Visual Anthropology of Child Labor in Progressive Era New Jersey
Paper short abstract:
Social photography disseminated in Progressive Era New Jersey portraying a significant young population working in harsh factory conditions was revolutionary in altering normative ideals of childhood, instigating child labor protection laws and public education advocacy.
Paper long abstract:
The increasing prevalence of images of child laborers as a form of social photography in Progressive Era New Jersey gave vivid depiction of the industrial abuse of American minors as inexpensive sources of labor. While the social impact of the nascent medium of photography in the late 19th and early 20th century was often downplayed by contemporaries, visual anthropologists have demonstrated that representations of child labor were in fact significant vehicles for displaying the unmanipulated reality of underage factory workers. Social photography disseminated in the Progressive Era portraying a significant young population in New Jersey working in harsh factory conditions was revolutionary in altering normative ideals of childhood, ultimately instigating a successful movement for the restitution of human rights deformed by industrialism through child labor protection laws and public education advocacy. Such publications conclusively protested against the previously ineffective child labor laws and industrialists who manipulated visual fictions of children as worthless and unworthy of safeguard.
Photography and Political Belonging