Florence Kelley's 1905 Speech: a Call to Action Against Child Labor

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 699 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Mar 8, 2024

Words: 699|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Mar 8, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Emotional Appeal
  2. Tone and Language
  3. Use of Statistical Evidence
  4. Emphasis on Collective Action
  5. Conclusion

Florence Kelley was a prominent social reformer and advocate for women's rights in the early twentieth century. She is perhaps best remembered for her impassioned speeches against child labor, which were instrumental in the passage of laws restricting the employment of children in the United States. One of her most famous speeches was delivered in 1905 at the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention in Philadelphia. In this speech, she connects the issue of child labor to the larger struggle for social justice, challenging her audience to recognize the harm that is being done to children and the need for collective action to protect their rights. Through an analysis of the rhetorical strategies employed in this speech, it is possible to gain insight into Kelley's beliefs about the role of government in protecting vulnerable populations and the power of collective action to effect change.

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Emotional Appeal

One of the most striking aspects of Kelley's speech is the emotional appeal that she uses to connect with her audience. She describes the conditions of child labor in vivid detail, painting a picture of young children forced to work long hours in dangerous conditions. She uses the phrase "the perilous trades" to describe industries such as coal mining and glass blowing, emphasizing the physical danger that children are exposed to. Additionally, she describes the social isolation that accompanies this kind of work, noting that children are separated from their families and communities at a young age. By doing so, Kelley aims to create an emotional connection between her audience and the children who are affected by these conditions.

Tone and Language

Believing that their duty is to the children of America, Kelley's speech is addressed to adults. Her tone reflects the magnitude of the problem and the seriousness of the stakes. She comes across as impassioned, showing the seriousness of the issue. Moreover, she uses vivid and graphic diction in describing the impact that child labor has on children. For example, she suggests that child labor is likened to feeding upon our children's blood. She seeks not just to paint a picture in our minds of the human cost of child labor but also shame and (perhaps guilt) people into action. This is a powerful rhetorical technique that builds a sense of urgency among her listeners and appeals to their moral sense of responsibility to act.

Use of Statistical Evidence

Another key rhetorical strategy in Kelley's speech is the use of statistical evidence to support her argument. She cites the number of children working in various industries at the time, highlighting the prevalence of child labor in society. She also notes the correlation between child labor and poverty, arguing that children are more likely to be forced to work if their families are struggling to make ends meet. The use of statistics adds credibility and urgency to Kelley's argument, suggesting that the problem she is describing affects a significant portion of the population and requires immediate attention.

Emphasis on Collective Action

Finally, Kelley emphasizes the importance of collective action in addressing the issue of child labor. She argues that change must come from the government and that individuals have a responsibility to make their voices heard through political action. She notes that the demand for cheap labor drives child labor, and that only through collective action can the political will to end this practice be created. By framing the issue of child labor in terms of a broader struggle for social justice, she is able to appeal to a wide range of individuals who may not be personally affected by child labor but who are sympathetic to the cause of social reform and human rights.

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Florence Kelley's 1905 speech at the National American Woman Suffrage Association convention in Philadelphia was a powerful call to action to combat child labor. Through emotional appeals, statistical evidence, and an emphasis on collective action, Kelley was able to persuade her audience of the urgent need to address this issue. Her speech not only raised awareness of child labor but helped to create a political movement that led to the passage of laws protecting children from exploitation. Today, her legacy lives on, as advocates continue to work towards protecting the rights of children around the world.

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Cite this Essay

Florence Kelley’s 1905 Speech: A Call to Action Against Child Labor. (2024, March 07). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from
“Florence Kelley’s 1905 Speech: A Call to Action Against Child Labor.” GradesFixer, 07 Mar. 2024,
Florence Kelley’s 1905 Speech: A Call to Action Against Child Labor. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 Jun. 2024].
Florence Kelley’s 1905 Speech: A Call to Action Against Child Labor [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 07 [cited 2024 Jun 20]. Available from:
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