Finding the Factory Girls

Addie Card, anaemic little spinner in North Pownal Cotton Mill”

A while back, I wrote a post featuring the poem “The  Factories” by Margaret Widdemer. The post was illustrated by two photographs of the thousands taken by Lewis Hine from 1908 to 1924 to raise awareness of the plight of children laboring in dangerous and unhealthy conditions in America’s factories to help their families put bread and milk on the table.1

Imagine my surprise and delight when last week my subscription to the Library of Congress’ blog yielded an article about genealogist Joe Manning’s successful research to find the descendants of little Addie pictured above–and it only took him two weeks!2  He went on to research and write about more than 300 of these children.3

I encourage you to check out the full article: Inquiring Minds: Opening a Treasure Chest of Unfinished Stories.

And while you’re on the Library of Congress site, why not take a meander through the blog, the latest collections, and the current research projects? Before you do, though, just be sure to tell your loved ones where you’re going so that you don’t end up like poor Charlie on the M.T.A. (one of my dad’s all-time favorite songs, sung with gusto at the kitchen table). This one’s for you, Dad: M.T.A.” 


Image: Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. Addie Card, anaemic little spinner in North Pownal Cotton Mill. See photo No. Location: Vermont. August. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2018675329/>.

1Wendi Maloney, “Inquiring Minds: Opening a Treasure Chest of Unfinished Stories,” Library of Congress Blog, last modified January 31, 2019, accessed February 3, 2019, http://Hine, Lewis Wickes, photographer. Addie Card, anaemic little spinner in North Pownal Cotton Mill. See photo No. Location: Vermont. August. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2018675329/>.

2Maloney, “Inquiring Minds,” Library of Congress Blog.

3Maloney, “Inquiring Minds,” Library of Congress Blog.

Work Day Wednesday: Honoring the Factory Girls

“A little spinner in the Globe Cotton Mill. The overseer admitted she was regularly employed there. Augusta, Ga.”

“Rhodes Mfg. Co. Spinner. A moment’s glimpse of the outer world. Said she was 11 years old. Been working over a year. Lincolnton, N.C., 11/11/1908”



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