Women and Children


While coal miners struggled to make a living in dangerous mines underground, women and their families strenuously toiled above ground preparing meals, caring for young children, and maintaining the household.  Few employment opportunities existed for women in the isolated coal camps, and households often took in male boarders providing the family with additional income.  After the strike of 1913-1914, coal companies such as Colorado Fuel and Iron Company prohibited families from housing boarders, again limiting women’s power to provide additional income for the family.  


Both male and female children of coal miners bore responsibilities to the survival of the family.  Girls helped their mothers care for the children and conducted household tasks without amenities such as running water.  Boys as young as 12 years old worked in the mines and were often required to work between 10 and 16 hours a day.  Their wages were less than adult wages but often provided an important source of income for the family in the loss of a father who had been killed or disabled in the mines.

In 1916, two years after the Colorado Coalfield Strike of 1913-1914 and the Ludlow Massacre, the United States congress passed the Keating-Owens Act.  This legislation restricted the sale of goods, such as coal, produced by organizations employing children under the age of 16 in the mining industry.  Although later overturned, the Keating-Owens act of 1916 discouraged coal companies from employing minors and began the struggle in the United States to prohibit child labor.

Woman and Children Images

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