Excerpts, Helen M. Todd, "Why Children Work: The Children’s Answer,"
McClure’s Magazine 40 (April 1913):68-79
"The child of the working class represents the human rubbish-pile, the waste material of the industrial world. . . . The working people . . . have, through ignorance, large families of children beyond their earning power to rear; and now the economic waste material these children represent is being utilized. All that is needed to make an iron and steel machine perfect in its money-making power is the addition of a human cog. A child will do as well . . . as a man, and so a use has been found for the children of the working people. As commercial waste products they are the source of some of our largest fortunes.”
. . .
She talks to a father ("a big muscular Swedish immigrant") who employs his own son in a “dust-filled” lumber mill. The boy works from 6:30 am to 6 pm six days a week and is employed on dangerous machinery “Why have you done this to him?” she asks.
"Something in my tone penetrated the peasant mind of the father, and roused him," she said:
"‘See here,’ he said, with a sort of grave dignity, ‘work don’t hurt nobody. Look at me. I started work in the old country when I was a baby, and I ain’t never been sick a day. . . . Bound out to a farmer when I was ten. . . . Slept in the barn; never had enough to eat, or decent clothes or shoes. Hauled gravel when I got older, and earned 40 cents a day. Used to sleep in the barn at night, aching from head to foot from shovelin’ dirt all day. Colder than Greenland I was, and hungrier than a wolf.'"
"'I just made up my mind, after I came to America and my boy was born, that he should have an inside job out of the cold and rain. None of your day laborers for him, breakin’ his back fer other folks. Why, all he has to do is stand there and feed that rip-saw. That ain’t work. It’s just play. And I’m learnin’ him the business. He’ll own this factory when I’m dead and gone.'" [After she forces the father to take the boy to the doctor, he is diagnosed with tuberculosis]
. . .
“Do not think that the little Polish or Lithuanian child who sits stupid and dumb at his desk, conscious that he is the biggest child in the room, is not suffering; for he is experiencing an agony of weariness, bewilderment, and sense of failure that makes the nearest paper-box factory, where he feels he is of some use, a haven of refuge. He has never been especially clean or petted, but he has always been useful. . . .Take from him at school his one asset of usefulness, and his self-respect goes with it, only to return with his working certificate and his first week’s pay envelope.”