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“Child Labor in the Beet Fields of Colorado,” by Lewis W. Hine, 1915

In a report on children in Colorado’s sugar-beet fields, Lewis Hine was concerned with the impact of seasonal employment that took them out of school for weeks at a time. While acknowledging the young workers’ contributions to family income, Hine described the effects of the monotonous, hard labor on the children’s physical and intellectual development.

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

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The children begin very young, six and seven, years old frequently, . . . they begin . . . at sunrise and work until sunset. All of this work . . . requires a crouching posture that cannot help harming the growing child.

“Child Labor in the Beet Fields of Colorado,” by Lewis W. Hine, 1915 “Child Labor in the Beet Fields of Colorado,” by Lewis W. Hine, 1915 “Child Labor in the Beet Fields of Colorado,” by Lewis W. Hine, 1915

Lewis Hine: Exposing Child Labor

Although some states had laws against employment of juveniles, millions of American children worked in agriculture and industry in the early twentieth century. In 1904 progressive reformers founded the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), which Congress chartered in 1907. To raise awareness of the abuses of child labor, the NCLC hired sociologist Lewis Hine to photograph children working in fields, factories, mines, and city streets. His photos and reports, produced between 1908 and 1924, fueled public opinion and inspired Congress to enact national child labor legislation.

There is work that profits children, and there is work that brings profit only to employers. . . . The object of employing children is not to train them, but to get high profit from their work.

Lewis Hine, “The High Cost of Child Labor,” Child Labor Bulletin, 1914