A hero is someone who does something that you will appreciate later in life or who is talented and has self-confidence. A hero is someone who will make you proud of who you are. Your hero might be your Mom or Dad or both. But I have a hero who made decisions and took a chance on saving you and me from child labor. My hero is Florence Kelley.
In 1871, when she was twelve years old, Florence's father took her to a Pennsylvania glass factory to show her the wonders of America's factories. When she went inside she saw small children working with pots full of acid and small boys crouching over a fire. You and I sometimes think that doing dishes is hard enough. I can't believe that children held pots full of acid!
Kelley was angry. She later learned that there were over 1 million children working in hot, crowded and unsafe factories. The work was very dangerous. Every year tens of thousands of kids died or were seriously hurt. In 1889, Kelley knew something had to be done. She wrote a book called "Our Toiling Children." Kelley asked people not to buy goods made by child workers.
Kelley worked hard to support her ideas. She gave speeches and wrote reports. Within a few years she had become famous. Everyone knew her as the leader against child labor. In 1893, Kelley fought for a new law in Illinois. That law said that no factories could have children workers. That law created a Chief Factory Inspector who would make sure everyone followed that law. Kelley won her fight on that law and was later delighted to find out that she had gotten the job of Chief Factory Inspector.
In Kelley's second year as Chief Factory Inspector something bad happened. Smallpox broke out in Illinois. Lots of people died of it. Kelley knew that smallpox was passed easily from one person to another. It was even passed in clothing. Kelley knew that sick people were still making clothes and giving the clothes to the children and people in their village. That meant that they were taking it home with them.
Kelley knew she had to act. She visited factory after factory and whenever she saw sick workers she made them stop working. Kelley told the factory owners to burn the clothes. The factory owners were very angry, but they burned thousands of dollars worth of clothes. Kelley's actions saved many American children from smallpox, and she kept working for children's rights for the rest of her life.
Florence Kelley is certainly a hero to me, and I hope she is to you. She is a hero, because if it wasn't for her, you and I could be working in factories and holding pots full of acid. I, indeed, will always thank her for fighting against child labor.
A Note from MY HERO: Florence Kelley also helped better working conditions for women and men. In addition to her dedication to fighting for humane labor laws, she also was active in the women's suffrage movement and helped to establish the NAACP. Read more about her work through another hero story by Brittany from Yorkton.