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Video: Child Labor and the Textile Mills

Today there are laws that regulate how many hours children can work and at what age they can begin to work. That was not always the case. In the early 1900s there were no Georgia laws prohibiting child labor, a situation that coincided with the rise of the textile industry. Professor John Lupold of Columbus College describes how poor Georgians abandoned their farms and moved to cities to find work. Times were so hard that everyone in the family worked. Retired textile mill workers Lee Manly, Jeannette Scales, and Charlie Stafford describe their work in the mills. Scales went to work part-time, only 6 hours per day, so she could attend school. Her pay was ten cents per hour. Stafford tells stories of children being spanked when they did not do the work properly. Lupold points to photographs of textile children noting they all have dark circles under their eyes and look weary, older than their years. Fatigued workers cannot do their best at work or school. Mill work was hazardous and among its dangers were splintered wood floors that could cause trouble for bare feet. Lint in the air was another problem. Breathed in, this lint could cause a fatal disease known as brown lung. Some parents wanted their children to work and protested when compulsory school attendance laws were passed. Today, the age and length of time children can work is governed by law. A list of current provisions closes the segment.


Teacher tip:
Do a class survey to determine if students work, where they work (in the home, farm, or at a place of business), and the number of hours worked per week. Do a comparison survey of a high school class asking the same questions and compare the results.