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Interpreting the Evidence

Young Female Factory Workers, Union Mills, Hudson, Ny 1912

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    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:

    Mid Hudson
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Young Female Factory Workers, Union Mills, Hudson, NY, 1912 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
New York State Factory Investigation Commission visits Union Mills a men's underwear factory on Fulton St. in Hudson, New York. At the right are the doors to the toilets, which an investigator described as "filthy, foul-smelling water closets." The investigator also noted that "the young girl in the cage at the left works within five feet of these closets all day," 1912.
Historical Context
The girl in the picture on the left works all day in a factory next to the toilets, which are on the right. When the Factory Investigating Commission came to inspect the factory in 1912, the agent described the toilets as "filthy, foul-smelling water closets."

Children who illegally worked in factories were as young as six years old. Their parents, many who were new immigrants to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries, were desperate for the additional money. Orphans were treated pretty much as slaves, working 19-hour days for what their overseers justified as compensation for room and board. Children would work anywhere from 12 to 19 hours a day with only a one-hour break. Children often worked near or with large, dangerous, and dirty machines and often were hurt or killed. The youngest children were assigned as assistants to the older workers. The older workers often physically or verbally abused the children. Sometimes, boys were forced to leave their clothes at work and sent to and from work naked so they would not be tardy.

Essential Question
Hoe 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
Research the life of a child laborer. Use the book Lewis W. Hine by Vicki Goldberg.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: If a child made half of what a woman made in one week and a woman made $2.78 a week, how much did the child make? If a man made 4 times what the child made, how much did he make that week?
Science: Why is it unhealthy for children to work long hours?
ELA: Pretend you are a child laborer. Write a journal entry listing what you would rather be doing than working in a factory.