Child Labor - IN THE MILLS

Lewis Hine took this photograph during November of 1910. He describes it with these words: “Little Fannie, 7 years old, 48 inches high, helps sister in Elk Mills. Her sister (in photo) said, ‘Yes, she he’ps me right smart. Not all day but all she can. Yes, she started with me at six this mornin’.’ These two belong to a family of 19 children. Location: Fayetteville, Tennessee.” Image online via the National Child Labor Committee collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Click on it for a better view.


When Lewis Hine visited Indianapolis, in the summer of 1908, he found boys working the night shift at a glassworks shop. (Some of those children attended school during the day.)

Elsewhere, and during the ensuing years, he documented many more disturbing scenes of child labor.

  • Textile mills in the South and throughout New England provided employment for families, including children.
  • People who worked for Willingham Cotton Mills lived in nearly identical homes in Macon, Georgia.
  • A young girl, with the help of an older woman, worked on a North Carolina cotton mill machine shortly before Christmas, 1908.
  • In January of 1909, Hine photographed a young "spinner" who worked at Globe Cotton Mill in Augusta, Georgia.
  • Girls also worked the spoolers at Lincoln Cotton Mill in Evansville, Indiana.
  • Two young boys had to stand on the spinning frame in order to reach the empty bobbins or repair the broken threads.
  • Young workers began their day at 5:30 in the morning at a Lewiston, Massachusetts manufacturing company.
  • In November of 1910, a supervisor inspects a young boy working on a warping machine in Fayetteville, Tennessee.
  • Nannie Coleson, eleven years old in 1914, worked at the Crescent Hosiery Company in Scotland Neck, North Carolina.
  • Pinkie Durham (age 8) was a sweeper while his 12-year-old sister was a worker at the Merrimack Manufacturing Company in Huntsville, Alabama.
  • Children were also messengers for Western Union. Two boys with their bikes pose in Indianapolis.

We could examine thousands of additional pictures in which children are laboring on American farms and in American mills, mines, canneries and other places of employment. But ... what happened to the many children whom Lewis Hine photographed? Some of them have a “rest of the story.” To learn more about that, check out Joe Manning’s amazing research.

Although strenuous efforts were made to protect American children from harsh working conditions, the U.S. Supreme Court did not uphold a national law until 1941 when it found that 1938's Fair Labor Standards Act was, in fact,  constitutional.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Apr 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: Jun 29, 2019

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"IN THE MILLS" AwesomeStories.com. Apr 01, 2004. Feb 27, 2020.
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