Stoop Labor in Salinas, California


Workers cultivate a field using short-handled hoes near Salinas, California. The short-handled hoe was used for a wide-range of different crops, including bell peppers, lettuce, squash, strawberries, sugar beets, and others. Many growers believed short-handled hoes made workers more careful and kept crops from being damaged. The bosses also liked the short-handled hoe because they could tell at a glance whether the farm laborers were working or resting.

Workers despised the short-handled hoe because it forced them to bend over to work. One bracero, or Mexican guestworker, called the hoe an "instrument of horror . . . designed by the devil." The use of the short-handled hoe was mostly found in California. In 1972 the California Rural Legal Assistance organization waged a battle to ban the hoe.


Photograph by Leonard Nadel, 1956, National Museum of American History.