Honoring the Factory Girls (and Boys)
When this poem from the American Academy of Poets came across my e-mail the other day, I was immediately moved by it–not only by the factory girls’ stolen childhoods but also by the speaker’s acknowledgment of her own role in the plight of these girls and her kinship with them.
The poem prompted me to wonder how many of us have ancestors who had to help support the family by working in the factories, mines, and fields as young children. This is an area I haven’t thought to explore, but I think I should. I do know that during the Victorian era, my Brown ancestors had moved to Massachusetts, gone into business and done quite well for themselves. Their little girls were the recipients, not the makers, of the fripperies churned out by the factories in Waltham and Lowell. My Gauffreau ancestors, on the other hand, lived in Brooklyn during that time period, and I daresay some of their children contributed to the family income by working in the factories.
So, I leave you with this poem and two wistful photographs in the hope of honoring all of our ancestors who sacrificed their childhoods for the survival of the family. They will not be forgotten.
Images from National Archives:
“Little spinner”: National Archives Identifier: 523149 Local Identifier: 102-LH-490 Creator(s): Department of Commerce and Labor. Children’s Bureau. 1912-1913 (Most Recent) From: Series: National Child Labor Committee Photographs taken by Lewis Hine, ca. 1912 – ca. 1912 Record Group 102: Records of the Children’s Bureau, 1908 – 2003
“Rhodes Mfg. Co. Spinner”: National Archives Identifier:523106Local Identifier:102-LH-249Creator(s): Department of Commerce and Labor. Children’s Bureau. 1912-1913 (Most Recent)From:Series: National Child Labor Committee Photographs taken by Lewis Hine, ca. 1912 – ca. 1912 Record Group 102: Records of the Children’s Bureau, 1908 – 2003