Lewis Hine caption: Comparison of ages: On right end is Mary Deschene, admitted 11 years, helped sister spool all summer in Glenallen Mill. Next her is Lumina Demarais, admitted 12 years, and doffing all summer in Spring Village Mill. Next is Rosina Coyette, said she was 14 but Mr. Hine doubted it; has steady job doffing and spinning in Spring Village Mill. Left end is Eva Caonette, spinner in Spring Village Mill, said she was 14 but may not be. Location: Winchendon, Massachusetts, September 1911.
Lewis Hine took at least 40 child labor photographs in Winchendon, Massachusetts on the first few days of September 1911. Two are dated Sept 3, which was a Sunday. That explains why the children are “dressed up” in some of the pictures. All of the other pictures don’t have a specific date in the captions, but it’s safe to guess that Hine took them sometime between Friday, the 1st, and Tuesday, the 5th.
These four girls of French-Canadian ancestry might have been on their way to church, probably at what is now called Immaculate Heart of Mary, which opened in 1909. It is strange to think that this was more than 97 years ago, and that all of them are now deceased. Three of them lived a long time, Rosina Goyette the longest at 98.
Eva Caouette, the beautiful young lady on the left, was not so fortunate, as I would quickly learn on a visit to the town clerk’s office. In a matter of minutes, I knew that she was born in Winchendon on June 2, 1897, the daughter of Alphonse Caouette and Melina Branconnier, who married in Winchendon in 1892. Eva married Edward Morin in 1924; and then, childless, died of leukemia on February 25, 1926. Mr. Morin died in Winchendon in 1971. When I left Town Hall, her early death haunted me.
In the 1910 census, Eva lived with her parents and nine siblings. Her father was a storekeeper. In 1920, she was still living with her parents, in a house at 385 Maple Street. Both parents and all but the two youngest children worked at the mill. When she died six years later, she and her husband Edward were living at 371 Maple Street.
I wondered if any of her siblings might still be alive, but soon discovered that among those I could trace, sister Dorilla was the last one to die, in West Springfield, Mass. in 1993. So I began looking for survivors of the siblings by obtaining obituaries from various libraries.
Eventually I tracked down three persons, all of whom were daughters of Eva’s brothers. None had ever heard of her. Either their fathers never mentioned her, or the daughters just don’t recall it. After all, it’s been almost 83 years since Eva passed away. When Hine captured her on film on that late summer day in Winchendon Springs, he may have created the only record of what she looked like.
I walked through Calvary Cemetery and found Eva’s headstone. Whoever provided the information appeared to get the year of birth wrong. Sadly, it may not matter now, since no one appears to remember her anyway. Perhaps the last person to visit her grave was her widowed husband. He never married again.
*Story published in 2009.