How Lewis Wickes Hine Exposed Child Labor Practices

It’s hard to look back at the history of child labor spurred on by the Industrial Revolution without wondering how such a practice was allowed in the first place. But, as this video shows, it was one of the many insidious practices that flourished while hiding in plain sight.

Child labor was common practice in both America and Europe. Children could reach smaller areas in assembly lines and, crucially, were less likely to strike or question dangerous working conditions. Though incredibly cruel, it took far too long for this exploitative epidemic to be questioned — partially because so few people knew what it actually looked like.

In 1904, the National Child Labor Committee was founded and asked photographer Lewis Wickes Hine to document what was actually happening among this workforce of children. Although gaining access wasn’t easy, Hine was able to shed light and expose the conditions and demands children were facing. Once the public saw what was really happening, it was clear that they couldn’t stand for it any longer.

You can watch the whole video here:

It’s far too easy to avert your eyes to horrors happening on your doorstep — but photographers like Hines make them impossible to ignore. This video shows the importance of documenting and of bearing witness — and how it can lead to change.