Child Labor
Activity 1

The Flower Factory by Florence Willkinson

Lisabetta, Marianina, Fiametta, Teresina,
They are winding stems of Poses, one by one, one by
one - -
Little children who have never learned to play:
Teresina softly crying that her fingers ache to-day,
Tiny Fiametta nodding when the twilight slips in, gray.
High above the clattering street, ambulance and fire
gong beat,
They sit, curling crimson petals,one by one, one by one.
Lisabetta, Marianina, Fiametta, Teresina,
They have never seen a rose-bush nor a dewdrop in the
They will dream of the vendetta, Teresina, Fiametta
Of a Black Hand and a Face behind the grating;
They will dream of cotton petals, endless, crimson,
Never of a wild-rose thicket nor the singing of a cricket,
But the ambulance will bellow through the wanness of
their dreams,
And their tired lids will flutter with the street’s hysteric screams.
Lisabetta, Marianina, Fiametta, Teresina,
They are winding stems of roses, one by one, one by
Let them have a long, long play-time Lord of Toil,
When toil is done.

The Machines by Ernest Crosby

What are the machines saying, a hundred of them
in one long room?
They must be talking to themselves, for I see no
one else for them to talk to.
But yes, there is a boy’s red head bending over one
of them, and beyond I see a pale face fringed
with brown curly locks.
There are only five boys in all on this floor, half
hidden by the clattering machines, for one
bright lad can manage twenty-five of them.
Each machine makes one cheap, stout sock in five
minutes, without seam, complete from toe to
ankle, cutting the thread at the end and
beginning another of its own accord.
The boys have nothing to do but to clean and
burnish and oil the steel rods and replace the
spools of yarn.
But how rapidly and nervously they do it - - the
Slower hands straining to accomplish as much as
the fastest!
Working at high tension for ten hours a day in the
close, greasy air and endless whirr - -
Boys who ought to be out playing ball in the fields
or taking a swim in the river this fine summer
And in these good times the machines go all night,
and other shifts of boys are kept from their
beds to watch them.
The young girls in the mending and finishing
rooms down-stairs are not so strong as the
They have an unaccountable way of fainting and
collapsing in the noise and smell, and then
they are of no use for the rest of the day.
The kind stockholders have had to provide a room
for collapsed girls and to employ a doctor,
who finds it expedient not to understand this
strange new disease.
Perhaps their children will be more stalwart in the
next generation.
Yet this factory is one of the triumphs of our
With only twenty boys at a time at the machines in
all the room it produces five thousand dozen
pair of socks in twenty-four hours for the
toilers of the land.
It would take an army of fifty thousand hand-
knitters to do what these small boys perform.
What are the machines saying? They are saying,
“We are hungry. We have eaten up the men
and women (there is no longer a market for
men and women, they come too high) –
We have eaten up the men and women, and now
We are devouring the boys and girls.
How good they taste as we suck the blood from
their rounded cheeks and forms, and cast
them aside sallow and thin and care-worn,
then call for more!
Br-r-r-r-r-r-r-r! how good they taste; but they give
us so few boys and girls to eat nowadays,
altho there are so many outside begging to
come in - -
Only one boy to twenty of us, and we are nearly
We eat those they give us and those outside will
starve, and soon we shall be left almost alone
in the world with the stockholders.
Br-r-r-r-r-r-r-r! ”what shall we do then for our
food?” the machines chatter on.
“When we are piling up millions of socks a day for
the toilers and there are no toilers left to buy
them and wear them.
Then perhaps we shall have to turn upon the kind
stockholders and feast on them (how fat and
tender and toothsome they will be!) until at
last we alone remain, clattering and chatting
in a desolate land,” growled the machines,
While the boys went on anxiously, hurriedly
rubbing and polishing, and the girls down-
stairs went on collapsing.
The devil has somehow got into the machines.
They came like the good gnomes and fairies of
old, to be our willing slaves and make our
lives easy.
Now that, by their help, one man can do the work
of a score, why have we not plenty for all,
with only enough work to keep us happy?
Who could have foreseen all the ills of our factory
workers and of those who are displaced and
cast aside by factory work?
The good wood and iron elves came to bless us all,
but some of us have succeeded in bewitching
them to our own ends and turning them
against the rest of mankind.
We must break the sinister charm and win over the
docile, tireless machines until they refuse to
shut out a single human being from their
We must cast the devil out of the machines.

Child Labor by Benztown Bard

You going to put that boy to work,
That little bit of a kid,
Whose heart is out where the daisies are
In the dew and the grasses hid?
Going to put that boy to work,
Whose soul is way out there,
Dreaming of meadows and streams and bridge,
And the joy of the summer air?
You going to put that boy to work
Who is old enough, you say,
To be out helping you get along
With his little pittance of pay?
You going to put that boy to work
Who belongs to God awhile,
Out in the green of the boyhood sheen
Where the hills and meadows smile?
May be your business, and that I’m blind,
Or a fool to be butting in,
But putting a kid like that to work
Is an economic sin;
Stunting and putting him back so long
From the glory he should know
In the good green spell of the wood and dell
Where a kid like him should grow.
You going to put that boy to work
Because he can help you bear
The burden of grocer and clothes and rent,
And he ought to be doing his share?
You going to put that boy to work,
That little kid whose eyes
And heart and soul are hankering for
The blue of the summer skies?
You going to chain him in a mill,
Who all day longs and longs
For the playtime life on the good green hill
And the cheer of the robins’ song?
You’re going to put him in prison, eh,
That he’ll never get out again - -
For the dreams, the dreams, of the open day
Can never come back to men!