The National Consumers League (1899-Present)

The National Consumers League (NCL) was founded in New York City in 1899 by two well-known Progressive Era civic activists, Jane Addams and Josephine Lowell. Its purpose was to champion the rights of workers and to advocate for safe consumer products.  Florence Kelley, a graduate of Cornell University and an attorney who had worked with Addams at Hull House, led the NCL as its first General Secretary. She held the position from 1899 until her death in 1932. Under Kelley’s leadership, the NCL sought justice and fairness for all laborers, including immigrants, women, children, and sweatshop workers. The NCL battled for minimum wage laws, a ten-hour working day, an end to child labor, and a less dangerous workplace. It encouraged consumers to purchase only products made in safe factories by well-treated workers. In 1906, the National Consumers League threw its considerable support behind President Theodore Roosevelt’s consumer safety legislation: the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act.

In the 1930s, when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (Theodore and Edith Roosevelt’s niece) served as the NCL’s vice president, the League assisted in the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Today, the National Consumers League continues to advocate for better working conditions for laborers and safer products for consumers.