By Professor Sarah E. Chinn
Read or Download Inventing Modern Adolescence: The Children of Immigrants in Turn-of-the-Century America (Series in Childhood Studies) PDF
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Additional info for Inventing Modern Adolescence: The Children of Immigrants in Turn-of-the-Century America (Series in Childhood Studies)
What is the look on the young boy’s face? Challenging? Curious? The older man seems to be staring blankly, as though dazed by his new surroundings and the sight of the camera itself. The mother and child create a charged circle of connection, but just behind the fence is a whole other world, of material realities. This contrast between the idealized image of mother and child and the larger historical context is a perfect introduction to the photographs of Lewis W. Hine, particularly the pictures he took for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) in the ﬁrst and second decades of the twentieth century.
Often reformers argued that parents valued money over their own children and were willing to hand them over to unscrupulous padrones, factory bosses, newspaper dealers, and other unsavory adults. In large part, this antipathy to immigrant parents derived from Progressive distaste for children working for any kind of pay or being identiﬁed as economic actors in any way: for NCLC activists, “true parental love could only exist if the child was deﬁned exclusively as an object of sentiment and not as an agent of production” (Zelizer 72).
Adolescents were in thrall to their physical and emotional impulses, adrift in a period of life that was “pre-eminently the age of sense, and hence prone to sensuousness not only in taste and sex . . but in the domain of each of the sense species” (2:38). Thrust out of childhood too soon by “our urbanized hothouse life, that tends to ripen everything before its time” (1:xi), the adolescent, with his or her delicate physical and emotional balance, was a disaster waiting to happen. Hall’s invocation of the urban environment is key here.