Once In A While, Somebody Comes Along And Captures Images That Change A Nation

Some of the most disturbing images that were captured in the early part of the 1900s were those of kids working in factories, coal mines, and other places where no kids belonged. The most famous photographer was Lewis Hine; his pictures brought these children into the spotlight in a way the nation could no longer ignore.


Little spinner in Globe Cotton Mill, Augusta, Georgia, 1909

All throughout the 1800s, children worked in almost every country, sometimes in the worst possible conditions for the lowest pay. It was a problem in the United States certainly; as early as 1834, the National Trades Union in New York called for the ban of the practice. (1)


Child laborers, midnight at the Glassworks, Indiana, 1908

I’m just speculating, but I’m pretty sure I’m right that some of the same kinds of arguments we hear today about minimum wage were used back then:

  • “These jobs are just to teach them how to work!”
  • “They’re lucky they have an income at all!”
  • “These are great jobs for people with no skills!”
  • “They’re just flipping rocks, washing the walls, and sorting coal!”

Little Lottie, a regular oyster shucker in Alabama Canning Co., Bayou La Batre, Alabama, 1911

Kids sometimes as young as 6 years old worked 11 or 12 hours a day, six days a week, for a dollar or two per week. There were frequent beatings. Accidents and deaths were extremely common, and kids were usually considered more expendable than adults. (2)

As awareness grew about this problem, more labor unions passed resolutions that were intended to influence the national conversation about this issue, including the American Federation of Labor, formed in 1881. As more people discovered some of the horrible conditions kids worked in, the issue ebbed and flowed in political, social, and community conversations.


A regular worker (doffer) in Richmond Spinning Mills. Photo during working hours. Chattanooga, Tennessee, 1910

According to the 1900 U.S. Census, there were almost 2 million children working in this country — about 1 in 6 kids. In 1904, the National Child Labor Committee was formed, and it aggressively fought for child labor law reform. It hired Lewis Hine in 1908 to photograph kids working in various industries; 10 years and thousands of photographs later, the mission was accomplished. It was perhaps one of the best uses of photography, a relatively new medium, to change minds and hearts. (3)

Carrying-in boy at the Lehr (15 years old), Glass Works, Grafton, West Virginia, 1908

It took until 1938 for this to be put largely behind us, at least in the United Sates. This was achieved under the administration of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with support from the NCLC. This became the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is still the primary tool used to fight child labor in the United States. (4)

Laura Petty, a 6-year-old berry picker on Jenkins farm, Rock Creek, Maryland, 1909

However, even with that in place, there were exceptions made in those laws that allow children to work in agriculture. This continues today.

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I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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Policing women's bodies — and by consequence their clothes — is nothing new to women across the globe. But this mother's "legging problem" is particularly ridiculous.

What someone wears, regardless of gender, is a personal choice. Sadly, many folks like Maryann White, mother of four sons, think women's attire — particularly women's leggings are a threat to men.

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