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Children in Milwaukee, like children of any time and place, have always worked. But the nature of that work has changed over the last century-and-a-half, as school years were lengthened, child labor laws were passed, and technological innovation changed the makeup of the workforce. In the early years of Milwaukee, children's "chores" no doubt included caring for livestock and working in fields; by the late 20th century, of course, the term "chores" was far more likely to refer to cleaning rooms or taking out the trash. Similarly, the factory work performed by many boys and girls a century ago has given way to part-time jobs at fast-food restaurants and retail shops. Another facet of the evolution of Milwaukee children's work is its place in the domestic economy. The earnings of juvenile workers in the past often helped pay their families' bills. Now, however, most working children spend the money they earn on clothes and entertainment of their own choosing. The materials found in "Work" will describe the kinds of work performed by Milwaukee children and what it meant to them, and present the ways that politicians and reformers viewed that work.

Work Photo Gallery

Special topics

Special topics are packages of documents and images we've found interesting in our research. If you're wondering where to start, you can select a topic and explore.

Milwaukee boys working as telegraph messengers pose outside the Western Union Office in 1891. Milwaukee County Historical Society.

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