Cotton Mill Girl: Behind Lewis Hine’s Photograph & Child Labor Series | 100 Photos | TIME

In the early 1900’s, the general population in those years had very little understanding of what was meant by child labor and child exploitation. The kinds of jobs you would find children working in ranged from the mines, the factories, the cotton mills, to working out on the streets selling newspapers. Injuries, even deaths were very common among children. The parents would often say that they needed the income that their children brought in. That that was what allowed them to continue to survive. A number of parents were advocates for child labor, and their children thought that that was the way life was. One of the first things the National Child Labor Committee did was to hire a photographer. They hired Lewis Hine who was then their photographer for the next two decades. They sent him around the country to identify, find, and photograph children in exploitative situations. He promoted himself as a Bible salesman. He said he was bringing his camera along, so he could photograph kids reading Bibles. A boy would say he was thirteen when in fact he was eleven. Or a girl would say she was twelve, when in fact she might be nine. The photograph is of a young girl, ten or eleven years old. Her name was Sadie Pfeifer at a cotton mill in Lancaster, South Carolina. She’s standing in front of a large loom on a long hallway, staring at, and working hard on the job of selecting the quality products. She’s probably worked most of the night. It’s nearing the end of her shift. She stands there, iconic, as a representative of hundreds of other girls who are being treated just like her, and who have no choice. That photograph raised the consciousness. Immediately, you see that photograph, and you cannot look away from it. It doesn’t say America. Lewis Hine’s stark photographs influenced legislation over a period of roughly 35 years. This body of work on child labor represented how he thought and how he felt that children must not be exploited. He represents the most important photographer in terms of social advocacy and social change in the first half of the 20th century.

Comments 30

  • and now they're free to watch TV, play video games, get fat, join gangs, get high. ain't progress wonderful?

  • 6260210697266

  • And my kid lays on the ground screaming if ask him to clean his room.

  • Sorry Pal, But the picture of this so called Sadie Pfeifer in Lancaster, SC @ 1:54 is not a picture of a little girl in front of a large loom in a hall. You are mistaken. I've worked in a cotton mill as well as most of my family, and I question the integrity of this whole video.

  • This still happens today and it leads to trafficking and child slavery. 😦

  • There is nothing wrong with child labor. It is not immoral or wrong.

  • Heartbreaking

  • Too sad Lewis Hine had to live on welfare in his last days. His photos saved many a child from slavery.

  • 0:24 bottom right lads crosseyed!

  • Oh so this is what libertarians dream about

  • Wow. I’m from Lancaster & never knew this. Crazy. I’ve lived on a mill hill all of my life & can only imagine some of the stories

  • This was the norm.

  • Children were not "children" in those days not even "teenager" existed.

  • In them days they had no choice. So what about children growing up in poverty and their parents are to strung out to take care of them.

  • Sadly in today’s world these would be called fake news.

  • And millennials think they have it bad.

  • Things haven’t changed in places

  • Back then it wasn't that all the parents wanted to make their children work, it was that the pay was so terrible they had no choice. Even having their children work, sometimes the parents had to give up there children in hopes they would have a better life. The factory owners (not all but alot) back then treated every one bad adults and children. A very hard time back then! And people are always whining and protesting now days over things that are not really that bad now. I think people just like to complain now.

  • I suppose this proves kids are just as capable as adults even if what they are doing is extremely dangerous, there’s kids still working jobs not suitable for them in third world countries because that’s the way it is. They know nothing other than working to get food on the table or to care for their parents, these photos are sad but it’s still a reality for millions of kids around the world.

  • Invariably people will type " what about" to talk about other countries but this is an example for other countries to inspire them to end child labor. If we ended it in the early 20th century they can end it now.

  • Back in these days children quickly matured into adults through hard work and today children never become adults through lack of work. Hard to say what is better, should have gone for a middle ground.

  • Still looks better than chattel slavery to me🤔

  • Wow. So sad and very beautiful photos at the same time.

  • Work makes a strong ,working, Independent money maker…I was born in a Dirt Poor mom had to raise 4 boys by herself…I Loved doing anything to make a quarter, dollar, or more from a little boy…It builds character Fast and makes one appreciate everything he or she can buy with their hard earnings…My brothers and I always had stuff, cause we worked hard for it..Stop the Propaganda, Safe Space , BS..Kids today are Pathetically pampered and Sissyfied…Kids today are Lazy, Disrespectful, Brainwashed…But Liberals are so Happy to make victims of everyone and anything..

  • lyddie!

  • I noticed the newspaper said "1 cent" for the cost of it. I can't imagine they were paid hardly a scrap for doing what they did.

  • Kids nowadays are lucky… they dun know how hard lives were for their forefathers!

  • this is true very true it break my hreat when i heard it im sooooo sorry kids

  • My parents worked in an Alabama Cotton Mill when they were "pre teens".

  • The Saddest Fact is This is still going on in the World, even in So-Called "Enlightened" Culture in Europe and North America if Immigrants and Refugees don't choose to Integrate into Their New Cultures.

    Nothing changes for People as they get older if their Abusers still control them! It's Time to change hings for the Better don't you think or are you still not hurting enough?

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