Menu
Image 1 of
Zoom In
Zoom Out
Fullscreen

Sugar-beet workers, Sugar City, Colorado, photograph by Lewis Hine, July 1915

Six-year-old Mary and her companions Lucy (8 years old) and Ethel (10 years old) labored long hours under harsh conditions for a few cents a day. Lewis Hine’s poignant and disturbing portraits of child workers like these girls powerfully conveyed the deprivations they suffered. Reproduced in newspapers, pamphlets, and posters, the photographs helped raise public awareness and prompted congressional action.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Sugar-beet workers, Sugar City, Colorado, photograph by Lewis Hine, July 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