Factory Girls and Boys

People forget what these days were like. Thank goodness we have child labour laws! Just about every good thing we have in society now… child labour laws, 40 hour work week, weekends, social security, unemployment insurance, welfare, paid sick leave, maternity leave, childen’s aid societies, product liability legislation, consumer protection laws, minimum wage, health and safety standards, workers’ compensation, decent prisons, governmental regulation of industry, etc… all came as a result of how horrible things were 100 – 150 years ago.

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streetsofsalem

I always feel a bit sorry for myself on Labor Day weekend, as it’s back-to-school time and usually I am engaged in a mad dash to get my course syllabi done.  Of course this is ridiculous, as I have the cushiest job ever and most of the summer I’ve been free to do as I liked.  It’s good to remind myself what labor really is, and nothing does that better than the photographs of Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940), who transitioned from educator to social activist, all the while armed with a camera.  In 1908 Hine became the official photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) and began his life’s work:  documenting child labor across the United States. This was a time when one in six children between the ages of five and ten worked outside the home in “gainful occupation”, and the percentage increases dramatically for children over the…

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