Between 1908 and 1924, a photographer named Lewis Hine worked for the National Child Labor Committee, documenting the lives of child workers across the country. Now, the Library of Congress has collected more than 5,000 of these photographs, along with the story behind each one. Though your mind may be stuck in “Newsies” mode right now, the collection actually reveals a forgotten gamut of young women and girls in the strangest and most shocking of situations.
“Four-year-old Mary, who shucks two pots of oysters a day at Dunbar. Tends the baby when not working. The boss said that next year Mary will work steady as the rest of them. The mother is the fastest shucker in the place. Earns $1.50 a day. Works part of the time with her sick baby in her arms. Father works on the dock.”
“Tenjeta Calone, Philadelphia, 10 years old. Been picking cranberries 4 years. White’s Bog, Browns Mills, N.J. This is the fourth week of school and the people here expect to remain two weeks more. Sept. 28, 1910.”
“Globe Cotton Mill, Augusta, Ga. Woman was ‘with child.’ According to reports, these women work until the day of childbirth.”
“Stringers and leaf-girls, shed-workers for American Sumatra Tobacco Co. All working, 74 children in these sheds 10 to 15 years old, and only 45 women and children over 15.”
“Mrs. Dora Stainers, 562 1/2 Decatur St. 39 years old. Began spinning in an Atlanta mill at 7 years, and is in this mill work for 32 years. Only 4 days of schooling in her life. Began at 20 cents a day. The most she ever made was $1.75 a day & now she is earning $1 a day when she works. She is looking for a job. Her little girl Lilie is the same age she was when she started work, but the mother says, “I ain’t goin’ to put her to work if I can help it. I’m goin’ to give her as much education as I can so she can do better than I did.”
All photos and information via the Library of Congress National Child Labor Committee Collection.