Work in the workshop and in the factory

Work in the workshop and in the factory

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  • Small lace makers.

    LUCAS Mary Lancaster

  • Tobacco Factory - Hazerville.

    HINE Lewis Wickes (1874 - 1940)

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Title: Small lace makers.

Author : LUCAS Mary Lancaster (-)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas Exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Français in 1907

Storage location:

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Vizzavona / M. El Garbysite web

Picture reference: 97-008832 / VZD4104

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. El Garby

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Title: Tobacco Factory - Hazerville.

Author : HINE Lewis Wickes (1874 - 1940)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 12.5 - Width 17.7

Technique and other indications: Silver print Series Social studies .

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J. G. Berizzi © Wickes Hine Lewissite web

Picture reference: 03-010576 / PHO1986-84

Tobacco Factory - Hazerville.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J. Berizzi Wickes Hine Lewis

Publication date: July 2007

Historical context

In France, until the 1820s, child labor, who helped adults with agricultural or craft tasks, was not debated. Little boys and girls between the ages of six and eight are sent far from their homes to earn paltry wages in dangerous workshops, to jobs requiring more skill than force.
This new type of social misery attracted the attention of the elites and resulted in successive regulations on juvenile labor in factories. If Victor Hugo (Melancholia) or Daudet (Jack), do it in words, others testify with images, like the American photographer Lewis Wikes Hine whose motto was: "Let children be children".

Image Analysis

The lace workshop painted on canvas and the tobacco factory fixed on silver film show obvious differences
- The lace-makers work in a very clean space, without any dust on the floor. The room has a semblance of decor, expressed in particular by the presence of a geranium on the windowsill. The young girls are not left to themselves but are placed under the responsibility of an adult, even if the trainer (or blissful) seems to be uninterested in her apprentices since the youngest, installed at the bottom left of the frame, must look at his neighbor to understand the point or the pattern. ;
- The barracks where tobacco is prepared is dusty and poorly ventilated. We can guess the health risks and toxic effects associated with handling plants containing nicotine.

Beyond the contrasts, the two places nevertheless offer analogies: they are poorly lit and the little girls, aged at most ten years, damage their eyes on the needles as on the stems of tobacco leaves. Research on ventilation and light, which has been carried out in France since 1857 by the office of industry of the Ministry of Commerce, has not borne fruit.
In one room as in the other, the bodies of young workers are abused. Tobacco peelers work standing, motionless in front of tables too high for them, requiring continual lifting of shoulders and elbows; the lace-makers are seated on seats without backrests, most of them stools too low to be able to unfold the legs.


These girls are certainly not comfortably installed. However, unlike many young workers, they do not work in dangerous, cramped workshops filled with giant machines. In other sectors, such as the iron and steel industry or textiles, children, paid by the piece, so as not to waste time, clean the moving looms. They oil, grease, adjust, tighten the nuts without stopping the engine and, if they make a wrong move, get caught in the cogs of the machines.
Throughout the XIXe century, the precocious labor of children, abused in unsanitary premises and victims of frequent accidents leads not only to occupational diseases and disabilities but also to malformations. The review board, in the most heavily industrialized regions of France will, in some years, be obliged to dismiss up to nine out of ten conscripts and reduce the regulatory size of conscripts to 1meter 60 instead of 1meter 65.
This condition made to young workers moved, from the July Monarchy, doctors and social investigators who accuse industrialists of sacrificing the future for the present, of giving the country a generation considerably degraded in terms of both morale and physique. These denunciations will be decisive in the passage of the law of March 22, 1841, which prohibits the employment of children under the age of eight in factories, factories, workshops and factories with more than twenty employees, limits the number of working hours daily and requires school attendance up to twelve years.
Unfortunately, this law, which however concerns only a small number of establishments because France remains very artisanal, is ineffective: the bosses voluntarily limit their staff to 18 or 19 and give work at home to other workers , labor inspectors are too few, many recruiters falsify, with the complicity of the most disadvantaged parents, the dates of birth on workers' books, school and vocational training are unsatisfactory despite the promulgation in March 1851 , a law on apprenticeship.
On the other hand, the laws of May 1874 and March 1882 arrived at the right time. As the country finds itself in a phase of economic recession, the restriction on the employment of children, who are required to attend school until they are thirteen, is convenient for the manufacturers, who are thus carrying out disguised dismissals. But in sectors such as glass and lace making, where learning is done on the job, child employment laws will rarely be observed. They will obviously no longer be so anywhere during the Great War, when women and children will have to replace the mobilized men.

  • childhood
  • workers
  • tobacco


Emmanuel LE ROY LADURIE "The reformed of the contingent" in Le Territoire de l'historienParis, Gallimard, coll. “Library of stories”, 1973 (reedited Tel, 1975). Pierre PIERRARD Children and young workers in France (19th-20th centuries) Paris éd.Ouvrières, 1974 (reedited 1987). Jean SANDRINE Foundlings, child workers (17th-19th centuries) centuries) Paris, Aubier, coll. "Floréal", 1982, 255 p.Louis-René VILLERMETable of the physical and moral state of workers employed in the cotton, wool and silk factories Paris, Renouard, 1840, 2 tons of 281 p. And 228 p ( reprint uge10/18, Paris, 1971, 316 p.; reprint by Jean-Pierre Chaline and Francis Demier, Paris, EDI, 1990). Louis-René VILLERME “On the too long duration of child labor in many manufactures »Annals of public hygiene and legal medicine, t.18, 1st series, 1837, pp.164-176.

To cite this article

Myriam TSIKOUNAS, "Work in the workshop and in the factory"

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