In the Feb. 4 Saturday Letters, The Times printed a letter by VaNita Winker ("He's Not So Oppressed") regarding Lewis W. Hine's 1908 photograph "Self-Portrait With Newsboy." Winker claims that the photo does not accurately portray children oppressed by forced work.
Newsboys worked all day, every day, in all kinds of weather for little pay. They pounded the pavement hawking the "papes" from dawn until the last one was sold. They did it for $2 to $3 a day. That little profit went back to the newspaper for the next edition.
Winker is right about one thing, a newsboy would not have the time to vandalize, join gangs or worry about guns or graffiti. But the newsboys also had little time to be children, to play, learn (despite what she suggests about school) and be joyful. Few made it out, thousands disappeared on the streets never to be heard from again.
We tried child labor once before in this country. It did not end happily for the children who were lost. The solution to today's problems is not to turn children back into peddlers, street merchants or sweatshop workers. We will lose more children than we save.