PatronPATRON + These are haunting photographs of young cotton mill workers in Alabama May 3, 2022 December 19, 2022by Donna R Causey To view this content, you must be a member of Alabama Pioneers Patrons's Patreon at $2 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to access this content. Tags: Alabama historycottonGENEALOGYMadison County
The young girl in the last picture appears to have a wedding band on her finger, unless the photo is reverse.
Child labor was a nationwide problem
did they get replaced with border jumpers or moved on to china and keep empliying kids. it stopped here but still happens to often.
Christina Pruitt Sullivan
That is bad but probably no worse than the work they did on the family farm or sawmill. Tougher times then for everyone; young and old.
My family tells me growing up on a farm was all hard work. I would tend to think that factory work would be worse, health wise. Inside, hot in the summer with little breeze, lack of fresh water, and few breaks. Farming can be just as dangerous, agreed.
actually it was
actually it was quite hazardous working in a mill or factory. the jobs were tedious, extremely hot inside the warehouses (NO AC and often only ceiling fans and small, small windows) and they worked on average between 10-12 hours a day. forced to live in a dorm like dwelling often far from their families
they actually risked life and limb as the equipment whirled quickly-men died if they got caught in looms, so imagine the fear these children had- they had to meet a speed requirement as well as maintain a certain level of production. a limb could be broken or snapped if caught in any of the looms or cog wheels. so living on a farm regardless of how much work was done was much much more desirable.if they were not up in time they missed the meager breakfast that was given – had very very short lunch breaks (If they had something) and then again the same at dinner. If you fell asleep before the bell rang too bad no dinner that night. Imagine being a six year old yarn runner, or an 10 year old spinner. Being responsible to send home your wages to the family- and only getting to keep a few cents. No wonder children grew up to be old early. look at the faces- haggard, sickly often from the chemicals used in the processes- alcoholism and drug abuse often were the addictions these kids grew up to.
A horrible thing was black people who were arrested for no reasons and forced to work in factories and mines for nothing. Many died horrible deaths. It was not stopped until Franklin Roosevelt stopped it. See “Slavery by Another Name.”
Convict Lease system was the worst!
This is one prominent instance of how Alabama (America ) is better now than it was 100 years ago!
Do you really believe that?
Back then many entire families had to work in order to survive. Does that make it awful or realistic. Sad, but it was a fact of life.
Guess we did not have food stamps, section 8 housing or any other type of welfare back then. But some still survived. I remember my great grandmother telling me how the woild boil and old shoe with turnips and potatoes to make soup and making pasta sauce with the meat from blackbirds
I think there was a certain amount of pride in working hard and supporting the family that is nonexistent today. Kind of sad I think.
Poor white sharecroppers and Irish indentured slaves were here too. I wonder why it always seems to be a black person? Yes, they had a rough time. They were not alone in that struggle.
I grew up a few blocks from the Merrimack Mill homes. It was a rough area in the 70s but is making a great comeback. Lots of homes being restored and remodeled. Great to see these old homes being saved.
My father told me the little girls were sent to the mills as soon as they were big enough to hold a broom…
I consider this story interesting and historical, but not necessarily sad. All my grandparents began working at a young age. There were no public assistance programs and the south was poor….working to feed the family was not uncommon for folks of all ages. I am thankful for the era I live in!
My grandmother worked hard. She worked in the garden, cotton fields, gave birth to nine children cooked on a wood stove and used a wash pot. She died a few months shy of her 98th birthday and still had a good mind.
Maybe this is why they’re called “the greatest generation”?
Those of us who have been in the South for many generations (and who not come wealth)come from tough stock. Survival is in our DNA.
So true,no one keeps a southerner down.
Hard work never hurt anyone, safety was your brain engaged to keep you safe. Went to work at paying job at nine years old, worked around the farm since I can remember at age three, feed the dogs, chickens, cows, and hogs, also worked in the garden. MCPO Navy retired.
I grew up on a farm and you were not allowed to sleep in. Get up and do the chores and then you could play. Nothing wrong with hard work. You learn how to survive without the government
Also poor and working in mills and on docks and whatever to stay alive all over the country.When my Dad was young you had to pay to be able to go to any school.My Mother in law had to quit school because her Dad died and no one would pay for her to finish.It was a hard old world then.It is a shame our younger people do not appreciate what they have the opportunity to use.
It’s a fact that times are easier for which I’m thankful, but I wish kids today had to work at something so they could appreciate the value of work. I worked in the fields from the age of twelve removing weeds from soy beans rows and thinning cotton. At sixteen, a dishwasher, to a cook. I paid for my first two years of college at that job cause I knew I didn’t want to do these jobs the rest of my life. Government steps in and kids can’t work like that any more and they would never be able to pay for a semester of college much less two years as a cook.
Was this mill in Birmingham?
The pictures are from Merrimack Mill in Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama
Cant believe how many of these young children are Negro. So sad
Mike Le Lack , you need to look again. I don’t see a single black in those pictures. They were on the farms and picking cotton with me.
[…] company fell into financial trouble. After the number of employees dropped off to almost half, the Merricmack mill began selling village houses. Labor unions became a presence in the 1930s and violence occurred in […]
Thank you for bringing the awareness of another era to all of us.. reminders of the changes over the last 100 years. My sweet little mother turned 100 on Jan 9, 2016 and remembers these times.. She is writing in a journal now called THE SECOND CHAPTER” as she recalls her life of 100 years and records the things for which she is grateful today; and also lists things she looks forward to experiencing daily.
She remembers the first airplane she ever saw; the buggy and wagon days; the first sight of an automobile; she was taken out of school to work at 6th grade and her parents took her salary each week-with her father maybe buying her a pice of candy from the Saturday shopping trip each week; She had no choice in the decision of her marriage. She lived through physical and emotional abuse from an older man; breast cancer and other major surgeries to be the strong and influential Centenarian she is today-lovely, alert, contributing member of her little community in GA.. We are trying to record more and more of her stories in her book called “THE SECOND CHAPTER”…..
My father was born in 1903 and began working in the cotton mill at age 5 years as a sweeper. I think he made .05 ?? for a 10 hour day-not sure if the .05 was for a day or week????
YES so much change…we just have to know how to make lemonade out of lemons… whatever generation. When we are grateful for what we have and look for the good we have the riches beyond belief. When we have our health and love of family – it is the BEST time of all whatever century….blessings to all lives and stories each of us has to share..
We are so fortunate now…
Never knew this. Got to share.
That is because some people chose to re-write history. Lots of hard times for everyone back then, but they did what they had to do.
Before my time but we had to do our share of work and did without a Lot of things that the younger generation takes for grantet! Happiness for us was food on the table, warm bed, and music!! No late night Tv , video games and being bored! Because of this I can function in this world Without meds to help me make it through the day! I thank God and feel so blessed for that . Feel sorry for the younger people now….never learn to take care of there self..sad!
Very sad pictures
But they were not slaves. Instead young men who were kept out of school during that time. Like potato farmers who kept their sons out to harvest potatoes during a certain time.
I can assure you that 88% of these beings did not hate their parents, did not feel they were entitled to be given whatever they desire, and more than likely within a couple years enlisted in the armed services to defend their country.
Sad? I think not. We are blessed today because of these young men.
My Mama’s family was not wealthy and some were cotton pickers.
But they were happy, maladjusted kids who played, learned to skip rocks, shoot a marble, cook, sew a dress, go to church as a family, sing with each other. They were family. Not stressing over what event to go to, whether their children had the latest gadget.
I am blessed for their life.
Where did the rich mill owner’s children work at 9 years of age? The good ole days are a good place to be from maybe but not a goal to attain.
I agree. As far as the rich mill owner’s kids, they were probably as ill mannered as a lot of ALL kids these days. They expected for everyone to give them everything. At least back then, they were the minority. Where as today, that is the majority.
There were no “rich” mill kids when my Mama was around. They picked cotton to put food on the table. They didn’t have your attitude. How can you judge mill kids if you don’t know. Families were too focused on survival. You can not be jealous of what you can’t see. But respect of your parents, your grandparents, and your country to whine over what someone else may have. Keeping up with the jones’ was created in the early sixties, about the time all households had a tv and the media started pushing products in your kids
No one said working in the cotton fields were suppose to be a lifetime goal. Many a doctor, lawyer, scientist etc probably has a history
Very well said!!!!
Are you saying we should go back to a time when the young people this age were working in the cotton MILLS…???…
Really? J Henry Hodges, did I say that
Yours is most probably the stupidest post I have read today did you even read the article
These pictures are not of farm kids picking cotton these are kids stuck in slave like jobs working in cotton mills
This is another reason capitalism has to be regulated!
Since the beginning of time, kids were working to help support families. It wasn’t until recently when there was enough capital to where kids didn’t have to work. Btw, the trend was going down before any laws were passed. The same thing could be said about OSHA.
Poor people trying to get by
Young boys (7 and up) also were encouraged to work in coal mines and young girls to work in textile mills. Encouraged because they were paid lower wages than adults. And, remember… there was no 40 hr work week then. You had to work as long as the boss said.
Oh…, the good ol’ days…
Yes I can see it because we did it and I think it’s a shame people keep their children as babies I till they are almost middle age adults. Past generations made this what use to be a great nation. The young people of today are so sad, because we didn’t have photo shop back then we for the most part were happy and had something to work for and look to the future, not so today everything is handed to them, no respect for money these days much less respect for their elders.. I’m speaking of about 90 or better% not all …
Haha! Linda, today’s youth are, for the most part, functionally illiterate…
When hard times come (and history teaches us that there will always be up and down cycles) they will be crying like babies and wringing their helpless hands in despair!
You are exactly correct to my belief Cyrus Curenton
not lazy bums
My Mother got a 5th grade education in about 2 years because she and her siblings HAD to work the farm so they could all eat. They had a new baby every year (evidently the father didn’t care about practicing birth control any more than some guys now). In fact, the poor woman died pregnant. My father worked in the coal mines and steel plants until he could enlist. He had a 3rd grade education. Believe you me, neither would have gone back to that for anything!
Back in those days, a child was thought of as a blessing, not a burden. That child would grow up to help around the farm…
Times were different back then , I think the generations after has gotten to the thought that they don’t have to work. Parents are suppose to support them until they are 20 and maybe out of college , then some set back and let our government take care of them. Work never hurt me at these kids age……
So you are okay with child abuse and child endangerment. You must be a Republican or a Teabagger
That comment came from a literature major…
Interesting how people who eat their bread from the sweat of others’ brows have such hateful attitudes toward those who feed them…
But now we have adult 25 to 30 that do not know what it is to work they think thy are entitled to free money food housing. Sad
Was working in cotton. Fields before age nine was hard work but that was the way of life back then
I received 5 of Alabama Pioneer’s publications for Christmas and have enjoyed reading them. Good source of historical info on the state
Thank you, Don! I’m glad you liked them. I greatly appreciate a comment on Amazon. if you are so inclined. so others will know about the books. I depend on ‘word of mouth’. and the profit from them keeps the website free.
Feel free to use my comments above on Amazon if that would be helpful.
My grandfather would occasionally get some of the grandchildren together. He worked up up at four a.m., gave us a day old biscuit and a cup of water for breakfast, then put us in the mule drawn wagon and took us to his cotton field. We picked cotton for about six hours. Our backs were hurting, we were sunburned, our hands bleeding from the dried boll leaves. He put us back in the wagon and said if we didn’t graduate high school the rest of our lives would be like this day. Twenty nine of us graduated.
WONDERFUL MAN. he taught you a lesson
Sad thing is , In todays world he would be in jail. Necessity is the mother of all inventions.
My grandfather did. I have a picture of him sitting among the other men. I think he got a quarter a day or a week I can not remember. He gave it to his mother to help.
Jesus Christ Polly, you can’t be serious. There is no justification for this kind of treatment of children. You are probably a mill owner or a Republican and think that this kind of enslavement is OK. If you had children, and put them to work in a mill at that age, you would be sent to prison for child abuse and child endangerment. And you would deserve it
David, perhaps if u hadn’t grown up to be a bookworm, you wouldn’t be so jealous of REAL MEN with calloused hands and strong backs…
Young people deserve an education, certainly, but part of that education should be a close familiarity with physical exertion and manly pursuits…things u clearly were able to avoid in your youth!
Cyrus Curenton you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. My father died when I was 16 and my mother worked her main job for $0.50 an hour in a hosiery mill plus two other jobs to support my brother and I. I delivered 3 different newspapers when I was old enough and I worked in the hosiery mill 8 hours a day over a hot machine with no air conditioning burning my hands on hot irons. After I served in the military and got my honorable discharge I worked in a fiberglass factory in California 8 hours a day with no air conditioning 102 degree outside temp. In San Fernando Valley. My job was to put raw fiberglass into molds and push them into 450 degree ovens the size of the living room. So on more than one occasion my hands have been calloused, cracked and bleeding more then yours ever have I expect but as a bookworm, in addition to having calloused hands and working my ass off, I learned to read books which you apparently have not done so you really don’t deserve an opinion.
Haha! U were mighty free and easy with ur name calling, so I thought I’d try it too!
I worked hard as a teen, too, but I didn’t develop jealousy toward the kids who had it easy, and I didn’t build up resentment for having been forced to work…
I would change some things about my early life, but working is not one of them…
But neither of us was forced to work 12 hour shifts in a coal mine or a cotton mill at the age of 8.
Unfortunately, during those days, every able-bodied person had to work just to get by. From my understanding of history.
Everyone had to work back then, just to survive.
My Daddy worked in the cotton fields and in the cotton mills here in Alabama …. had to, times were very hard in the 1930s for EVERYONE.
I had an uncle with no left hand or forearm from a cotton mill accident and knew many others who died early because their lungs were clogged by airborne lint. I grew up around cotton mill workers who worked long hours for little pay. There was nothing romantic about the “good old days.”
Uncle Vernon that worked there as a child and for years. Died from a lung disease caused by cotton dust.
My parents chopped that cotton when they were 6.
Back in the day, many poor families had no choice. That’s how they ate.
It sure make you want to find something better!
MY Papa & Granny worked in the Cotton Fields…..When the Babies were tiny they took them with them…
So sad. 🙁
my mother dropped out of 7th grade to work in a cotton mill. She was helping support her parents and siblings.
And today a lot of people don’t believe the Federal government has any place in establishing laws to improve working conditions. Without labor laws, young children would still be working in mills and coal mines and miners would be taking canaries into the mines to check the air quality.
The Feds don’t. The state however, does have the authority. Look at Article 1 Section 8. Everything else is a 10th Amendment issue.
Kevin, you need to read the Federal Labor Standard Act ,Federal Child Labor Law of 1938 and the Supreme Court decision: US vs Kirby Lumber Co. The Court rules under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution that the Federal government not the State government had the power to regulate child labor laws and 10th Amendment was not applicable to regulate child labor.
A point of clarification, States may impose their own Child Labor Laws within each state if the State Laws do not violate the Federal Child Labor Law of 1938.
I look forward to all the articles you put out I love my Alabama history I’m born an raised in saraland Alabama …
They are all white kids
My wife and I spent a total combined 26 years in this hell hole known as a cotton mill. It was called Huntsville manufacturing when we worked there. The work was hard and extremely hot but we survived. I would not wish this line of work on anyone. Thank God that we got out.
Why stay in that hell hole for so long? Was the pay too good to leave?
Right to Work!!!
Ahh the republican dream put the kids to work an they won’t get in trouble and since the are smaller ya don’t have to pay them as much
Dont think it had much to do with democratic or republican parties. It was work to eat or die. No handouts in those days.
Kevin Ray Tanner that is exactly what I would expect a rethuglican to say. If the parents were paid a fair wage the children wouldn’t have to work
Without UNIONS this would still be the status quo
Sometimes it was needed, to bring in even more income to the family.
I never said working in a cotton field ( or a coal mine) was the good old days. I just respect those who lived back then and the struggles they had to endure.
But it wasn’t just cotton. Some kids had to help pick peas work silage.
I’m glad I have a great work ethic
My Daddy was one, then a soldier he was a great man. I think more children should stay busy.
Kids today could never do it because they are spoiled. Most kids today don’t lift a finger to do anything.
So if you got hungry you might not be afraid to send your kid to work
continue to vote RED and we will soon return to these good old days
What is “haunting” about it? Throughout history, children have been expected to help support the family, if not on the family farm, then in the family workshop. It’s only since WWII and in prosperous nations that has not been the case, because we’ve had sufficient wealth that we’ve turned childhood into playhood. And now extended it well past “children’s” 21st birthdays.
When we were growing up in the farmlands of Alabama, we were out in the cotton fields from daylight until dark. All children were required to work. We were so tired, we were not interested in roaming the roads and getting into trouble. We were better for the hard work and discipline we were taught. Made us appreciate what we had achieved.
Cotton mills in the South and coal mines in the North….just babies.
Can you imagine going hungery. Work never hurt anyone. I can remember working in tobacco from 6:00 A M daylight till 1:00 A M the next morning and being back at 6:00 A M. Problem today people see work as a sin. These children were a lot more happier than these sorry dope head of today.
my grandmother at age 13 (1913) got to work in the mill & not out in the field picking anymore, God love her she had a 3rd grade education. Worked the WPA also, tough cookie my Grams!
As they became men U. S. Entered the great depression then won ww2 THE greatest generation.
This was a hard scrable way of life. But it hurt no one. I started out cutting grass and raking leaves at age 7. Was cleaning up construction sites by age 10. Worked for a Water Company at age 13. Always had a veriety of jobs growing up. Would not trade any of it for the world. It made me who I am.
My grandmother was very proud of the work that she accomplished on a family farm with 7 siblings. I suspect that if she had it to do over she would not change a thing.
Alan’s grandmother was one of the children working in that mill. She was born in 1895. We found her permission to work on one of the Madison County sites.
I worked in the cotton mill for 3 years. It was the most fun job I ever had!
When my great grandmother was 5 years old, her sharecropping father broke a garden hoe handle in half and put her into the cotton fields hoeing weeds out of the cotton fields. And you know what, she lived to be 99 years and 9 months old. You know what else? She enjoyed her life. She loved her family. And she never regretted one single day or whined about how hard things were. In fact, when she talked of the old times, she had a prideful gleam in her eye. And no wonder too, her generation won two world wars and made this country great while this generation sits on their thumbs and expects hand outs while the country and economy swirls down the toilet. So maybe we are the ones who are stupid and wrong, and they are the ones who are smart and right. Oh wait…she also worked in a saw mill and later the cotton mill till she retired. So, go suck it you people of weak constitutions who cry for the children of old. They don’t want your pity.
My 92 year old aunt tells me at least weekly that she loved her childhood, which included at age 7 and on up caring for younger siblings as her parents worked in the fields. During the depression she and her brother walked miles peddling and recalls her older brother, age about 9 killing a bird and roasting it during their day of peddling for them to have food. Blount County Al. She’s not kidding…she doesn’t feel bad about one minute of her life. I don’t see any haunted images in that photo. Folks need to get a life.
Black children were alway slave, and used for child labor. Why do people make a big deal out of white children working?
Times where different then everyone had to pull their own weight.
My grandmother was one of 17 children. People back then had big families to help work their farms, and knowone though anything about it……….
Today kids, have know manners, are so rude, and spoiled brats, most of them couldn’t find their own butts, with both hands and it in braille!
They walk around with iphones, ipads, text all day, and don’t know how to do anything. Except bitch and complain! God help this country 25 years from now!
When I was growing up, we where taught to servive in hard times, think for ourselves. Work like a dog to have anything…..
To respect our edlers, call our Aunts and uncle that instead of by their first names.
I feel for those children, as I did for slave as children but as people, and not animals…..
That same crap still go’s on today all over the world, their called sweat shops!
My husband & older siblings got grade school & less education in order to help the family earn a living working in the cotton fields. They were sharecroppers in Winston & Cullman counties & had no choice!
This might help keep these juveniles from getting into trouble. What is wrong with working and learning responsibility.
that is what wrong with kids this day and time don’t know what work is unless it is a phone in there hand are a i pad
Gin Jenkins, what do you think about this article?
Thats what is wrong with kids today,they cant whip there azz for what they dont get in trouble,work isnt gonna hurt anyone.Make them work instead of giving them everything.
My grandaddy and uncle worked at the Bibb Mill Cotton Gin in Colombus Ga in the early forties because they move back to Henry County in Alabama in 1946. Grandaddy made $13.00 for 6 days work
Into my hands came “The Child That Toileth Not” by Thomas Robinson Dawley, Jr., Gracia Publishing,1913. A retired Connecticut farmer, often travelling by horse, documents conditions in the mills and homes of the hill country of NC, TN, and GA for for the Bureau of Labor. You will be amazed at Dawley’s observations, which contradict the standard line that child labor is everywhere and under all conditions a horror. He published his report himself, as BOL, whose Special Deputy Dawley had been, rejected its own agent’s information. Grab your suspenders before reading!
We are an affluent society and have forgotten the hard work our forefathers did for the past 200 years.
….VERY INTERESTING……LOVE HISTORY LIKE THIS…..
So I steering I know it was hard back then
Sadly at this time in history the alternative for boys from poor families this age was to work on a farm full time. Much of the time they worked on the farm of another land owner earning far less money for their family than the mill would pay. Only mandatory education, child work laws, and higher paying jobs for their parents could end this cycle.
it wasnt only boys
Very true! My own mother left school at age 14 to work full time in a laundry to help her family when her step father died. One of the greatest days of her life was getting her GED degree when she was 58.
Thats called white privilege
My dad milked cows every morning at age 6. School then farm chores.
Most likely they were lucky at that time if they made even close to a dollar a day, working in that mill.
They helped feed their families. It was expected of the male children when they reached a certain age (varied from family to family and culture to culture). They would work 12 to 15 hour shifts and get paid, maybe, 50 cents. Why we forced through the Child Labor Laws.
Maybe we need to force through an Illegal Alien Labor Law that would force companies to not hire them? Nah, there already are laws for that and they ignore them already.
I’ve been told my grandmother worked there as a child, she had to stand on a crate for her job.
Do you know much about her life after that? I wonder if working in those mills impacted their future health.
Phyllis Sullivan I know she had several strokes and dementia. She had her 1st stroke in 1959,she was in her 50s.
My dad was born in 1916. Stories from my grandmother were often about how anyone who wanted to eat had to do some kind of work. If they lived on land, they farmed it. If they lived near a mill, they worked there. It was a great privilege to be provided for and sent to school, one not many had. The kids thought of it as doing their part for the family so their parents, brothers and sisters could survive.
My Mother went to work in a mill when she was 12 years old . Her Father passed away when she was 9 . She had 2 sisters and 2 brothers .
Slavery??? In the North children were working in the factories.
Sharon Richards in the late 1870s my grandfather died on a construction site leaving his wife and eight children. Most of the children worked to help support the family. Everyone of the eight children all grew up to have good jobs and do well in life. There is nothing wrong with a young person working.
Sharon Richards it did not matter where your from all people worked if you did work you did not eat.I think some time I think we need a little more work and a lot less. Food stamps please don’t miss understandable we all need help every one4 in awhile
And they did it without any federal or state government help
Goes with white privilege? everyone had to work if you wanted to survive.
I did field work in the summer after 8th grade. 10 plus hours a day. Nothing wrong with hard work and earning money.
Hard work doesn’t hurt anyone, I bet they turned out better than a lot do nowadays, lazy and looking for a free ride..
They may be making too much of the child labor law now. But parents should make kids work at home. Some kids don’t know how to do anything
My grandmother worked there.
Well back then a cotton mill was almost a death sentence and to work children that young in that environment was a crime. Thank goodness for child labor law
There is nothing glamorous about children working in mills where they lost limbs and died. If they were in the mines they got black lung. These were miserable times. Doing farm work is different from being around moving machines in small spaces. I think any of those kids would agree with me. Those were not the good old days. I had chores to do at home. They were age appropriate. They were not given because I was small enough to fit in a small space.
Laurie Sellers that’s true.
Absolutely true. Just because it was “done that way” does not make it right. These children were denied a childhood and an education.
My aunt worked in the Old Mill in Opelika as a child. She was too short to reach the machine, so they have her a wooden box with a rope attached to pull behind her so she could stand on the box to reach the machine.
My aunt worked in the Old Mill in Opelika as a child. She was too short to reach the machine, so they have her a wooden box with a rope attached to pull behind her so she could stand on the box to reach the machine.
Look at their pants. Looks like baseball pants. May be where baseball pants originated from
My grandfather Shelby Price was the superintendent of that mill for a time. Then moved to Opp to be superintendent there. I believe a play was written about that mill.
Interesting that all workers are white
Many in my family including my father worked at the Enterprise Cotton Mill.
A different time for sure.
My great grandparents had all of their children above the age of 7 listed on the census working in the cotton mills
Same thing happened in the other Merrimack in Massachusetts where they had young children working in the Mills