Child Labor in Vermont
Should children be allowed to work in factories?
In 1845, a fifteen year old Vermonter named Mary Paul went to Lowell, Massachusetts, to work in the textile mills(factories that make cloth). She wrote letters to her family telling them about her work. She was excited to have a job and make money to buy clothes. Here is a quote from her letter asking for permission to get a job in a factory:
I want you to consent to let me go to Lowell if you can. I think it would be much better for me than to stay about here. I could earn much more to begin with than I can anywhere about here.
By 1910, some people in the United States thought that children should not be working in factories or other dangerous places. Lewis Hine took photographs of children at work to help fight against child labor.
He came to Vermont and took photographs in textile mills in North Pownal, Bennington, Burlington and Winooski. He found children doing other jobs in Barre and Rutland. He took their photographs, too. The photos are saved at the Library of Congress.
Look carefully at the photographs below. How old is the child? Where is the child working? What do their clothes tell you about their jobs?
The book Counting on Grace was inspired by the photograph of Addie Card. In the fictional story, the girl who works in the factory is called Grace. She gets her photograph taken by Lewis Hine. Make up your own story about the children in these photographs.
Follow the links below to explore related topics.
Read articles about child labor from Green Mountaineer Magazine
Learn more about Vermont in the 1910s. Why did some children need to work in factories?
Read all of Mary Paul's letter from September 13, 1845. Do you think her father should give her permission to work in a factory?
Play the Lowell Mill Girl game. Pretend you are going to Lowell to work in the mid-1800s
Read other letters from Mary Paul about her experience working in Lowell
Does your library have any of these historical fiction books about Vermont in the early 1900s?
See more Lewis Hine photographs of Vermonters in the National Child Labor Committee collection at the Library of Congress
Learn how Elizabeth Winthrop, author of Counting on Grace, discovered Addie Card, the girl in the Lewis Hine photograph
Teachers and Parents: See the Child Labor in Vermont Lesson Plan
Copy and paste this citation to show where you did your research.
Vermont Historical Society. "Child Labor in Vermont." Vermont History Explorer. Accessed December 4, 2023. https://vermonthistoryexplorer.org/child-labor-in-vermont