Sunday, October 19, 2014

In Which I am Speechless

2003 US Postage Stamp features
Addie Card of Pownal, VT,
Joe Manning's first subject in the
Lewis Hine collection.

I have been a fan of Joe Manning and his research for several years. If you have never heard him speak about his work researching the subjects of the Lewis Hine photographs,  I will warn you: if you don't tear up at some point, you have a heart of stone.

In 1908, Lewis Hine was assigned by the National Child Labor Committee to photograph working children.  The organization was lobbying to end the employment of children. Joe was introduced to the collection by a friend and author. I contacted Joe last winter to arrange for him to speak at the spring meeting of the Polish Genealogical Society of Massachusetts. Due to illness, he rescheduled to October, and the talk took place at the Chicopee Public Library last week.

Until Joe told the story, we didn't know that he had become ill in March on his way back from an exhibit opening, celebrating the Young family of Tifton, Georgia. He had met 150 or so descendants at a reunion that started with an image of a little girl in a factory. Their story is here.

During his presentation in Chicopee, the 35 attendees enjoyed his description of the work he undertook to trace the descendants of child laborers in the Hines photos. He included case studies of local subjects from Chicopee and Easthampton, MA.  The collection of over 5,000 photographs can be viewed and searched at the Library of Congress. Over the past several years, Joe Manning has traced the families of 350 of the subjects.

The enthusiasm of the attendees at Joe's talk was evident in the Q&A following his slide show.  He was asked if he had researched his own family tree.  His reply astonished me.  Joe said that he had started with a genealogy class given at a local community college in 2002. The instructor had Polish heritage, as he recalled.  Heads turned to me in the audience.  "Was it Sara Campbell?" one asked.  "That's it!" Joe said, "She changed my life."

I have enjoyed lecturing on a variety of genealogical topics for many years. That has included non-credit courses at Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, PGSMa, and several libraries and regional groups.  Some students keep in touch and I am always happy to know I have "infected" another beginner, or energized a researcher who had reached a brick wall. I never expected the compliment that Joe gave to me this week.

Sara Campbell and Joe Manning, October 16, 2014
at the Chicopee Public Library, Chicopee, MA
Photo by Shari Strahan


  1. That's great, wow. You just never know what you will hear, when and who appreciates you. Proud of you, girl.

  2. I so glad you finally put this in a blog post! You are amazing, Sara.

  3. You are an inspirations to us all. Well done.