Benjamin Barr Lindsey to Owen Reed Lovejoy, April 10, 1911


April 10, 1911.

Mr. Owen R. Lovejoy,
105 E. 22nd Street, N.Y.

My dear Lovejoy:

Nothing in a long time has distressed me so much as to feel that I had pained Paul Kellogg, you and some others by the perhaps very unwise participation in the meeting you refer to.

I have just this minute seen your letter which followed me about the country and finally became mixed up in a pile of correspondence which is almost beyond my physical capacity to keep up with. During the past two or three weeks I have been busy night and day in court, with matters in the legislature, public functions in Denver and in towns nearby where there are some local campaigns in progress. This has interfered with an earlier answer.

Of course you know I am against any "trust" whether it be the [theater] trust or the cotton mill trust, and I did not know that I was taking any part in any "trust" affair. The truth is, I was passing through New York between trains, was asked to speak at the "benefit" for stage children, hesitated at first and then thought that the four or five minutes I was asked to "say a word" would not do any harm. The entire affair was quite accidental and unexpected.

About the only point I undertook to make was briefly that there was a difference, in my judgment, between the stage child and the factory child, and that there might be some way to regulate children on the stage so that there would be no danger to their health and morals. And if that could be done, as I hoped it could be, I could see no serious objection to children on the stage. I am positive that this was the judgment of [Homer] Folks when I talked to him, and I really supposed that you were not averse to that idea.

What distresses me most is to find that I possibly got into some local controversy or affair that is embarrassing to my friends, which I should not have done had I had any such notion at the time.

When I came through Chicago, Judge Pinckney of the Juvenile Court told me that he was opposed to the provision in the Illinois law excluding children from the stage. I was also told that Mr. [Bodeen], Supt. of Compulsory Education, and Mr. Davies the Factory Inspector were of the same opinion.

While, of course, good laws may be abused and regulations disregarded, I would want to be convinced that this subject could not be regulated so as not to entirely deprive either the child or the public of rights which I believe they have in this matter, and I think we may honestly differ on this subject without being classed as supporters of the [theater] trust.

I regret very much that the commercialism involved is no doubt responsible for the attitude of some people who insist upon children on the stage; but I also know that members of the Child Labor Committee like Homer Folks, Mrs. Decker, myself and others feel that there is a certain amount of injustice to the child regardless of the commercial side that ought not be considered.

I will say to you frankly that I am not satisfied with the Illinois law; I think in some respects it is doing positive harm. From things I have seen in Chicago I believe that it is forcing children into idleness and crime, when all of this might be avoided by a little more toleration and what I consider justice, fair play and common sense.

I am, as you know, heartily in favor of excluding children from certain occupations that are dangerous. I am also against a law that contributes to [page 2] idleness and crime when I think it can be avoided subjecting children to the dangers of real child labor.

It seems to me that the fight for child labor laws as applied to industries that to my mind are so entirely different from children on the stage is as important that the children on the stage feature is of small consequences as compared to the bigger fight.

We have no law in Colorado that even permits us to regulate children on the stage. The State Bureau of Child and Animal Protection here is bitterly fighting any sort of effective child labor law. We have tried desperately at this session to get through a stringent child labor law excluding them from the dangerous employments mentioned in Section 3 of the Illinois law, and permitting the issuing of permits between 14 and 16 in the lighter employments, and putting such stringent provisions, such as requiring as bond for $2,000 upon those who employ children in respectable performances, that I feel if we could get this law it would be a great step forward, when any attempt to exclude children entirely from the stage would probably result in the defeat of the entire bill, for we have two other bills introduced, one by Mrs. Lafferty which is inadequate, ineffective and covers very few employments and refusing absolutely to interfere with or regulate children on the stage, leaving them to be exploited by any sort of cheap show. That is the kind of fight we have had here with the outcome very uncertain.

It would be very hard for me to favor children on the stage under strict regulation if I thought it would oppose the view of people like Miss Addams, Paul Kellogg, yourself and others, because I have such high respect for all of you, and it would really pain me to take sides against you in this matter, but after a careful consideration of the case I feel that the public and child are being done an injustice by an insistence that the child be absolutely excluded from the stage.

Sincerely yours,

(Signed) Ben B. Lindsey.