Florence Kelley

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Florence Kelley

Florence Kelley was an American social worker and reformer who fought successfully for child labor laws and improved conditions for working women. In 1876, she entered Cornell University but her poor health kept her from graduating until 6 years later. She then studied at the University of Zurich where women were permitted to obtain postgraduate degrees and where she applied her developed passions for Socialism. Kelley married a Polish-Russian physician, Lazare Wischnewetzky, and they had 3 children. Their marriage eventually deteriorated and she fled with their children to Jane Addams's Hull House in Chicago to escape her mentally unstable and violent husband. For the next eight years she lived and worked with Hull House residents and supporters. These were women of her class who strongly believed that they belonged in the public arena calling attention to the working conditions of children and women, social injustice and democracy for all. During her years at Hull House she led a successful campaign for the appointment of women as factory inspectors, she worked for the organization of trade unions and was appointed to the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics. She achieved success in her battle to improve the working conditions. The State Legislature passed the first factory law prohibiting employment of children under the age 14, limited the workday to eight-hours and banned sweatshops in Illinois. Even though these laws were passed, adherence was scarce. Kelley had grown agitated with the government's lack of prosecution and earned her law degree and battled for enforcement of these laws. She continued working to reform labor practices by becoming the general secretary of the National Consumers' League and she played a prominent role in federal legislation for child labor minimum wages. She helped form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She...
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