Exposing Child Labor: Cotton Mill Girl, 1908
Lewis Hine was an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee. He thought that if he documented child labor, it would force citizens to demand a change. It wasn’t easy for him to get into these places, so he had to pose as a Bible seller, insurance agent or industrial photographer.
He documented children working in meatpacking houses and coal mines. This particular photo is of a girl named Sadie Pfeifer who he felt was the perfect subject for a photo that he could expose to the world. She was “one of the many small children at work” at a cotton-spinning machine in Lancaster, South Carolina. This photo and others of his led to regulatory legislation and cut the number of child laborers to about half from 1910 to 1920.
The next iconic photo is one of the most celebrated portraits in history.