The Man who Exposed Child Labor – Lewis Hine

A selection of photographs taken by Lewis Hine in the early 1900’s

Lewis Hine was a teacher in New York City at the Ethical Culture School. There he taught his students to use photography as an educational medium. He believed that ‘documentary photography’ as he called it. could be employed as a tool for social change and reform.

Lewis Hine Self Portrait

Hine practiced what he preached. He left his teaching position in 1908 and became the photographer for the National Child Labor Committee. Over the next ten years or so he documented child labor.

As a photographer taking pictures of children at work, he was frequently threatened with violence or even death by factory police and foremen.

This former teacher turned superhero, spy, photographer came up with different aliases and disguises to gain entry into various mills, mines and factories. At times he pretended to be a fire inspector, postcard vendor, bible salesman, or industrial photographer.

His photos are almost all public domain and available at the Library of Congresses website. These photos tell the sad story of child laborers and what they’d been dealing with for hundreds of years. The pictures opened everyone’s eyes to what was still taking place; despite laws and organizations trying their best to end the practice of children in the workforce.

-Taken from Episode 13 “All Work and No Play”.

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