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About Us: 1913

About Us: 1913

December 1913. "The whole force of workers in the cotton mills of Stevenson, Alabama. Several of them are apparently under twelve, but I could not get the ages. Photo posed by the general manager." Photo and caption by the child labor reformer Lewis Wickes Hine. View full size.


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Quite unusual that only one of them is barefoot. Wonder if this is because he preferred it or whether he had no choice.


If you have heard the (sometimes disparaging) term "lint head" used for textile workers, you can clearly see its origins in this photo. I come from a mill hill family. My grandmother and grandfather both worked in the weaving room for 50+ years and both parents worked (in clerical and executive roles)for the Milliken company. My parents insisted that my brother and I work at least one summer on the floor of the mill so that we would appreciate our educational opportunities. It was effective: My brother has a Masters degree and I hold a Ph.D. in physics! I knew what I didn't want to do for a living. 12 hour shifts in the cotton mill taught me what hard work was all about.

Priscilla Curtains

A nice touch at the windows of what must have been the plant manager's office.

No cotton pickers need apply

Looks like African-Americans could pick the cotton but were not hired at the cotton mill.

It's a dirty job...

At first I thought the original negative or photo was very dusty or dirty, until I realized that the children are covered with lint and fibers. It must have been an exhausting, dirty job. Such a shame that these young children had to suffer working in the factories for so many years until child labor laws were finally passed and enforced.


Interesting that a girl on the front is looking back at a girl on the second row and smiling...and they look very much like sisters.

It's a hard life, but...

... More smiles on the faces of these young laborers than on the faces in recent class photos from New England.

O Tempora O Mores

That was old enough to work. A long childhood is a modern convention. If a society is rich enough, it can indulge in it.

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