Did you know that children as young as 14 can apply for their working permits in the U.S.?
Any child worker under the recommended age is considered illegal and goes against the U.S.’s strict child labor laws. Despite these regulations, it might surprise you to learn that over 200 million children around the world, under the age of 10, are still being put to work in 2016. Of that number, more than half of these children are slaving away in hazardous work environments such as factory jobs or other places where they are forced to operate advanced machinery.
While child labor in the U.S. has become an almost silent issue, during the height of the Industrial revolution, putting your son or daughter to work was the only option for staying afloat during tough economic times. Children as young as three put in long days for very little pay. And while schooling was an option for many of these kids, their parents were living below the poverty line and needed them to work to help set off living expenses. These 24 heartbreaking examples of child labor from the early 20th century showcase the struggle of children who were forced to grow up too fast.
1. Most child workers put in 10 hours days, six days a week, and would bring home just $1.50 a day.
2. When children turned three, they were considered old enough to work in the fields and pick fruit.
3. Most supervisors didn’t care if you were a boy or girl, the work still needed to get done, whether or not you were fit to complete the task.
4. Prior to being okayed for some jobs, children were required to pass a physical examination.
5. These children spent long hours in the hot, sweltering sun, sorting berries for market.
6. Once the fruits and vegetables were picked, it was also the children’s responsibility to sell the goods at market.
7. With very little supervision on the streets, these newsies picked up unhealthy habits like smoking.
8. Women and children would spend from sunrise to sunset sewing, or until their fingers began to bleed.
9. Newsies paid for their newspapers out of pocket and the price fluctuated based on the day and the distributor’s moods.
10. If a paper boy had any remaining papers left over, he was forced to keep them, because most distributors refused to buy them back.
11. This doffer boy and sweeper could not afford shoes, but were still forced to work 10-hour days.
12. A shoeshiner on the streets of New York would shine shoes on his hands and knees, but was not always guaranteed to be paid for his hard work.
13. This little girl was forced to keep this gymnasium swept to perfection.
14. Some children were forced to carry large packages and boxes that weighed almost as much as than they did.
15. These coal miners from Pittston, PA, breathed in toxic fumes — sometimes seven days a week.
16. This doffer boy spent all day squeezed between the machinery making sure everything was running smoothly.
17. At this canning company, each child was responsible for shucking three pots of oysters each day.
18. When machinery wasn’t working properly, these children were forced to manually push mine cars from point A to point B.
19. What made factory work even more dangerous for children were the confined spaces, and improper ventilation systems in the plants.
20. When not caring for her baby sister, this tiny girl was forced to shuck oysters at a local marina.
21. Children were allowed to return to schooling once the harvest season was over. That being said, greedy businessmen would try and push back the season each year to get the most profit.
22. In most factories, the child to adult supervisor ratio was almost 20 to 1.
23. Working in the fields was so grueling — if kids even stopped for a break, they were reprimanded.
24. These children flocked to the streets to protest child labor laws and slavery during the early 1900s.