Some Phases of Internationalism, May 9, 1923 (excerpts)


The Woman's Place in Work for the World: China's Child [Labor] Factories

Notwithstanding Champions Day a large audience met on Wednesday afternoon in the Carlton Theatre to hear Miss Jane Addams, described by Dr. Anne Walter Fearn as "the Wise Citizen of Chicago," speak on "Some Phases of Internationalism." Dr. Fearn, President of the American Woman's Club, acted as chairman of the meeting and introduced Mr. H. G. Simms, Chairman of the Municipal Council, who said in part:

It is my privilege to welcome on behalf of the Foreign Settlement Miss Jane Addams whose social services have made her name a household word in the U.S.A., and who enjoys an international reputation as an author and lecturer on social problems.

To effect social reforms along Western lines in this country is a herculean task and it will require an immense amount of enthusiasm and wise guidance to bring about even elementary reforms. I am glad to say this International Settlement is in the van of progress in this direction, and the most powerful influence in bringing about reforms will come from the women of China supported by such active and experienced bodies as the various Women's Associations represented here this afternoon, which have become such a feature of social life in Shanghai during the past few years.

As you are all aware the question of child [labor] in factories is a subject which is occupying the attention of the Municipal Council, and whatever reforms it is hoped to bring into effect will have a much greater chance of success if we have the cooperation of the Chinese Government in evolving a uniform code of factory laws applicable to Chinese territory as well as to the Foreign Settlement.


Miss Addams was introduced by Dr. Fearn. In a speech packed with interesting facts presented in a lively and humorous way, she referred first to the various women's international associations, the International League of Women Voters, the International Congress of Women, the International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace, The Congress of Working Women, the Y.W.C.A. which had always been the most progressive, particularly in being the first to look after the welfare of women immigrants, the W.C.T.U. and others.

The banding together of women in these larger national and international movements, declared Miss Addams, does not in the least destroy their concern for their paramount interest, the well-being of their children and home. Every woman [today] must realize that she cannot care for her children without the [cooperation] of outside interests and every women is intent to secure the best for her family. The woman who "is not interested in the vote" will soon go into politics when she understands how it affects the milk supply for her babies and schools and playgrounds for the older children.


With regard to child [labor] Miss Addams did not underestimate the difficulties which Shanghai and China would meet in [endeavoring] to better present conditions. "The situation is not abnormal, however," she said. "Every country has been faced with these two hoary arguments for child [labor] which I recognize the moment they are begun. First comes the plea that the child's [labor] is necessary for the maintenance of himself and his family, especially should he be the child of a widow. In Illinois when we succeeded in having children kept out of night [labor], as a first step, woman's organization guaranteed to make up the wages of any child whose pittance was necessary for his family. Out of several hundred cases we found only 63 where the support was required.

"The next specious excuse is that the child is so much better off in a nice, clean, warm factory than he would be in a lonely home or on the streets. This cannot be sustained. I would rather take my chances of making a valuable citizen of a street-trained child than a factory child, at least up to the age of 10 or 12," maintained the speaker. "The child does not play games or study useful things in a factory. He simply works at a monotonous job which crushes his mind and spirit until he loses all enthusiasm. In an unemployment crisis in Chicago we found that two-thirds of the men applying at the municipal lodging house for relief --  the tramps, the wastrels of the country -- had gone to work before they were 10 years of age."


"As for the plea of the manufacturers that they cannot do without the [labor] of children, it is a matter of grave doubt whether the employment of children is economically justifiable. At all events in Illinois the glass factories which said they could not carry on without the aid of young boys managed to survive and doubled their output in 10 years of restricted child [labor]. No great industry depends upon the weak shoulders of a few children."

After the speaker had closed her formal address she was bombarded with questions from the floor on all phases of the child [labor] problem and allied problems, which she answered with [humor] and force.