Literacy resources | USA Regional A - M titles | Inquiry Unlimited

Child Labor
in American Industry

Inquiry Unlimited's classroom application: Teaching American History

Regional Labor
      • City labor: bowling alleys; bootblacks, newspaper boys and girls (newsies), cigar makers, finishing work (garments); working on ties; tending the family stand; stable grooms
      • Agriculture: Hulling berries, Shelling nuts, Cranberries
      • Fishing: Canneries, Shucking oysters; Shrimp
      • Mining: Breaker boys
      • Textile mills: Doffers (bobbin girls/boys); Spinners, Sweepers
      • Industry (Crafts and Craftsman): Glassworks (glassblower); Shoe industry
      • Garment industry: Hosiery

Garment Industry
  1. Bader, Bonnie. East Side Story. New York: Silver Moon Press, 1993. (72 pages) A young girl and her older sister, working in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, a sweatshop on the Lower East Side of New York City, join a protest to try to improve the miserable working conditions.
  2. Goldin, Barbara Diamond. Fire!: The Beginnings of the Labor Movement. New York: Puffin Books, 1992. (54 pages) In 1911, Rosie becomes involved in the struggle for better working conditions in factories when fire rips through the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory where her older sister Freyda is employed.
  3. Greenwood, Barbara. Factory Girl. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2007. (136 pages) Twelve-year-old Emily must hold down her job working twelve-hour days in a garment factory in order to keep from starving. The story includes historical interludes about the working conditions in factories at the turn of the century.
  4. Hest, Amy. When Jessie Came Across the Sea. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 1997. (unpaged) A rabbi in an Eastern European shtetl gives Jessie a ticket to America. She arrives in New York, works as a dressmaker, saves money, and purchases a ticket for her grandmother.
  5. Lieurance, Suzanne. The Locket: Surviving the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2008. (160 pages) After Galena, an eleven-year-old Russian immigrant survives a terrible fire at the non-Unionized Triangle Shirtwaist Factory while her older sister and many others do not, she begins fighting for improved working conditions in New York City factories. (Russia)
  6. Littlefield, Holly. Fire at the Triangle Factory. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 1996. (48 pages) On March 25, 1911, two fourteen-year-old girls, sewing machine operators at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York, are caught in the famous Triangle fire that claimed the lives of 146 garment workers. (The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards.)

Textile Mills
  1. McCully, Emily Arnold. The Bobbin Girl. A ten-year-old bobbin girl working in a textile mill in Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1830s must make a difficult decision about participating in the first workers' strike in Lowell. [based on the life of Harriet Hanson Robinson]
  2. Cahn, Rhoda and William. The Story of Child Labor in America. New York: Julian Messner, 1972. ("Tommy, The Bobbin Boy," pages 7-13)

  1. Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Growing Up in Coal Country. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1996. (127 pages)
  2. Rappaport, Doreen. Trouble at the Mines. New York: Bantam, 1987. (96 pages) Rosie and her family are caught up in the Arnot, Pennsylvania, mining strike of 1899-100 led by the union organizer Mother Jones.
  3. Wallace, Ian. Boy of the Deeps. New York: DK Publishing, 1999.
  4. Welch, Catherine A. Danger at the Breaker. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, Inc. 1992.

Transportation - Railroads, contract labor
  1. Krensky, Stephen. The Iron Dragon Never Sleeps. New York: Delacorte Press, 1994. (90 pages) In 1867, while staying with her father in a small California mining town, ten-year-old Winnie meets a Chinese boy close to her age and discovers the role of his people in completing the transcontinental railroad.
  2. Yin. Coolies. New York: Philomel Books, 2001. (unpaged)

In the City - Small Business
  1. Bartone, Elisa. Peppe The Lamplighter. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1993. (unpaged) Based on a family story about the author's grandfather who emigrated from Avellino, near Naples, this tells of how Peppe has taken a job lighting the gas street lamps in his New York City neighborhood. (Italy)
  2. Lehrman, Robert. The Store That Mama Built. New York: Macmillan, 1992. (126 pages) In 1917 twelve-year-old Birdie and her siblings, the children of Jewish immigrants from Russia, help their recently widowed mother run the family store, picking up where their father left off in his struggle to succeed in America. (Russia)
  3. Levitin, Sonia. Junk Man's Daughter. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2007. A family emigrates to America expecting to find streets paved with gold, but instead find hard work and determination before they find a way to make a living.
  4. Yin. Brothers. New York: Philomel Books, 2006. (unpaged) Having arrived in San Francisco from China to work in his brother's store, Ming is lonely until an Irish boy befriends him.

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