Week 24 - 2019

Small worker

Lewis Hine, Norman Hall, 210 Park Street, Lindale, Georgia., 1913. Preus Museum Collection

Small worker

It's not so long ago child labour was part of a culture we typically identify ourselves with. Lewis W. Hines’ photographs, taken between 1910-1918, bear witness to the conditions in american factories from about 100 years ago. During the 1800s the rapid growth of industrialised society was in dire need of manual labour, and by result, about 18% of the industrial workers were children under 15 years old. Together with the National Child Labor Committee, Hine sought to expose the working conditions of millions of american children, in order to make this issue a part of the political agenda. In 1938, thanks to Hines photographic work, the USA passed a new law to regulate and safeguard children's rights in places of work.

Hine both photographed as well as annotated, often in disguise. In this portrait for example, Hine lowered the camera, in order to level with the height of the child, making us look directly into the eyes of the boy. At the back of the photo we can read that his name is Norman Hall: «Started working about a year ago at Massachusetts Mills (textile mill), he was 10 ½ years old at the time. The family papers states that his date of birth is on the 26th of October 1901. Doffing (A “doffer” works in the mills removing “doffs” (leftover material and textiles) from the machinery, replacing spools or bobbins with newly spun cotton or wool fiber). No real reason for him to be working since both the dad and many others are employed».

UN observe World Day Against Child Labor on the 12th of June.