Life for Some Children Before Child Labor Laws Was Brutal

Posted: September 18, 2018 in Great Photographs, History, Interesting Photos, Interesting Videos, Kids
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Although children had been servants and apprentices throughout most of history, child labor reached new extremes during the Industrial Revolution. Children often worked long hours in dangerous factory conditions for very little money. Children were useful as laborers because their size allowed them to move in small spaces in factories or mines where adults couldn’t fit, children were easier to manage and control and perhaps most importantly, children could be paid less than adults. Appalling but true.

Not-So-Fun-Fact: In 1900, 18% of all American workers were under the age of 16.

In 1908 a true American hero named Lewis Hine picked up his camera and became the photographer for the National Child Labor Committee. For 10-years Lewis traveled across the country documenting child labor despite constant threats from factory owners. At the time the owners wanted to keep the immorality of child labor away from the public’s eye. However, Hine kept it up and never wavered. Sometimes he wore disguises (such as a fire inspector or a bible salesman) to snap pictures and interview the children working at factories or in the streets.  Lewis Hine used his camera as a tool for social commentary and reform, and it worked. Risking his own safety Hine snapped thousands of photographs with one goal – to end child labor. It took years, but in 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act set national minimum wage and maximum hour standards for workers in interstate commerce and also placed limitations on child labor. Bottom line, next time one of your kids complain about taking out the garbage or mowing the lawn show them these photos. Wild to look at today, but an important to know and remember.

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