HISTORIC IMAGES SPUR SEARCH FOR LEWIS HINE'S SUBJECTS
Oldest girl, Minnie Carpenter, House 53 Loray Mill, Gastonia, N.C. Spinner. Makes fifty cents a day for 10 hours. Works four sides. Younger girl works irregularly. (Lewis Hine's original caption).
From The Bennington Banner, April 14, 2007
By Mark E. Rondeau
POWNAL — Discovering the fate of a girl in an iconic photograph taken in Pownal in 1910 has led author and oral historian Joe Manning to research the subsequent fates of other children photographed at worksites around the country.
Speaking in Pownal
Photographer and social activist Lewis Hine traveled around the country for the National Child Labor Committee. He took pictures of child laborers that were published to build support for child labor laws. In 1910, he took a photo of a 12-year-old girl at the North Pownal Cotton Mill. This image rose to prominence when the U.S. Postal Service used it on a child labor reform stamp issued in 1998.
However, the girl had been misidentified as Addie Laird ever since Hine took her photo. Attempts to find out what had happened to her led nowhere. Enter writer Elizabeth Winthrop, a part-time resident of Williamstown, Mass., and the speaker at last year's Pownal Historical Society annual meeting. In her research to write a fictionalized account of the life of the girl, "Counting on Grace," Winthrop found out her real name — Addie Card — but did not have time to find out more. So Manning, a friend of Winthrop, took it from there.
Adeline Mae Card, known as "Addie" was born in 1899. As a young adult she married a man in the Navy and had a child. She lost custody of the child soon after she had it, as due to health problems she couldn't take care of it. This child was raised by her husband's family.
"Addie remarried a few years later, and she and her second husband adopted a child, a girl who was born to a woman in New Jersey and a Portuguese sailor," Manning said. "She adopted that child and — given her second chance at motherhood — she became this almost saintly figure among her descendants."
Died in Cohoes, N.Y.
Card helped raise many of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She lived for a time in Brooklyn and New York City, but the last 50 years of her life she lived in Cohoes, N.Y. where she was buried after her death in 1993.
"But Addie never got out of poverty," Manning noted. "The beginnings of her life foretold the end of her life. But she lived to be 94 years old."
This experience has inspired Manning to find descendants and learn the fate of other children photographed by Hine, including three of the 11 children Hine photographed at the Eclipse Mill in North Adams, Mass., in 1911.
"And now here we are — Addie Card is leading me on to further adventures," Manning said.
Manning will speak Sunday at the Pownal Historical Society annual meeting at the Solomon Wright Library. The regular meeting will start at 1 p.m. and Manning will speak after it concludes. Visitors are welcome.
Manning, who lives near Northampton, Mass., is the author of two books of oral history about North Adams, Mass. and a book of poetry. His projects about North Adams and now the Hine photographs identify with the lives of ordinary people.
"You get all these different, typical American stories that turn out from the lives that were led by these child laborers and their descendants. And you find a good cross-section of what was happening to the average person in America over the last century," he said. "In a sense you find out how history happened to the ordinary person and how their stories were all part of American history. And some of them were probably in one way or the other important to American history in what they did."
One such story Manning uncovered is the newsboy Hine photographed in Washington D.C. in 1911, a child of Russian immigrants. His son was recently a finalist for a Nobel Prize for chemistry. The same year, Hine photographed a boy named Henry Sharp "Shorpy" Higginbotham in a coal mine in Alabama. Manning found out that he was later killed in a mining accident in 1928, crushed by a rock. Higginbotham's wife was expecting their first child at the time, a son. Manning found the son, but he did not want to talk.
"When I stand up and speak I will thank Addie Card for the opportunity to speak to them, because certainly I believe she in some spiritual way ... followed me around in my search, and that she in a sense is continuing to call out to me that my mission now is to highlight the history of ordinary people," Manning said. "It's kind of interesting that Pownal has become kind of a symbol of the next generation of my projects."
Manning, a retired social worker, first came to North Adams on a visit in the mid-1990s from his then-home in Torrington, Conn. He came to see the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, but fell in love with the city and its people.
"I'm going to talk briefly about how I've been attracted to this whole area and not just North Adams, ever since I came up," he said of his talk Sunday. "The whole southern Vermont, eastern New York, north Berkshire area is a very special place for me."
Manning says that Pownal seems to care about its heritage. "There are a lot of people in Pownal who are very serious about their history. I admire that.," he said.