Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A new image, a new topic: Child Labor and its demise.

The Next image in our Summer Virtual Series focuses on child labor in factories, and the people who fought to protect the rights of children.

The American Industrial Revolution started in the 1800s. Most factories were created in the northern parts of the United States, but this trend slowly trickle down towards the South. New factories meant new jobs for people looking for work.

Photograph by Lewis Hine. 

After Reconstruction, the South was open for textile industry to boom. Families, who were having a hard time making ends meet with growing crops, found the idea of having a steady paycheck appealing. They packed up their entire lives and moved into the towns built around the factories. Mill towns sprang up and with that, parents and children all lived by and worked in those factories. Because the entire family worked on the farm, the entire family needed to bring in money from the factory.

A Mill Town
Child Labor became widely used in the factory systems.

Some people would ask, "How can children work in factories like that?" There were some regulations put into place in order to protect the children, but they were typically not good enough. Most times foreman's would overlook laws to protect the children, because that would mean less profit for them. The factories were dangerous and filthy, but children needed to work on some of the machines, since they could fit into the smaller spaces.

Even though the conditions in the factory were horrible for children, mill owners wanted the lower wage workers. Spending less money on young workers who could work the same hours as older workers, seemed profitable. Because of this, children of all ages worked in the factories, usually starting at the age of 6 or 7. Seeing the injustice of this system, people started to fight to protect the safety of children.

Check out the blog soon for more to come on how people fought to end child labor, and the images that started it all!

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