The People's Experience: Farming and Labor

The Democratic campaign of 1916 focused on winning the allegiance of several key groups, one of which was farmers and laborers.  To do so, the campaign emphasized Wilson's liberal legislation record.  During the campaign months Wilson signed three very important bills involving farmers and labor, sealing this contingent of voters for the Democratic ticket.

The first major piece of legislation signed by Wilson during the campaign was the July 1916 Federal Farm Loan Act.  This act established twelve regional farm loan banks, at which independent small farmers could borrow up to fifty percent of their land's value and twenty percent of their land improvements value.  The first act of

its kind, the act allowed small farmers to compete with larger business farms.  The act was criticized by some, because agricultural workers had to own land in order to benefit (thus excluding sharecroppers, the most destitute of farmers, from its benefits) and because the benefits were surrounded by mountains of red tape.

The second major piece of legislation was the Keating-Owen Child Labor Act of 1916, signed in September.  This act prohibited interstate commerce on goods produced by child labor. 

The third major piece of legislation was the Adamson Act of 1916, also signed in September.  The Adamson Act was the first law to limit the number of hours an employee could be expected to work during a day without overtime pay, limiting railroad workers to an eight hour day. 

Combined, the Keating-Owen Act and the Adamson Act were considered a huge victory for labor.  Along with his appointment of former labor leader William B. Wilson as Secretary of Labor, Wilson's record won him tireless support from labor leaders and laborers themselves.  For example, the 1916 election saw the southern Wilson win a greater percentage of the vote than any Democratic candidate between 1904 and 1924 in the eight non-southern states with the greatest percentage of laborers.

Click here to read about The Inauguration of 1917.

Return to the 1916 Election


did you know?

Wilson was president throughout World War I. He attempted to keep America out of the war and even won reelection with the slogan "He kept us out of war." Nonetheless, after the sinking of the Lusitania, continued run-ins with German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram, America became involved. with the Lusitania, the continued harassment of American ships by German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram meant that America joined the allies in April, 1917.

Woodrow Wilson was President when the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 giving women the right to vote.

Wilson piloted the ship that brought America onto the world stage. He made the first steps of leading us out of isolationism, violating Washington's tenet of avoiding foreign entanglements.

He led America during World War I. His fervent hope was for the US to join a League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "Life does not consist in thinking, it consists in acting."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "The Constitution was not made to fit us like a straitjacket. In its elasticity lies its chief greatness."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "I believe in democracy because it releases the energies of every human being."

The Seventeenth Amendment was formally adopted on May 31, 1913. Wilson had been president for almost three months at the time. The amendment provided for the direct election of senators. Prior to its adoption, Senators were chosen by state legislatures.

Wilson was the first president to receive a PhD which he got in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. He had received his undergraduate degree from the College of New Jersey, renamed Princeton University in 1896.

Woodrow Wilson could not read during the first decade of his life. Though undiagnosed, he may have suffered from a learning disability

Woodrow Wilson was known as "Tommy" until his college years.

Woodrow Wilson during his boyhood, helped establish the "Lightfoot Baseball Club" with his friends. Wilson played second base and was an avid sport fan throughout his adult life.

Woodrow Wilson was the first president to attend the Major League Baseball Fall Classic. He saw the debut of a young 20 year old pitcher by the name of George Herman "Babe" Ruth.

Woodrow Wilson was a graduate of Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University and the only president to hold an earned doctoral degree.

Woodrow Wilson image is on the $100,000 bill although it is no longer in circulation