitalist Chat, and Shamrock American Kossacks.

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