Category Archives: children

Child Labour

chillabourA little girl works at a knitting mill at the Louden Hosiery Mills in Loudon, Tennesseem 1910. She is so young and small that she has to stand on a stool in order to reach her machine, yet she is doing the same work as the adults next to her.

When the United States began to industrialize, factory owners made extensive use of child labour. Children worked in many factories, but were especially common in the textile mills. Families in mill towns often depended on the income that their children brought in to make ends meet. It was not unusual for eight year olds to go to work in factories.

 

 

child labor

 

The girl in the first picture looks well fed and well dressed. But she was not typical of the average child worker. The picture above of Addie Card, 12 years old, in a ragged stained dress and barefoot is more representative of what child labour really meant.

 

Both pictures were taken by Lewis Hine, a photographer and sociologist who documented working conditions in the early 1900s. Hine was frequently threatened and harrassed by factory guards and foremen who were shy of letting the world see what conditions were like inside their factories.

Several attempts were made by advocacy groups as well as Congress to pass laws limiting child labour and setting minimum ages for working in factories. However these measures were not successful as they were struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Abusive child labour practices finally ended, not as a result of reform, but because of the Great Depression which left so many adults unemployed, that out of desperation adults were willing to take the lower paying jobs usually filled by children.

boys working in a factory 1908

 

working in a cotton mill

It is interesting to reflect that western nations such as Britain and the United States had lots of children working in factories and even dangerous occupations such as mines, during the early part of the industrial revolution. It was not until the passage of “This little girl is so small she has to stand on a box to reach her machine. She is regularly employed as a knitter in Loudon Hosiery Mills, Loudon, Tennessee, 1910” by Lewis Hine.

Orphanages

A Photograph of Dr. Barnardo

A Photograph of Dr. Barnardo

Those who believe in the good old days and believe that, overall, things are getting worse in society are likely ill-acquainted with what life was like in the great cities of England and America during the late 19th century and early 20th century. With almost no government run social services to fall back on, the poor lived a hard scrabble life.  As usual, those who suffered the most were  the children,  who often represented an impossible burden to an impoverished family.

Thousands of orphaned and abandoned children were left to fend for themselves in great squalor and poverty.  Few did anything about it.

One man that did care was Dr. Thomas Barnardo, (4 July 1845 – 19 September 1905) an Irish born British philanthropist. Shocked by the poverty and appalling living conditions of children throughout the British Isles, Barnardo set up a series of homes for orphans and foundlings.

The first of the “Dr Barnardo’s Homes” was opened in 1870 in London and by the time that Barnardo died, in 1905, there were 112 such homes established. It is estimated that during his career, Barnardo saved 60,000 children.  The Barnardo organization still exists in England.

In 1893, the Strand Magazine, which described itself as “An Illustrated Monthly” ran an article about Barnardo and his orphanage. Pictured below is what the article described as Dr. Bernardo’s Babies’ Castle in Hawkurst. At the time of the article, 1893, Barnardo ran 28 such orphanages.

A Phorotgraph of Dr. Barnardo's Babies' Castle

A Photograph of Dr. Barnardo's Babies' Castle

The magazine included an obviously staged photograph of a foundling supposedly dropped off at the front steps of the orphanage.  The caption reads: “To Dr. Barnardo With Care”

An Orphan Dropped off at Dr. Barnardo's Orphanage

An Orphan Dropped off at Dr. Barnardo's Orphanage

Barnardo Orphans Praying Before Bedtime

Barnardo Orphans Praying Before Bedtime

Less obviously staged were the pictures of the inside of the orphanage and the nurses and children who lived there.

In the picture to the left the orphans are depicted praying before bedtime. The Barnardo organization cared about instilling virtues in its young charges. While the Barnardo home offered love and protection to the children, the conditions were still not ideal by today’s standards. Notice the overcrowded communal living. The children are all in beds with metal railings in a single room.

Meals were also communal. In this picture the children are eating heir meals in the large dining hall.  The article describes the portions for the children as abundant, so at least this was not an Oliver Twist style workhouse.

Orphans Eating Dinner

Orphans Eating Dinner

The younger children were given nap time in the afternoon as this picture illustrates:

Nap Time at the Orphanage

Nap Time at the Orphanage

The orphanage was run by nurses and religious sisters.  Here are some pictures of the staff:

Sister Alice

Sister Alice

A nurse at the orphanage giving a bath.

A nurse at the orphanage giving a bath.

A Quiet Pull

The Nursing Staff at Barnardo's Home for Children

The Nursing Staff at Barnardo's Home for Children

The pictures below are interesting in many ways. The children certainly appear well cared for. There is no apparent malnutrition and they are wearing nice clothes. It is also interesting that the pictures depict the faces and identities of the children,  which speaks to the different concepts of privacy that existed back then.

A picture of the orphans attending school at the orphanage.

A picture of the orphans attending school at the orphanage.

The children say goodbye to the reporter on the steps of the orphanage

The children say goodbye to the reporter on the steps of the orphanage

And so, like the picture above, it is time to say goodbye to this piece of history.