Magdalenian Girls

Since Pigtails is the website for the study of girls in art, it is appropriate to include some very early examples. Girls have been a popular subject in art for a very long time.

During the Magdalenian period in Europe (approximately 17,000 BC to 10,000 BC) people lived primarily by hunting. They had no metal tools. It is believed that they lived in tents in the summer, that could be easily moved to follow the herds of game. In the harsh winters of the time, they lived in more substantial shelters or, where caves or rock shelters were available, used them during the winters. Many of their artifacts have been found in rock shelters (overhanging cliffs), and therefore the Magdalenian people have come to be called “cave men”. The cave men are often portrayed as dumb and sub-human. This is not true.

The Magdalenians were Homo sapiens, the same as modern people. A typical group of Magdalenian adults would not be intellectually inferior to a group of modern adults. In fact, there is reason to believe that the Magdalenian adults would be more intelligent than modern people; life was so difficult that those with subnormal intelligence were unlikely to survive to adulthood.

The Magdalenians developed art that reflected this high intellectual level. The cave art at places such as Lascaux in France, Altamira in Spain, and Cresswell in England prove that highly sophisticated art flourished in the Magdalenian period. Most of the cave art consists of paintings or drawings of animals. At Cresswell, however, there are drawings that have been interpreted as dancing girls or women. The drawings are abstract, and do not appear to be representations of the human form to me, but I am not an expert on the conventions of prehistoric art. Dr. Paul Pettit is an expert, and according to him, “I interpret at least two of those long-necked birds as women – possibly some ritual dance undertaken by females, and possibly in the cave itself.” The first illustration is one of the drawings to which Dr. Pettit refers.

Anonymous – Cresswell Drawing(circa 11,000 B.C.)

The next picture is my favorite example of Magdalenian art. It was found engraved on a rock in La Marche Cave, France, and dates from about 13,000 B.C. The figure wears the bulky clothing necessary for the cold climate of the era. When considered by itself, it may not be obvious if the figure is a girl, a boy, a woman, or a clean-shaven man. When we look at it together with other drawings from La Marche it is easier to interpret. There are drawings of people of both sexes, from a newborn with the umbilical cord still present to the elderly. The ratio of the size of the head to the size of the body indicate that this is a drawing of a juvenile. The dainty size of the feet and feminine features indicate that it is a girl.

The picture has a hurried quality, like a gesture drawing. Note that the legs seem to be double. Is that intentional, or did the artist, who could not erase his engraving, decide to slightly change the position of the legs? Is the girl wearing a cape? Does she have a rectangular object on her lap?

The last example is an ivory figure of a girl that has been named Venus Impudica or Vénus Impudique by modern archaeologists. It was found at Laugerie-Basse in France. It is a little over three inches tall, and is missing its head and feet. It was carved between 15,000 and 10,000 B.C. The breasts of the figure appear to be just beginning to develop, showing that it represents a girl rather than a woman. Venus Impudica is, in my opinion, cruder than the other examples of Magdalenian art in this post. Nevertheless, it has a certain charm about it. It is fascinating to think that it may have been a little girl’s doll. Perhaps a man long ago, with only a chip of flint for a knife, laboriously carved a doll for his beloved daughter. She probably loved her dolly as much as any modern girl loves her more sophisticated machine-made doll.

Anonymous – Venus Impudica(circa 15,000 B.C.-10,000 B.C.)

Black Dolls, the Deborah Neff Collection

A doll is more than a toy. It can represent various things: an ideal version of oneself, an intimate companion, a butt or whipping boy, a super-hero, a training for future parenting, etc. Generally dolls take the shape of European babies or children, often girls.

How do dolls relate to race in the United States, a country deeply marked first by slavery, then by segregation? In the 1940s, Mamie Phipps and her husband Kenneth Clark, two African-American social psychologists, designed and conducted a series of experiments known colloquially as the “doll tests” to study the psychological effects of segregation on African-American children. They described the protocol in a scientific article: the children (aged 3 to 7) were shown two dolls, identical except for the colour of the skin and the hair, then asked several questions. The questions involved which ones had certain qualities (“nice,” “bad,” “that you like best,” etc.), the race of the dolls, and which one looked like them. Most children, while identifying the race of the dolls and recognising their resemblance to the black one, attributed positive qualities to the white doll. The following video shows this experiment:

This test was recently performed in A Girl Like Me, a 2005 documentary by Kiri Davis about African-American teenage girls.

The relation between dolls and race is at the heart of the exhibition “Black Dolls” showing the Deborah Neff collection of dolls and photographs, which was held from February 23 to May 20 in La maison rouge in Paris.

African-American children often had white dolls, as can be seen in the following two photographs:

Norwick, Conn. – untitled, NEFF 10020 (c.1900–25)

Untitled, back inscription “Helen Dorothy Elmer Jess”, NEFF 10007 (c.1908–1920)

Were there black dolls? What did they look like? First we have the racist stereotype; as writes Robin Bernstein about the “minstrel mask” of racist theatrical performance, “it renders skin jet-black, transforms eyes into oversized pops of white, and stretches lips into a fire-engine red vortex.” A gallery of such caricatures can be seen here.

Then there is the “darkened European doll,” a doll with facial features and clothing corresponding to a European person, but with a dark-coloured skin. Finally there is a long tradition of hand-made black dolls giving a more dignified view of African-Americans. Deborah Neff collected hundreds of them, most of them made between 1840 and 1940. Here are three dolls from her collection:

Cape Cod Mass. – Well dressed dolls with painted faces, NEFF 335/336 (c.1890–1910)

Lady in beaded gown, NEFF 68 (c.1895)

Generally these dolls were made by African-American women, in particular in the South. One would expect that they would be given to their children, but one can find several photographs and paintings of white children with black dolls, as shown here:

Burnham Studio, Norway, Maine – untitled, back inscription “Mary Jones and Dinah”, NEFF 10014 (c.1870–85)

Untitled, side inscription “Jean Frantz”, NEFF 10001 (c.1855–65)

Probably many white children in the South got such dolls from their black nannies. However in the North, anti-slavery activists also made black dolls to be sold during fund-raising events, so parents would intentionally give black dolls to their children as a token of support for black emancipation.

A strange configuration is the “topsy-turvy” or “twinning” doll, which was popular in the 19th century, especially in the South. It has no legs, but two heads, two pairs of arms and two torsos, black on one side and white on the opposite side. See here:

Minimal topsy-turvy doll, NEFF 241 (c.1920–30)

At the shared waist was attached a long reversible skirt. Flipped one way, it hid one side, as shown below:

Topsy-turvy doll (1)

Topsy-turvy doll (2)

In the words of a 1903 advertisement, “Turn you up / Turn you back / First you’re white / Then you’re black.” According to Patricia Williams, these dolls made by enslaved black women expressed the cruel ambiguities of their motherhood: some of their children, also slaves, resulted from their rape by their white master, while they had to serve as nannies for the free children that the same master had with his legitimate white wife.

According to Deborah Neff, other less credible explanations have been given, that black children on plantations were not allowed to play with white dolls, or the opposite, that they were were not allowed to play with black dolls. Another theory is that they descend from German “hex” (witch) dolls, which made their way to Pennsylvania: they had one animal side and an opposite human side, one for casting spells and the other for curing ailments.

At the beginning of the 20th century, black militants encouraged the manufacture of black dolls as a way of teaching African-American children the dignity of their origins. Anyway, the tradition of sewing dolls at home disappeared after World War II, and plastic replaced cotton; so there are few recent dolls in the collection.

I end with five pictures of the exhibition in La maison rouge, Paris:

Black Dolls exhibition, La maison rouge, Paris (1)

Black Dolls exhibition, La maison rouge, Paris (2)

Black Dolls exhibition, La maison rouge, Paris (3)

Black Dolls exhibition, La maison rouge, Paris (4)

In the 5th photograph, we see at the back a photograph by J.C. Patton, from around 1915, of a middle-class black family; the little girl holds a white doll. In front of it several “topsy-turvy” dolls are exhibited.

Black Dolls exhibition, La maison rouge, Paris (5)

Interested readers will find the above material, and much more, in the exhibition book:

Nora Philippe, editor: Black Dolls, la collection Deborah Neff, co-published by Fage and La maison rouge, February 2018, ISBN 978 2 84975 497 9.

Credits: The citations in the text come from the above-mentioned book. The above photographs of children with dolls and the shown dolls are from the Deborah Neff collection, their catalogue number (after the prefix ‘NEFF’) is given in the caption. The two photographs of “topsy-turvy” dolls with flipping clothes come from the Imgrum page of Nora Philippe, curator of the exhibition. The last 5 photographs come from the web page of La maison rouge devoted to the exhibition.

Child Labourers as Victims: Lewis Hine’s Photography (1908-1912)

Lewis Hine - Young mill worker, Newberry, SC (Dec. 1908)

Lewis Hine – Young mill worker, Newberry, SC (Dec. 1908)

To many contemporary Westerners, child labour appears as cruel and uncivilized. However, in all pre-industrial societies, there was no sharp demarcation between childhood and adulthood and children worked with adults—this was part of their education. In the European Middle Ages, childhood as we envisage it now lasted only a few years; at about age 7, the peasant child was working in the farm while urban children were sent to learn their trade as apprentices. There was no adolescence either, you were recognized as an adult (with full privileges and duties) at an age generally between 13 and 15.

Some schools existed, but they could be attended part-time, and there were pupils of various ages in the same class. As printing did not exist and paper was expensive, without manuals nor the possibility of taking notes, pupils learned by hearing the same lessons being read by the master year after year, so you found on the same bench newcomers and regular listeners.

The modern structure of the nuclear family, its view as a haven of peace, and the concomitant conception of childhood as state of vulnerability and innocence, stratified by age categories, arose progressively in Western Europe between the 13th and the 18th century, see Philippe Ariès, L’Enfant et la Vie Familiale sous l’Ancien Régime (1973) (translated in English with some inaccuracies under the title Centuries of Childhood). However child labour survived this social transformation, and it accompanied the Industrial Revolution:

“In the United States rapid industrialization after the Civil War (1861–1865) increased the child labor force and introduced new occupations for children. According to the nationwide census of 1870 about one out of every eight children in the United States was employed. By 1900 approximately 1,750,000 children, or one out of six, had wagework. Sixty percent were agricultural workers, and of the 40 percent in industry over half were children of immigrant families.” On the other hand, “in preindustrial and rural Canada families needed children for the work they could do. The immigrant children worked as farm laborers and domestic servants.” Despite modernization, old stereotypes survived: “Child labor was gender divided. Whereas boys worked in industries such as sawmills and coal mines, girls worked in the textile and garment industries.” (Internet FAQ Archives, Child Labor in the West)

Lewis Hine - Josie, Bertha and Sophie, regular shuckers, Maggioni Canning Co., Port Royal, SC (Feb. 1911)

Lewis Hine – Josie, Bertha and Sophie, regular shuckers, Maggioni Canning Co., Port Royal, SC (Feb. 1911)

But opposition to child labour mounted at the end of the 19th century. “Whereas child labor was considered both economically valuable and ethical in preindustrialized societies, it was increasingly understood as uncivilized as industrialization progressed.” It is generally thought that laws limiting or banning child labour arose from the fight of labour unions, like the 8-hour working day. In fact, “many working-class parents saw little advantage to keeping their children in school instead of the workplace.” (Internet FAQ Archive, National Child Labor Committee) Indeed:

“Figures from the United States indicate that children were likely to contribute about one-third of family income by the time the adult male was in his fifties. In Europe, children’s contributions were even greater; about 41 percent when the head was in his fifties, and in some cases even higher.” (Child Labor in the West)

The fight against child labour was waged mainly by upper and middle-class philanthropists, clergymen and politicians.

“A crusade against child labor developed in most Western countries in the late nineteenth century. The modern order of childhood demanded actions against the “social evil” and for child labor laws. The child labor laws were hardly effective, as they did not provide for sufficient enforcement. Compulsory schooling laws were more effective, and the debates on child labor had an educative impact as well. States, educationalists, politicians, and philanthropists joined in the efforts to get children out of the factories and into school.” (Child Labor in the West)

Lewis Hine - Millie Cornaro, 10yo, picking cranberries, White's Bog, Browns Mills, NJ (Sep. 28, 1910)

Lewis Hine – Millie Cornaro, 10yo, picking cranberries, White’s Bog, Browns Mills, NJ (Sep. 28, 1910)

Although agriculture accounted for 60 percent of child labour, it was strangely spared by that campaign: “While children working in agriculture seemed consistent with America’s past history, to many Americans youngsters laboring for meager wages in industry seemed brutal and cruel.” (National Child Labor Committee) This distinction could not be argued on the basis of health or working conditions:

“How were the conditions for child laborers in industry compared with agriculture? In France, research shows that industrialization intensified work for some children, as workdays in factories were long and more structured. On the other hand, rural life in late-nineteenth-century France was rigorous and primitive, and young men from certain rural areas were more often rejected for military service than young men from cities, challenging the “misery history” of industrial child labor.” (Child Labor in the West)

I think that the real reason behind this double standard is moralistic. At that time, bourgeois philanthropists were afraid of delinquency in the cities, especially in the urban working-class youth, and they set about to “save” working-class children from vice, see The Child Savers by Anthony Platt.

Lewis Hine - Madeline Causey, 10yo, Merrimack Mills, Huntsville, AL (Nov. 1913)

Lewis Hine – Madeline Causey, 10yo, Merrimack Mills, Huntsville, AL (Nov. 1913)

In the United States, efforts by politicians, philanthropists and clergymen, in particular the Reverend Edgar Gardner Murphy, an Episcopalian minister, the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) was established in 1904. It was greatly helped by the field work of the sociologist and photographer Lewis Wickes Hine (September 26, 1874 – November 3, 1940) for its campaign.

“The committee helped organize local committees in every state where child labor existed, held traveling exhibits, and was the first organized reform movement to make wide use of photographic propaganda. In 1915 the NCLC published 416 newspapers and distributed more than four million pages of propaganda materials. The propaganda promoted—here and elsewhere—changing attitudes and practices regarding childhood. The well-known photographer LEWIS HINE was one of the NCLC’s crusaders. In 1908 Hine resigned from his job as a teacher and devoted his full career to photography and to his work as a reporter for the NCLC.” (Child Labor in the West)

Hine spent several years photographing thousands children and adolescents who worked for a wage. With each photograph he included information on the location, sometimes on the age of children, and added some comment. These pictures are widely found on the Internet, with varying quality, either in sepia or in grey. The National Child Labor Committee Collection of the Library of Congress contains 5130 pictures, free of copyright; they generally exist in both sepia and grey, and in different sizes. I have chosen a few of them, in sepia and large size; the following 3 can also be found (in grey only) on The Authentic History Center’s webpage Child Labor Photographs of Lewis Hine, with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) copyright.

Lewis Hine - Cotton mill workers (Jan. 22, 1909)

Lewis Hine – Cotton mill workers (Jan. 22, 1909)

Hine’s comment: “Two of the ‘helpers’ in the Tifton Cotton Mill, Tifton, Ga. They work regularly. Location: Tifton, Georgia.

Lewis Hine - Spinner glimpses the outside world (Nov. 11, 1908)

Lewis Hine – Spinner glimpses the outside world (Nov. 11, 1908)

Hine’s comment: “Rhodes Mfg. Co., Lincolnton, N.C. Spinner. A moments glimpse of the outer world. Said she was 10 years old. Been working over a year. Location: Lincolnton, North Carolina.”

Lewis Hine - Selling Radishes (Aug. 22, 1908)

Lewis Hine – Selling Radishes (Aug. 22, 1908)

Hine’s comment: “‘Radishes! Penny a bunch!’ Sixth St. Market, Cincinnati. 10 P.M. Saturday. Boys and girls sell all day, and until 11 P.M. Aug.22, 1908. Location: Cincinnati, Ohio.

The following high-quality image comes from Wikipedia:

Lewis Hine - Little Lottie, regular oyster shucker (1911)

Lewis Hine – Little Lottie, regular oyster shucker (1911)

Hine’s comment: “Little Lottie, a regular oyster shucker in Alabama Canning Co. She speaks no English. Note the condition of her shoes… Location: Bayou La Batre, Alabama.

Finally, campaigns such as that of the NCLC succeeded in bringing children out of factories and into schools:

“Why did child labor decrease around the turn of the twentieth century in Western societies? An increase in children’s school attendance is part of the explanation. Research from Sweden, Denmark, and Chicago indicates that one of the key motives for the introduction of compulsory schooling laws was to control and abolish child labor. In Norway the number of days at school increased by 50 percent from 1880 to 1914. At that time children were schoolchildren and part-time workers.” (Child Labor in the West)

Note however that fighting child labour was not the only reason for the introduction of compulsory schooling:

“A comparison of Western societies demonstrates that state enactment of compulsory schooling is not explained by economic factors, such as level of industrialization or urbanization. Some countries implemented compulsory schooling well before industrializing. The earliest state to do so, Prussia, illustrates the noneconomic motive behind enacting compulsory schooling. Enacting compulsory schooling was a means to reinvigorate national solidarity in a context where traditional, external modes of authority were weakening. Compulsory schooling was a form of nation-building, foreshadowing the larger historical movement to broaden the rights of individuals as citizens and linking this to an expanded moral jurisdiction of state authority. In contrast, England, a comparative late-comer to compulsory schooling, enacted its Elementary Education Act of 1870, well after taking the lead in inaugurating industrialization. Yet, like Prussia, a weak showing at the Paris Exhibition of 1867 signaled a threat to its international stature, in turn challenging traditional means of authority and technical training. The prompt to reinvigorate national solidarity fueled a sense of urgency and thereby gave legitimacy to an extension of state authority over universal primary education.” (Compulsory School Attendance)

Also, “for the American states […] the timing of enactment must be viewed within the broader context of national formation.

“Compulsory school attendance laws passed during the latter half of the nineteenth century represented more than the cessation of voluntary schooling; they formalized a significant broadening of state authority and its assumption of responsibility for the education of children.”

Lewis Hine - Immigrant children, Washington School, Boston, MA (Oct 1909)

Lewis Hine – Immigrant children, Washington School, Boston, MA (Oct 1909)

For instance, in France, one of the objectives of the secular state schools established by Julles Ferry was to instill patriotism and anti-German chauvinism in children, in particular through an unrelenting insistence on the fight to recover the province of Alsace-Lorraine, annexed by Germany after the 1870-1871 war. Millions of young French young men educated in these schools died in the trenches of WWI, after which France recovered Alsace-Lorraine.

Finally in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, pressured by child welfare advocates and labour unions, included child labor regulations in the 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act (National Child Labor Committee). Teenagers were taken out of the job market and sent back to high schools, but the real reason was now mass unemployment: the jobs previously held by youths were given to their elders.

In this way the Western conception of childhood and and adolescence was finally achieved:

“By legally positing universal schooling as a common goal, the laws helped to structure the social and legal categories of childhood and ADOLESCENCE that have become integral to American culture generally and to the organization of American education in particular.” (Compulsory School Attendance) “According to a new regime that condemned child labor, children were supposed to PLAY and go to school. The schoolchild as norm was gradually perceived as “natural” and “universal.” As history is a way of seeing the past through the filters of the present, the complexity of child labor in the past turned out to be difficult to depict.” (Child Labor in the West)

Concomitant to compulsory schooling at higher ages was the raising of the legal age of sexual consent in Western countries, see for instance Martin Killias, “The emergence of a new taboo: the desexualization of youth in Western societies since 1800”, European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 8:459–477, 2000. Another result of crusades to “save” children is the specific judicial system for minors; as explained by Anthony Platt in The Child Savers, under the pretext of “protecting” youth, this system remains harsh, while it deprives youth of all constitutional rights granted to adults facing trial.

Campaigns to “save” working-class children, in particular the one of the NCLC and Hine presenting child labourers as victims, were ideological. Many photographed children do not give themselves the appearance of victims, they are sometimes smiling (see the above two little cotton mill workers); anyway they look courageous.

One of the most famous photographs by Hine is the one of Addie Card, a girl spinner looking weary; this iconic photo appeared on a US postage stamp in 1998. I reproduce it from Wikipedia:

Lewis Hine - Addie Card (Aug. 1910)

Lewis Hine – Addie Card (Aug. 1910)

Hine commented: “Addie Card, 12 years. Anemic little spinner in North Pownal Cotton Mill. Vt. Girls in mill say she is ten years. She admitted to me she was twelve; that she started during school vacation and now would ‘stay.’ Location: North Pownal, Vermont, August 1910.

I deny Hine the medical qualification to diagnose the disease of anemia. However, the historian and freelance journalist Joe Manning has published on his website Mornings on Maple Street a magnificent Lewis Hine Project, which includes a fascinating search for the real life of Addie Card. I summarize here his findings.

Joe Manning - Gravestone of Addie Card (2005)

Joe Manning – Gravestone of Addie Card (2005)

Addie was born on December 6, 1897; she was thus 12-year-old when Hine photographed her. In 1915, she married fellow mill worker Edward Hatch, but later they divorced, and she married Ernest LaVigne six weeks after. In her lifetime, she had a great-great-grandchild. She died on July 19, 1993, at the venerable age of 95. She is buried in Cohoes, New York.

LaVigne family - Addie Card with great-great-grandchild Sierra, and great-granddaughters Piperlea and Kim

LaVigne family – Addie Card with great-great-grandchild Sierra, and great-granddaughters Piperlea and Kim

Not bad for an “anemic”! But what about her weariness in Hine’s photograph? Joe Manning and his friend Elizabeth Winthrop interviewed Piperlea and Cathleen LaVigne (see the 6th page of Manning’s search). As one can read in it, Addie suffered from psychological abuse on the part of her father:

Joe: Did she tell you anything about working in the mill as a child?
Piperlea: She told me about how hard it was working in the mill, that she had to quit school in the fourth grade to go to work, about her father disowning her, and how it was so awful not to have your parents’ love.
Cathleen: […] She told me that when she was 12, she had a nervous breakdown. She was confined to bed for almost a year.
Elizabeth: What did she mean by a nervous breakdown?
Piperlea: I remember her telling me that she had a lot of mental anguish from her father. He blamed Addie for her mother’s ultimate demise. He blamed it on the childbirth. He said it was her fault.
Elizabeth: The death record shows that she died of peritonitis, which is an infection in the abdominal cavity, sometimes caused by appendicitis.
Piperlea: But he threw the guilt on her. She told me, ‘My birth was the cause of my mother’s death, and her death was the cause of my father disowning me.’

Hine had looked at Addie with coloured glasses. It was not anemia, nor work, that made her sad and weary, but her own father.


Update (2015/08/14): I have found a Lewis Hine Photographs site containing over 5000 child labour pictures by Hine.