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Child Labor in America: The Epic Legal Struggle to Protect Children, John A. Fliter

Reviewed by Elisabeth Anderson

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This meticulously researched and clearly written book chronicles the struggle for federal child labor legislation from the failed Beveridge-Parsons bill of 1906 through the historic Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. John A. Fliter’s thorough account is sandwiched between helpful overviews of early state-level efforts to tackle the child labor problem and more recent attempts to change child labor laws at the state and federal levels. The book does not attempt to provide an overarching argument or theoretical framework linking it to the broader scholarship on the development of social policy or labor protections in the United States. Nonetheless, it serves as an invaluable resource for anyone interested in this country’s history of child labor legislation. In addition to its exceptional detail and comprehensiveness, its main contributions are its clear explication of the evolving U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence and its startling discussion of the recent spate of right-wing attacks on long-standing, seemingly commonsense child labor laws.

Fliter’s account begins in the nineteenth-century United States, when child labor was an exclusively state-level affair. States varied significantly in the extent to which they regulated child labor, creating a situation in which the more progressive states suffered an economic disadvantage vis-à-vis th

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