Story By Barry Kaufman
Rosie: How Bluffton reshaped child-labor laws
It was around 1913 when Rosie Berdych unwittingly became the face of a movement that would change labor laws forever in this country. At just seven years old, she was in her second year on the job as an oyster shucker at Bluffton’s Varn & Platt Canning Co. when famed photographer Lewis Wickes Hine took the above photo of her prying open an oyster.
Illiterate, unschooled and living as a migrant worker with her family, Berdych was one of several children at the canning company Hine would photograph on that visit.
Once thought to be the photographer behind the iconic “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper” photo, Hine was traveling the country documenting child labor on behalf of the National Child Labor Committee. His photo of young Rosie, as well as photos he took across the Carolinas of young children pressed into labor, were submitted into the public record and played a huge rule in enacting child-
labor laws in the early 1920s.