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Stolen Childhoods: Teacher Notes

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Summary: This fact-based play tells the story of Lewis Hine, a

photographer from the early 20th-Century who led the crusade to
regulate child labor by photographing children working under
deplorable conditions. It follows three children who work in a textile
factory. Historical Fiction. There are parts for 16 students, but some
smaller roles can be paired with others.

License: The original purchaser is licensed to print one class set per year for use in his or her classroom.
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schools have a legal obligation to protect the copyright of the given play by insuring it can be viewed only and
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In most cases, performance rights are granted to the original purchaser provided said is representing a public
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Comprehension Activity: Even though the play is historical fiction, because its based on
factual information, the accompanying comprehension activity can be specifically used to satisfy
Common Core State Standards, Informational Text item #7: reasons and evidence support the
particular points in a text, and Literature item #2, analyze details in a text to determine theme.

Key: (Some possible answers are shown but numerous lines could be used.)
#1. You only been sweepin a couple of hours. You got ten more to go.(Sc. 1); I remember...little
oyster shuckers with swollen, bleeding fingers. (Sc. 7).
# 2. Workers sometimes developed lung diseases. (Sc. 1); The poor child had terrible burns from
working around the industrial boilers. (Sc. 2); Martha screams and falls to the floor clutching her hand
(Sc. 3).
#3. We worry about your safety. (Sc. 2 ); But be careful out there. As you know, there are many
people who would do almost anything to keep child labor hidden. (Sc. 2); He shoves Hine again,
nearly knocking him down. (Sc. 4)
#4. Get back to work before the overseer catches you nappin. (Sc. 1); Whats the idea? Get cleaned
up and get back to work! (Sc. 3); There will come a day when you wont be able to exploit these
children any longer.(Sc. 4); Once in a while a finger gets mashed, but it dont amount to nothin. (Sc.
#5. Not one of them knew how to read. (Sc. 2); They should be in school learning to read. (Sc. 4).
#6. His photojournalism led to many laws being proposed (Sc. 6); And look here. It says your photos
had a lot to do with it. (Sc. 7)

2011 BY Mack Lewis, All Rights Reserved Stolen Childhoods, Page 2 of 10
An Original Play by Mack Lewis

LEWIS HINE a photographer SARA his wife
LEO a child laborer MARTHA his sister FLOYD their younger brother
MA & PA their parents OVERSEER BOSS BOY another child laborer

Scene 1
NARRATOR 2: Leo is ten years old. Martha is
nine. Floyd is just six.
HISTORIAN 1: In the late 1890s, recession swept
across America. NARRATOR 1: Their parents are unemployed.

HISTORIAN 2: To make more money, factories LEO: Why are you so giddy?
replaced many of their adult workers with low-
paid children. FLOYD: Im finally gettin to work!

NARRATOR 1: Its 5 a.m. on a spring morning in LEO: Youll soon wish you were back at the
1904. Leo and his sister Martha are trudging to school house.
work at a textile mill in Georgia. Their little
brother Floyd skips along behind them. FLOYD: Hope I get to be a spinner. Sounds like
2011 BY Mack Lewis, All Rights Reserved Stolen Childhoods, Page 3 of 10
MARTHA: Spinners are usually girls, but there LEO: You only been sweepin a couple hours.
aint nothin fun about it. Theres ten more to go!

LEO: You need to make sure you work hard. Ma

and Pa are countin on us.
Scene 2
NARRATOR 2: Once inside the factory, the
overseer immediately puts them to work.
HISTORIAN 1: The National Child Labor
NARRATOR 1: The giant Committee vowed to end child labor.
spinning machines wind
cotton thread around HISTORIAN 2: It wasnt
hundreds of large concerned with kids
bobbins. doing chores, but with
what it called child
NARRATOR 2: Leo slavery.
spots another bobbin
filling up. He leaps on HISTORIAN 1: Its most
to the machine. important crusader was
a photographer named
NARRATOR 1: The Lewis Hine.
overseer watches him
as he quickly takes off NARRATOR 1: Hine is
the old bobbin, slides showing his latest
a new one in place, photographs to leaders
and fastens the of the NCLC.
HINE: I took this at a
OVERSEER: You aint factory in Pennsylvania.
workin fast enough, The poor child had
boy. Step it up! terrible burns from
working around the
NARRATOR 2: Down industrial boilers.
the aisle, a girl is
having a coughing fit. CRUSADER 1: Did you
Floyd pauses, curious. have any trouble
getting the shot?
LEO: Its her lungs. Get back to work before the
overseer catches you nappin. CRUSADER 2: We worry about your safety.

HISTORIAN 1: The air inside textile factories was HINE: Ive had my scares, but its worth the risk.
heavy with dust and lint. Workers sometimes Look at the boys in this picture. They were
developed lung diseases such as tuberculosis. working twelve hour days in a coal mine. Not one
of them knew how to read.
FLOYD: How much longer we gotta work?

2011 BY Mack Lewis, All Rights Reserved Stolen Childhoods, Page 4 of 10
CRUSADER 1: These will show the public how HISTORIAN 2: They worked day and night in
miserable it is for such children. deplorable and sometimes dangerous conditions.

HINE: I hope so. I want each flash of my camera NARRATOR 1: Its 1908. Floyd, now ten, is
to shine a light on their hardship. working in the aisle where Martha is a spinner.

CRUSADER 2: NARRATOR 2: Martha walks the long aisle

Your photos are brushing lint from the
powerful. They machinery and
show what watching for
words cant. breaks in the
could tell NARRATOR 1: When
their stories a break occurs, she
in words, I must quickly climb up
wouldnt the machine and tie
have to lug the ends together. She
around a has to be careful
camera. reaching into the
CRUSADER 1: Well, humanity
will be glad you did. NARRATOR 2: As Martha
climbs the machine to mend a break,
CRUSADER 2: But be careful out there. As you Floyd begins coughing.
know, there are many people who would do
almost anything to keep child labor hidden. NARRATOR 1: Martha pauses. Floyd cant seem
to stop.
NARRATOR 2: Before departing, Hine
photographs the NCLC staff. MARTHA: You sick?

NARRATOR 1: After setting up his tripod and box FLOYD: Naw. Just feeling wheezy.
camera, he dusts his flashpan with powder. He
NARRATOR 2: Martha reaches into the machine,
holds the pan in the air and ignites it.
but shes distracted by Floyds worrisome cough.
NARRATOR 2: Theres a roar of flame, a shower NARRATOR 1: Theres a loud clunk and an
of sparks, and a perfectly timed click of the explosion of loose thread. Martha screams and
shutter. falls to the floor clutching her hand.

Scene 3 NARRATOR 2: An overseer runs up the aisle.

0VERSEER: What have you done?

HISTORIAN 1: In the early 1900s, two-million NARRATOR 1: He deftly re-threads the bobbin
children were working in American factories, coal and checks the mechanism for damage. He
mines, and canneries. barely glances at Martha.
2011 BY Mack Lewis, All Rights Reserved Stolen Childhoods, Page 5 of 10
OVERSEER: Whats the idea? Get cleaned up and HINE: Hold there!
get back to work!
NARRATOR 1: The boy wipes the sweat off his
NARRATOR 2: Floyd helps Martha up. face, hitches up his hand-me-down pants, and
looks straight at the camera.
FLOYD: How bad is it?
NARRATOR 2: Hine ignites the flashpan. Theres
NARRATOR 1: She reveals her hand. Two of her a roar of flame, a shower of sparks, and another
fingers are mangled. Much of a third is gone. perfectly timed click of the shutter.

NARRATOR 1: The boy is off again, but the flash

Scene 4 catches the attention of the boss.

BOSS: You there, whatre you up to?

NARRATOR 2: Lewis Hine enters a glassworks HINE: Just taking a photograph of one of your
factory in Virginia. Because of the open furnaces, hard-working lads.
its well over 120 degrees.
BOSS: Therell be no pictures!
smoky haze fills the HINE: Do you think children
building. Shards of should have to work
glass litter the like this?
floor. Boys run
from place to BOSS: Its good for
place carrying hot em. Theyre learning a
glass. skill.

HINE: Hey HINE: They should be in

young fella, school learning to read.
how about a
picture? NARRATOR 2: The boss
picks up the long paddle
NARRATOR 2: A smudge-faced boy of ten used to take glass from the
responds but keeps hustling across the floor. furnace. He shoves Hine with it.

BOY: Sorry, mister. Cant stop. Gettin paid by BOSS: Get on outta here or Ill run you out
the piece. myself.

NARRATOR 1: Hine sets up his tripod and focuses NARRATOR 1: He shoves Hine again, nearly
his camera on an open area. He sprinkles powder knocking him down.
on his flash pan.
HINE: Ill leave, but there will come a day when
NARRATOR 2: As the boy hustles past, Hine calls you wont be able to exploit these children any
out. longer, a day when society will finally see the
2011 BY Mack Lewis, All Rights Reserved Stolen Childhoods, Page 6 of 10
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