Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Willie Snow Ethridge, December 15, 1975. Interview G-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

<cite>Mingling Yarn</cite> and its depiction of class struggles in the South

Ethridge discusses her first novel, <cite>Mingling Yarn</cite> (1938). Ethridge explains how she drew on her personal experiences of growing up in Georgia and working as a reporter covering the textiles industry during the 1920s. The story was about a love affair between the daughter of a cotton mill owner and a poor newspaper reporter. According to Ethridge, it accurately captured struggles, particularly those related to class and labor, in the South.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Willie Snow Ethridge, December 15, 1975. Interview G-0024. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

LEE KESSLER:
What was the name of it?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
It was called Mingled Yarn. And, as I said, it was all about the textile mills in middle Georgia. And it happened to come out the same week as Gone With The Wind, by the same publishing house (Macmillan), so it was kind of lost. Macmillan couldn't have cared less about it; they were so enthralled with Gone With The Wind (and so was everybody else) that few people ever heard about it. But I reread it every now and then, and I get the feeling I couldn't do it as well now as I did then.
LEE KESSLER:
Well, you know, there are many of your books in the Chapel Hill libraries, but that's not one of them.
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Well, this really is a very adequate picture of struggles in the South of the textile workers, when they were living in those villages, you know, and being paid by script and trading in, you know, the company store—all that business is in there.
LEE KESSLER:
What does the heroine end up doing?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
Oh, you see, she married the hero—a poorly paid newspaper reporter and they had an awful struggle. But she became more and more liberated, more and more enlightened, because the man was so very, very smart and so sincere and earnest in it.
LEE KESSLER:
Did she join in herself?
WILLIE SNOW ETHRIDGE:
No. A lot of people think that it was an autobiographical novel, which is so often what writers do first. There was a lot of personal experience in it in the love story, but I never did happen to be the daughter of a cotton mill owner [laughter] —unfortunately. I was poor as practically any laborer in the mills [laughter] , so it wasn't that. And the heroine of the book, of course, was the daughter of the president of a big chain of cotton mills. So it was not autobiographical, but there was a lot that I had learned from personal experience about the cotton mills and what goes on in them, and what people do, how they live. And so that was very helpful; the first person I sent it to was Macmillan Publishing House, which accepted it.