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History of Social Welfare Policies & Programs Up to the 1930s: Women and Children

This guide focuses on resources that you can use when seeking information on the history of social welfare policies and programs in the U.S. up to the 1930s.

Target Populations: Women and Children


Women's Rights in the United States : A Documentary History
Winston E. Langley and Vivian C. Fox, eds. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1994.
Key primary documents including speeches and letters, congressional testimony, court decisions, government reports, position papers, statutes, and news stories. From the Colonial period through 1993. Available?
Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600-2000
Books, images, essays, and primary documents organized around "document projects" that pose a question relating to the role of women in U.S. social movements. Rutgers-restricted Access.
Bibliography About the U.S. Suffrage Movement
Book list from the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership.

Women and Children in the Labor Force

Report on Manufactures.
Alexander Hamilton. December 5, 1791.
Excerpt from Secretary of the Treasury Hamilton's report to the House of Representatives on how he thinks industries should operate in the new nation. Section 3 ("As to the additional employment of classes of the community not originally engaged in the particular business") encourages the employment in manufacturing of women and children "who are rendered more useful...than they would otherwise be."
The Triangle Factory Fire
Cornell University Kheel Center's virtual exhibit of photographs, primary documents, and oral histories relating to the 1911 fire in a New York City sweatshop.
"Child Labor Laws,"
IN Growth of Labor Law in the United States. U.S. Department of Labor, 1967, pp.7-58.
Historical development and evolution of federal and state child labor legislation. Dana Call Number: SuDocs L1.2:L41/967
"State Child Labor Laws and the Decline of Child Labor,"
Carolyn M. Moehling. Explorations in Economic History 36(1), 1999, 72-106.
"Between 1880 and 1930, the occupation rate of children age 10 to 15 fell by over 75%. This paper examines whether state laws restricting the employment of child labor contributed to this decline." Rutgers-restricted Access.
Child Labor in New Jersey: Part 3: The Working Children of Newark and Paterson."
Nettie McGill. Washington, DC, Children's Bureau, 1931
One of a series of studies of child welfare in New Jersey by the Children's Bureau in 1925. According to the 1920 census, 25 percent of Newark's 14 and 15 year-olds were in the work force. Looks at data relating to termination of school life, occupations, wages, unemployment and steadiness at work.
Child Labor Reform Exhibit
From the Wirtz Labor Library at the U.S. Department of Labor.
"The Dilemma in Saving Children From Child Labor: Reform and Casework at Odds With Families' Needs (1900-1938),"
Stadum, Beverly. Child Welfare 74(1), January/February 1995, 33-55.
"This article...[examines] the role of social workers in implementing the new reforms and the reactions of parents and children in low-income households who were affected by the legislative changes." Rutgers-restricted Access
" Children's and Mothers' Wage Labor in Three Eastern U.S. Cities, 1880-1920,"
S.J. Kleinberg. Social Science History 29(1), 2005, 45-76.
"Explores the variations in children's and mothers' labor...between 1880 and 1920. It finds that child labor and education legislation resulted in a decrease in children's employment and increased the likelihood that mothers would take paid jobs." Rutgers-restricted Access.


"The Life of the Street Rats,"
Charles Loring Brace. Excerpt from The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years Work Among Them. New York, Wynkoop & Hallenbeck, 1872.
Founder of New York City's Children's Aid Society, Brace began the "orphan trains" program that sent thousands of New York area "orphans" to families in the Mid-West.
The Best Method of Disposing of Our Pauper and Vagrant Children.
Charles Loring Brace. New York, Wynkoop, Hallenbeck & Thomas, 1859.
"A History of Placing-Out: The Orphan Trains,"
Jeanne F. Cook. Child Welfare 74(1), January/February 1995, 181-197.
"Between 1854 and 1930, the placing-out or orphan train strategy, considered to be the forerunner of modern family foster care, relocated approximately 150,000 children and youths from the city of New York to families in the Midwest." Rutgers-restricted Access
Adoption History Project
Rich collection of primary and secondary sources relating to the history of adoption in the United States. Includes a timeline, a section on important individuals and organizations, and essays, documents, and suggestions for further reading organized by Topics in Adoption History. Site maintained by Ellen Herman in the Department of History at the University of Oregon.

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