Narrator: In the early 1900’s child labor was was a very heavy issue in the United States. Child Labor was very common. Across the United States children were slaving away, doing jobs instead of going to school. This issue was almost a mystery. The outside world was blind to the destructive process of child labor, which is a very serious conflict. But Lewis Hine stepped up and took it on himself to expose the reality of child labor. Lewis Hine: When I first started my job teaching nature study at the Ethical Culture School in New York City, I would have never thought I would become a famous photographer. But my position as a teacher put me touch with social informers. I soon became aware of the National Child Labor committee, also known as the NCLC. Narrator: The NCLC started in 1904, with a goal to help combat child labor. By the 1900,s about 1.7 million children labored in American industries. That’s more than double the number in 1870. From children ages 10-15, 18.2 percent were employed. Lewis Hine: Once I started traveling across the United States taking pictures of child labor I really did start to see how big of an issue this was. I felt compelled to make this right. People weren’t aware of what was happening and I had to make this known, and the only way to do that was by showing them the photographs, not telling them. There was so many different kinds of labor from mining to cotton picking and oyster shucking to working in factories. It was absolutely insane. Now with the process of having to take photographs was almost like being a detective. I had to act like different people including Bible salesman and postcard salesman just to get photographs. I did this so I could go into factories and other places. When I was denied entry I would wait outside, with my 50 pounds of camera equipment, and photography the children entering and exiting the workplace. Now these children were anywhere from 5 years old to 15. Kids could be working for 10 years, never getting the chance to go to school. The Breaker boys were young boys working in mines. There job was to separate the impurities from coal. They would sit for hours on end, slouching their backs, cutting their fingers breathing dust and freezing in the winter. This was the life of a boy in the mines, and it was happening all over but yet, nobody did anything about it, nobody cared that these boys were painfully working instead of learning how to read and write. Instead what they did learn was; chewing tobacco, swearing and smoking. Death was another thing that came along with mining. Many of the boys fell into the machinery and got mangled, or fall down the chutes and got smothered. When the boys lost someone, a friend it was the saddest thing. Having funerals for boys under the age of 16 was depressing. So I said to myself; This has to stop. People asked themselves: “Is this sacrifice of youth necessary for the prosperity of the mining industry?” And still nothing changed. When I took pictures of the young boys and girls I liked asking for their age and getting details about what they did. But when a child wouldn’t tell me their age or if they didn’t know their own age I used the buttons on my shirt to calculate their age. The buttons were marks for a certain height so if I could see how tall someone is I could guess their age. Children were wanted in the workforce because they were small nimble and easy to control. They could fit into places where adults couldn’t. A huge thing was that you could pay Children a whole lot less. A child could work 12 to 18 hours a week and earn a dollar. This was straight up unfair. When I took these photos to the NCLC, they got published in posters, magazines, and elsewhere. The public would finally see the truth about this and I would be the one exposing them to this. Some of the pictures I took were so graphic that they helped pursue the change in legislative laws. The U.S. passed two laws in 1918 and 1922 but the supreme court declared that they were both unconstitutional. In 1924 Congress proposed a constitutional amendment prohibiting child labor, but the states did not ratify it.
July 18, 2019 0 Comments