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Oral History Interview with Ethel Bowman Shockley, June 24, 1977. Interview H-0045. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Ethel Bowman Shockley was born near the turn of the twentieth century into a working-class family in Carroll County, Virginia. In 1921, she moved to Glen Raven, North Carolina, with her new husband to find work in the mills. Her husband found work dying yarn in the Plaid Mill; she went to work there in 1927 as a skein winder after her first three children were born. Shockley describes life in the mill town of Glen Raven and discusses the effect of labor activism there during the Depression. Although there were other mills in the area, Shockley stayed at Plaid Mill for the duration of her career. Before she retired in 1964, she had had numerous positions at the mill. Shockley explains how work was never steady during the Depression, but that most people in her community were able to get by either through farming or from receiving aid from the company bosses. Some of the mills in the community were unionized; some participated in the national textile strike. However, the workers at Plaid Mill, Shockley included, did not participate in the strike or labor activism. According to Shockley, working conditions began to improve with the passage of the National Recovery Act and after the United States entered World War II. She describes changes to the materials produced and the techniques used in the textile industry over the course of these years. Her daughter, Hazel Shockley Cannon, joins the interview. Cannon also worked in the textile industry, and together the mother and daughter describe issues such as child labor, health care, workers' compensation, and race in the workplace. They describe Glen Raven as a close-knit community in which most families continued the tradition of working in the mills.
    Excerpts
  • Paternalism and community solidarity during the Great Depression in a southern mill town
  • Reaction of a Plaid Mill worker to the National Textile Strike of 1934
  • Changing technology and production in a textile mill during and after WWII
  • Strong family roots in a working community
  • Effects of regulation in a textile mill on childcare
  • Reaction of white workers to the integration of a textile mill
  • Balancing work and family in a textile mill town
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Children--Employment--North Carolina
  • Women in the textile industry
  • Burlington (N.C.)--Social life and customs
  • Textile workers--Virginia
  • Textile industry--Technological innovations
  • Trade-unions--Textile workers--Virginia--Danville
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.