The National Consumers League

 

Florence Kelley, Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman's Party, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., mnwp 153003

The National Consumers League (NCL) was a women-dominated organization that sought to use women’s consumer power to improve working conditions for working-class women. In the late nineteenth century, state consumer leagues were founded across the country. Eventually, the state consumer leagues formed the National Consumer League, led by Florence Kelley for 33 years.

Under Kelley’s leadership, the NCL developed its “White Label,” which it granted to stores that met the NCL’s standards for minimum wages, maximum working hours, and decent working conditions. To receive the White Label, stores had to pass an inspection by NCL members. The NCL then encouraged consumers to shop only at “White Label” stores.

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Front page of a booklet for a convention called by the NCL to discuss a minimum wage decision by the Supreme Court, 1923, Library of Congress Manuscript Division, LC-DIG-ppmsca-02945

The National Consumers League also advocated at the state and national level for minimum wage and maximum hour laws. In 1908, the NCL was instrumental in drafting a defense before the Supreme Court of Oregon’s 10-hour maximum workday legislation for women. In Muller v. Oregon, the Supreme Court ruled that such legislation was permissible for women, although it had struck down such legislation for men. In addition, the NCL initiated a campaign to secure a national minimum wage, which was finally successful in 1938 with the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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