Knights of Labor

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The Noble Order of the Knights of Labor was founded in 1869 by Uriah Stephens and five other former members of the Garment Cutters' Association of Philadelphia. The organization was open to all working people except for bankers, lawyers, doctors, stockbrokers & liquor manufacturers. It was the first union to attempt to unionize women on a national scale. This included appointing Leonora Barry as a national organizer. In 1893, inspired by the overwhelming influence by the Knights, Kelley successfully lobbied the Illinois state legislature to pass a law establishing an eight-hour workday for women. In Chicago, Florence Kelley became a resident at Hull-House. That is, she worked as well as lived there. Her work was part of the research documented in “Hull-House Maps and Papers”. She studied child labor in sweatshops and issued a report on that topic for the Illinois State Bureau of Labor. And she was appointed in 1893 by Governor John P. Altgeld as the first factory inspector for the state of Illinois. Consequently, she put forward the Factory & Workshop Inspection Act. It introduced into Illinois industry provisions banning child labor in manufacturing, empowering the Board of Health to seize goods from unclean shops, requiring physicians’ certification for young workers between the ages of fourteen & sixteen & most controversially, limiting the hours of work for women to eight. However, in 1895, Illinois Supreme Court annulled the law in the landmark case of WC Ritchie v. Illinois. Ritchie, a paper box manufacturer arraigned for violating the eight hour clause, maintained the law was unconstitutional. The court agreed, emphasizing not only that the gender was an insufficient reason to limit hours. Moreover, in accordance with section one of the 14th amendment, legislature absolutely had no right to infringe on freedom of contract by setting maximum hour for either sex. The Act had a major impact on women & children factory workers. It assisted to alleviate cruel...
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