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Thursday, 13 January 2011

Lewis W. Hine: Cotton ("She jess works fer pleasure")


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6-year old Warren Frakes. Mother said he picked 41 pounds yesterday "An I don't make him pick; he picked some last year." Has about 20 pounds in his bag. Comanche County, Oklahoma: photo by Lewis W. Hine, 11 October 1916

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Family of W.T. Frakes, Route 5, Lawton, Oklahoma. Mother said 6-year old Warren picked 41 pounds of cotton yesterday "An I don't make him pick; he picked last year." Had about 20 pounds in his bag. She said Clara, 11 years old, averages 75 pounds a day. Picked 101 pounds yesterday, earning $1.25 (they are picking now for another farmer). She carries 40 pounds in the bag. Velma, 14 years, picks 125 pounds. Has picked over 200 pounds in a day. Children go to Flower Mound School, District 48 while living here, but they are itinerant, renting a small farm of 10 acres now. "We move about a good deal" mother said. Comanche County, Oklahoma: photo by Lewis W. Hine, 11 October 1916

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Family of L.H. Kirkpatrick, Route 1, Lawton, Okla. Children go to Mineral Wells School #39. Father, mother and five children (5, 6, 10, 11 and 12 years old) pick cotton. "We pick a bale in four days." Dovey, 5 years old, picks 15 pounds a day (average). Mother said: "She jess works fer pleasure." Ertle, 6 years, picks 20 pounds a day (average). Vonnie, 10 years, picks 50 pounds a day (average). Edward, 11 years, picks 75 pounds a day (average). Otis, 12 years, picks 75 pounds a day (average). Expect to be out of school for two weeks more picking. Father is a renter. Works part of farm on shares (gives 1/4 of cotton for rent) and for part of farm he pays cash rent. Comanche County, Oklahoma
: photo by Lewis W. Hine, 10 October 1916

Mart Payne, 5 years old, picks from10 to 20 pounds a day. Mother said: "Mart, he haint old nuff to go to school much, but he kin pick his 20 pounds a day. Mostly 10 or 15 pounds." See 4560. Lewis W. Hine, photo.  Location: Comanche County, Oklahoma.

Mart Payne, 5 years old, picks from10 to 20 pounds a day. Mother said: "Mart, he haint old nuff to go to school much, but he kin pick his 20 pounds a day. Mostly 10 or 15 pounds". Comanche County, Oklahoma
: photo by Lewis W. Hine, 10 October 1916

Norma Lawrence is 10 years old and picks from 100 to 150 pounds of cotton a day. Drags the sack which often hold 50 pounds or more before emptied. Lewis W. Hine. See 4569.  Location: Comanche County, Oklahoma.

Norma Lawrence is 10 years old and picks from 100 to 150 pounds of cotton a day. Drags the sack which often holds 50 pounds or more before emptied. Comanche County, Oklahoma
: photo by
Lewis W. Hine, 10 October 1916.

Callie Campbell, 11 years old, picks 75 to 125 pounds of cotton a day, and totes 50 pounds of it when sack gets full. "No, I don't like it very much." See 4590. Lewis W. Hine. See W.H. Swift Report.  Location: Potawotamie County, Oklahoma.

Callie Campbell, 11 years old, picks 75 to 125 pounds of cotton a day, and totes 50 pounds of it when sack gets full. "No, I don't like it very much." Potawatomie County, Oklahoma
: photo by Lewis W. Hine, 16 October 1916.


[Acme School #24 (4 miles northwest of Shawnee): Miss Lois Millard, Principal. (P.O. Dale, Okla., Route 1). 26 present, 40 expected after all families return from southern part of the state where they have been picking cotton. Lewis W. Hine. See W. H. Swift Report.]  Location: [Potawotamie County, Oklahoma]

Acme School #24 (4 miles northwest of Shawnee): Miss Lois Millard, Principal. (P.O. Dale, Oklahoma, Route 1). 26 present, 40 expected after all families return from southern part of the state where they have been picking cotton. Potawotamie County, Oklahoma: photo by Lewis W. Hine, 16 October 1916

Pioneer School #13 (6 miles northwest of Shawnee) opened October 2nd--7 months term. Miss Lela Ginsinger, Principal (been here 2 years). Photo shows only 6 children present and 2 teachers in the third week of school. Expect 24 pupils. All absences are due to cotton. A few of the larger ones will be out in the Spring for cotton. Lewis W. Hine. See W.H. Swift Report.  Location: Potawotamie County, Oklahoma.

Pioneer School #13 (6 miles northwest of Shawnee) opened October 2nd--7 months term. Miss Lela Ginsinger, Principal (been here 2 years). Photo shows only 6 children present and 2 teachers in the third week of school. Expect 24 pupils. All absences are due to cotton. A few of the larger ones will be out in the Spring for cotton. Potawotamie County, Oklahoma: photo by Lewis W. Hine, 16 October 1916

Hillside School #58; Miss Blanche Calyer, Teacher. Opened September 11th--8 months term. Enrollment 20, Average attendance 18 (last year: enrollment 43, average attendance 36). 15 others are out for cotton picking and may be out a month more. Teacher says families are mostly tenants, but she thinks they need help of children during cotton picking season.  Location: Comanche County, Oklahoma

Hillside School #58; Miss Blanche Calyer, Teacher. Opened September 11th--8 months term. Enrollment 20, Average attendance 18 (last year: enrollment 43, average attendance 36). 15 others are out for cotton picking and may be out a month more. Teacher says families are mostly tenants, but she thinks they need help of children during cotton picking season. Comanche County, Oklahoma:
photo by Lewis W. Hine, 10 October 1916

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Family of C.J. Walker, Route 2, Box 78, Geronimo, Oklahoma. 6-year old Jewel and 5-year old Harold picks 20 to 25 pounds of cotton a day. Father said: "I promised em a little wagon if they'd pick steady, and now they have half a bagful in just a little while." The 3-year old is learning to pick. Father is a renter on shares: gives 1/4 of his cotton for rent, and 1/3 of his corn. Has 20 acres in cotton. Comanche County, Oklahoma: photo by Lewis W. Hine, 10 October 1916

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5-year old Harold Walker, Geronimo, Comanche County, Oklahoma: photo by Lewis W. Hine, 10 October 1916


Photos from National Child Labor Committee Collection, Library of Congress

8 comments:

Julia said...

heartbreaking

TC said...

For me, also.

A poet friend from Oklahoma, Ron Padgett, writes:

"Not to bring out the violins or anything, but: My maternal grandparents both picked cotton. She in particular hated what it did to her hands."

Elmo St. Rose said...

worked with a doctor when in
training in the 1970's, who
when anyone made a mistake, he
called them a "cotton picker"

looking at the photos, it was
obviously a slur about class

Stephen Vincent said...

As with Ron Padgett,my father and his brother trailed my grandmother while picking cotton in Oklahoma back in the mid teens before they headed out to pick prunes and work on the rails around Fresno in California. My dad always had a funny, contemptuous of pursing is lips to say 'prunes.'

TC said...

And another thing to distrust: they were said to be "good for the constitution"(?).

Michele Sprague said...

In Comanche county,my grandmother and her sisters picked cotton all summer so they could buy material for school clothes. At the end of the summer, their mother bought yards and yards of beautiful material so she could sew their new dresses. She laid the material in the front seat of her car so she could pick up a few things at another store.Unfortunately, while she was in the store, someone stole the material from the front seat.My grandmother and her sisters had to wear their cotton picking dresses to school that year.

TC said...

Michele,

That's a sad and touching story. But I'm guessing that in the fullness of that difficult season -- and of all the large struggles and small rewards that come with persevering -- those girls came out with fine dresses after all. And really appreciated them, then.

Michele Sprague said...

Thank you so much.She did persevere and came through victorious. My grandmother just passed away on August 14,2012.I have been asked to share this story and others at her memorial tomorrow. I appreciate your blog and your kindness.