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Interpreting the Evidence

Woman Working in Factory, c. 1912

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Central New York
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Woman Working in Factory, c. 1912 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A woman works in a textile mill in Utica, New York. This image may be described in #55 of "Photographs Taken by Factory Commission in 1912."
Historical Context
On March 25, 1911, a deadly factory fire at the Triangle Waist Company in New York City killed 146 workers, including many young immigrant women, who were trapped in the building by locked and blocked exits.  The public was horrified by this needless loss of life.  In response, the New York State Legislature created the Factory Investigating Commission to examine working conditions in factories and other businesses.  In the four years of its existence, the Commission reported on fire hazards, unsanitary conditions, occupational diseases, working hours, wages, and more.  Many of the Commissions' recommendations to the state legislature later became laws to protect workers.

The woman in this photograph might be working in the spinning room of a textile mill in Utica, New York. The factory where she is working was one of the factories inspected by the Factory Investigating Commission.

Essential Question
How does industrialization change a society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and evaluate the impact of industrialization on this individual.
Historical Challenges
Wages in factories in the early 1900s often were not based on hours or days worked. What other method did factory owners use to determine how much money a worker had earned? Find out what a wage for a woman in a factory might be during this time period. How did wages for women differ from wages for men?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: A woman packer at a New York City candy factory earned $4.50 a week for a 60-hour week in 1913. How much did she earn per hour? A male janitor at the same company earned $10.00 a week for a 60-hour week. About how much more per hour did he make than the woman?
English Language Arts: Write a letter to a Congressperson expressing your concerns about the current minimum wage.