Debs and Children’s Rights
In 19th century America, there was widespread employment of children in the factories and mines. Boys were hired to work in the mines, as their small bodies were readily accommodated in the tight, cramped work spaces below ground. They provided cheap labor for such chores as tending the mules or ponies and serving as “gophers” for the men doing the more physically demanding work.
Debs was a strong advocate of legislative restrictions on child labor, and the Socialist Party became the mechanism for forcing this issue on the agendas of the two major parties. It was for Debs an issue of human rights, but Debs was not unaware that such restrictions would lead to more jobs and better wages for America’s working men and women.
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