Lewis Hine and Social Change


Unlike an early 20th century looking glass with its wavy and often cloudy surface, Lewis Wikes Hine (1874-1940) reflected an exacting portrait of the problems of industrial society. Hine began his work at Ellis Island, turning his lens on the treatment of immigrants in his first public exhibition of 1905. Next, he focused on the urban poor and revealed the harsh world of the sweatshop worker and tenement resident. Hine’ s work later gained the National spotlight when the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) hired him in 1908 to officially document the state of child labor within the country. By 1920, Hine had rendered the majority of Americans speechless, with his published written and photographic reports that would forever weave the images of the progress of the Industrial Revolution with its smallest victims, forcing Americans to honestly face the images reflected back. Although books can be written, groups can assemble, and laws can be passed, nothing is quite as convincing as the black and white photograph—with its stark documentation of injustice. To this end, this kit invites students to look at Hine’s work and to ultimately answer:

How did Lewis W. Hine impact social change in the early 20th century?

Introduction to Kit:


Introduction to Collection:


All 55 black-and-white photographs included in this kit are works Lewis Hine and were commissioned by the National Child Labor Committee from 1908-1924 in order to document working and living conditions of children in the United States.


This kit contains 10 excerpts from primary and secondary sources that canvas the life of Lewis Hine. They are thematically and chronologically arranged to facilitate student understanding of the link between Hine’s work and social change. The first three documents are primary sources and therefore feature writing from those who personally knew Hine, or are penned by Hine himself. The following three consist of commentary from modern artists, writers and educators on the impact of Hine’s work on social change. The final three documents consist of laws and data that directly followed the exhibition and publication of Hine’s iconic photographs. Students should be able to use the documents to directly and indirectly infer the impact of Hine’s work.


A partnership between the College of William & Mary School of Education, the University of Kentucky College of Education,
and the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program