MORNINGS ON MAPLE STREET

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Mamie, Eglantine & The Laberge Family, Page One

CLICK BOTH PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

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Mamie Laberge, 13 yrs. old, Winchendon, Mass., September 1911. Photo by Lewis Hine. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Mamie La Barge at her Machine. Under legal age. Location: Winchendon, Massachusetts, September 1911, Lewis Hine.

The first time I saw this picture, I thought it might be the best photograph Lewis Hine ever took. More than two years later, I haven't changed my mind. Mamie is placed perfectly in the center. She looks warmly and confidently into the camera, her eyes focused slightly downward, since Hine obviously positioned himself at her level. With her white dress and her hands held outward, grasping the thread, she looks angelic. The low ceiling and spinning machines frame her claustrophobically. But Mamie does not look confined or in distress; she looks proud, resolute, and incredibly beautiful.

"She was a real huggy grandma. We loved to cuddle up in her lap and snooze. She was very well-endowed, so we used her as pillows. We would bounce on her lap, and she would say, ‘Trot trot to Boston, trot trot to Lynn, you better watch out, or you'll fall in.' And then she would open her legs, and we would go flying down on the rug." -Cheryl Szlyk, granddaughter of Mamie Laberge

Winchendon/MamieAndEglantine.jpg
Mamie (left), 13 yrs. & Eglantine Laberge, 15 yrs., Winchendon, MA, Sept. 1911. Photo by Lewis Hine.

Mamie and her sister Eglantine, about 15 yr. Location: Winchendon, Massachusetts, September 1911, Lewis Hine.

Hine took 40 photographs in Winchendon, and Mamie appears in a dozen of them, six by herself. Mamie's sister, Eglantine, is in six of them. In her own special way, she is just as eye-catching. In the picture immediately above, the contrast between the girls is striking. Mamie is still radiant and warm, though her eyes are turned to her left, as if she is glancing at her sister. But Eglantine's head is tossed back, almost defiantly. We will become familiar with that pose as this story progresses.

"She never talked to us much about her life in Winchendon. We know that she didn't get past the sixth grade, and we know that she had to go to work in the mill to help support her family. I'm sure it wasn't easy for her. She had to work long hours. -Karen Czelusniak, granddaughter of Eglantine Laberge

Continue to story, including many interviews and photographs

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