The Golf Links

The Manumit School was an experimental Christian socialist boarding school in Pawling, NY. and later Bristol, Pennsylvania. Manumit means freedom slavery and this was a school with a clear mission. It was racially integrated, religiously tolerant and worked “toward a world order based upon justice and co-operation, in which the individual may find freedom.” It was founded in 1924 as The Manumit School for Workers’ Children and designed to provide an education for the children of trade unionist, political radicals and progressives. You can read more about the school here.

Sarah Norcliffe Cleghorn taught English and drama at Manumit until 1929. She also taught at Vassar College for a while. She is perhaps best known today for a simple, memorable, poem:

The Golf Links

The golf links lie so near the mill
That almost every day 
The laboring children can look out
And see the men at play.

            Sarah N. Cleghorn

Child labor, injustice and inequality all captured in four short lines. You can read more about Cleghorn’s activism and  life-long commitment to peace, equity and justice in Poltroon.

At Manumit, child labor had quite a different meaning:

Community Life There are no. servants at Manumit. The faculty and students share in all of the work essential to the running of the school. Inside and outside work duties are part of the daily routine. Children participate in the care of the animals, in gardening and domestic science, and often assume complete responsibility for some particular job, such as the care of a horse or pony, milking a cow, or plowing a field, when such responsibility is justified. The children soon learn the importance of being good co.-operators. Cooperation is the keynote of Manumit community life. Manumit School Brochure 1929

Manumit School: A different kind of child labor

It was her 1915 visit to the child-labor belt of South Carolina that gave rise to the poem which was published in The Christian Register.  It was given another boost in 1937 by the family of President Theodore Roosevelt whose daughter Alice and son Ted compiled and selected the poetry for their book The Desk Drawer Anthology – Poems for the American People. Actually, they crowd-sourced the poems asking people to dig out their favorite verses clipped from newspapers and stored in a desk drawer, wallet or handbag – hence the title. 

In the foreword, Ted Roosevelt credited his friend Aleck Woollcott for the idea for the anthology. He quoted him as calling the quatrain by Sarah Cleghorn a masterpiece … “which might well be writ large on the walls of those State legislatures, where after all these years, the Child Labor Amendment is still awaiting ratification.” Hard to imagine such radical ideas coming from a modern Republican.

Roosevelt was a decorated WW1 veteran who returned to the army to serve in WW2. He died of a heart attack in Normandy one month after landing on Utah beach on D-day with the first wave of troops – the only general to do so.

Years later, General Omar Bradley was asked to name the single most heroic action he had ever seen in combat. He replied, “Ted Roosevelt on Utah Beach.”

The Child Labor Amendment remains unratified and still, technically, pending before the states and needing an additional ten states to ratify approval. Interest in the amendment waned after the  Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which implemented federal regulation of child labor with the Supreme Court’s approval in 1941.

And as for golf? Well – that is still happening on links and courses. The British Open at Royal Birkdale – an actual set of links on the north west coast – ends today.

A child at a North Carolina cotton mill, captured by Lewis W. Hine

Lewis Wickes Hine (1874 – 1940) was an American sociologist and photographer who used his camera as a tool for social reform. His photographs were instrumental in changing child labor laws in the United States.

The featured image is from: The Golf Course, North Berwick by John Lavery 1922.

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