Kids On Strike!


By the early 1900s, nearly two million children were working in the United States. From the coal mines of Pennsylvania to the cotton mills of New England, children worked long hours every day under stunningly inhumane conditions. After years and years of oppression, children began to organize and make demands for better wages, fairer housing costs, and safer working environments.
Some strikes led by young people were successful; some were not. Some strike stories are shocking, ...

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By the early 1900s, nearly two million children were working in the United States. From the coal mines of Pennsylvania to the cotton mills of New England, children worked long hours every day under stunningly inhumane conditions. After years and years of oppression, children began to organize and make demands for better wages, fairer housing costs, and safer working environments.
Some strikes led by young people were successful; some were not. Some strike stories are shocking, some are heartbreaking, and many are inspiring—but all are a testimony to the strength of mind and spirit of the children who helped build American industry.

Describes the conditions and treatment that drove workers, including many children, to various strikes, from the mill workers strikes in 1828 and 1836 and the coal strikes at the turn of the century to the work of Mother Jones on behalf of child workers.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Covering more historical ground than in her lauded photo-essay Growing Up in Coal Country, Bartoletti highlights the roles that children and young adults played in American labor strikes during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Bartoletti has a gift for collecting stories with telling details; her dense but highly readable prose brings individual children and the struggles in which they engaged vividly to life. Drawing from a broad expanse of resources (personal interviews, newspaper and magazine articles, primary and secondary book accounts), she spins the stories of 11-year-old Harriet Hanson, who joined striking workers in the Lowell, Mass., mills of the 1830s; 16-year-old Pauline Newman, a leader of the 1907 New York City rent protests and nicknamed "The New Joan of Arc"; as well as myriad other children who began to realize the unfairness of the conditions in which they worked and who took steps to change their situations. The handsomely designed volume is packed with an abundance of relevant historical photographs (several by Lewis Hine), with children at work or at protests staring out from almost every page. A final chapter recounts the creation of the National Child Labor Committee and offers a glimpse into the futures of the many children featured in earlier chapters. Both accessible and engrossing, this volume is tangible proof for would-be activists that children have made and continue to make a difference. Ages 9-up. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
"Drawing from a broad expanse of resources, Bartoletti spins the stories of 11-year-old Harriet Hanson, who joined striking workers in the Lowell, Mass., mills of the 1830s, and myriad other children who began to realize the unfairness of 19th- and early--20th-century working conditions and took steps to change their situations," said PW in a starred review. "Both accessible and engrossing, this volume is tangible proof for would-be activists that children have made and continue to make a difference." Ages 9-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This highly praised book (a School Library Journal Best Book, etc.) provides a vivid look at child labor issues from the mid 1800s through the turn of the century. Each of the eight chapters tells an exciting story of early industrial struggle for workers' rights, from the Massachusetts mills and Pennsylvania coal mines to the New York newsie strike and Mother Jones. Each 15- to 25-page chapter is full of terrific visual material, and the author's writing is clear and compelling, without over-simplifying or watering down material. Put together, the stories provide lots of information without being overly didactic. This handsome and intelligent book could profitably be used both inside and outside of middle school classrooms. KLIATT Codes: J*; Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2003, Houghton Mifflin, 208p. illus. bibliog. index., Levinson
Have children always been victims in the workplace? Did they ever fight back? What role did they play in organized labor? These questions are answered as the author adroitly evokes the social milieu in which strikes involving children occurred in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania from 1836 through 1910. Numerous blackandwhite archival photographs effectively illustrate the descriptions of people and events in this lively history. As social commentary and a vivid portrayal of historical events, this book achieves an ideal balance between factual reporting and proselytizing. Readers are able to assimilate data and form their own opinions. A time line of federal child labor laws begins in 1916 when the first laws were passed, continues through the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, and ends with a presentday statistic about the exploitation of children under age fourteen in industrialized and developing nations around the world. The bibliography includes general sources and chapterbychapter documentation. Bartoletti's unique scope creates a valuable resource for students researching labor movements or the role of children in American history or both. It can also provide supplemental reading for students in child development, history and the family, and economics classes. Bartoletti's background as a teacher is apparent; this nonfiction book invites reading for pleasure as well as information. Index. Illus. Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. Chronology. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 1999,HoughtonMifflin, Ages 12 to 18, 208p, $20. Reviewer: Sherry York
Library Journal
Gr 5-8-This well-researched and well-illustrated account creates a vivid portrait of the working conditions of many American children in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Chapters are devoted to the Lowell, MA, textile-factory girls who worked 13-hour days as well as New York City's "newsies," who sold papers for Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. The strikers included are not only those who protested unfair work conditions, but they also highlight individuals like Pauline Newman, who, at 16, organized residents to protest their high rents during the New York City rent strike of 1907. Another chapter includes Mother Jones's famous march from Philadelphia to Oyster Bay, Long Island, to meet with President Teddy Roosevelt. Like the Pied Piper, she led striking children, and others, in an effort to reform labor laws so that youngsters would no longer work under inhumane and unsafe conditions. Chapter notes and a time line of federal child-labor laws are appended. Many black-and-white photos of both children at work and on strike help to make their plight real and personalize their stories. A fine resource for research as well as a very readable book.-Carol Fazioli, The Brearley School, New York City Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

Throughout much of the nation's history, young people were forced by necessity into the labor market. This book focuses on children and teenagers who endured unbearably long working days, dangerous job responsibilities, and paltry wages, yet were empowered by their quest for civil rights. Each chapter recounts an important labor battle of the nineteenth or early twentieth century and explores the role that children played in it. Some protests, including the mill girls' strike for higher wages in 1836 New England and the New York City rent protest led by sixteen-year-old Pauline Newman, were organized by young people. Others, such as the turn-of-the-century Pennsylvania coal strikes, were initiated by adult workers, although children also participated. The well-designed book, liberally illustrated with black-and-white archival photographs, documents these events through the experiences of specific children profiled in the lean, compelling text. The book is honest in describing not only the strikes that ended in success but also those that failed or resulted in limited victories. The final chapter surveys the development of the National Child Labor Committee and briefly touches on the plight of African-American child laborers (who frequently worked for no pay at all) and the pioneering art of Lewis Hine, whose photographs of child workers brought the issue before the American public. Finally, it includes information on the later life experiences of many of the children discussed in the text. As memorable as their inspiring stories are, they represent just a few of the children who worked and battled for better lives. The anonymous children depicted in the photographs-older than their years, dirty, sometimes maimed by factory machinery-are equally haunting and affecting. Bibliographical references, an index, and a helpful "Timeline of Federal Child Labor Laws" are included.
Horn Book

"A comprehensive examination of the socioeconomic factors that spurred the formation of child organized strikes, this historical tour de force elucidates why child labor laws were developed and continue to be such a necessity. Bartoletti (No Man's Land, p. 627, etc.) looks at the major industries that profited from the exploitation of child labor and how those employed by such operations worked to create a better environment for themselves and others. While there is mention of the Newsie Strike' in New York City and the fate of the sharecroppers in the southern cotton industry, the garment and coal mining industries loom as the real villains in child labor issues. Bartoletti provides numerous examples of how debilitating poverty drove entire families to work in utter squalor and suffer cruel treatment at the hands of profit-driven conglomerates. Personal stories illuminate the wretched conditions under which many of these children labored, with a focus on the instances when a child mobilized fellow workers to demand their rights. The grit and determination of these children who, in the face of police abuse, bureaucratic negligence, and governmental (even presidential) indifference, banded together for a common cause, and the startling black-and-white photographs, ensure that readers will be alternately awed and appalled by this stunning account of child labor in the US." Kirkus Reviews

"Through personal narratives and powerful photographs and reproductions, this book tells the dynamic story of child labor in America and the efforts to organize to achieve social justice." School Library Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618369232
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 8/25/2003
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 218,499
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 920L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Campbell Bartoletti is the award-winning author of several books for young readers, including Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845–1850, winner of the Robert F. Sibert Medal. She lives in Moscow, Pennsylvania. Visit her website at .

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2008

    Kids On Strike

    The title of the book is Kids on Strike. The author of the book is Susan Campbell Bartoletti. The book is mainly about kids working in the mills. They try to organize a strike because of the harsh conditions, they also do not get paid enough. The author sends the message accross perfectly. She uses great detail to engage the reader with facts from the time period. I liked how the kids had the courage to organize a strike union. i don't know why some more adults didn't stand up for the cause. You would enjoy this book if you like history, and if you like it when the little people stand up for what they know is right.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2008

    Kids On Strike

    In the beginning of this book you learn about the work conditions and jobs of the workers in the mills during the 1800's. Then Susan Bartoletti starts talking about the different strikes and petitions set forth by the workers. Finally she talks about the effect all this had on slavery. This book isn't a story really it's an organized recitation of facts in a series. It does make you want to know what happens next more out of to finish it, rather than because you are worried or excited. I liked the pictures of the time period-not only could you imagine what was going on, but you could see how close my imagination was to what it really looked like. Nothing in this book really confused me, because we had just finished learning about the industrial revolution in history and we were reading Lyddie,another book on the mill life, in class. My only question was why did people treat there workers terribly if they were getting a profit out of them. I think that someone who might enjoy this book would be someone who enjoys American history. I also think that kids now-a-days would come to see how much harder it was back then and stop taking their life for granted. Overall this was a good book and some people might enjoy it.

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