Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mattie Shoemaker and Mildred Shoemaker Edmonds, March 23, 1979. Interview H-0046. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A 1932 Burlington textile mill strike

Shoemaker and Edmonds remember a 1932 attempt at a strike at a Burlington textile mill where the sisters worked as winders. Strikers intercepted mill workers at the gates of the mill, trying to convince them to strike; the sisters, like many of their peers in this interview collection, were not interested. There must have been some interest, however, as the National Guard was called in to protect workers crossing picket lines.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mattie Shoemaker and Mildred Shoemaker Edmonds, March 23, 1979. Interview H-0046. 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

MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
That's the year we had the strike.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
It didn't amount to much.
MARY MURPHY:
What was that like, the strike?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Wasn't nothing.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
Well there was a bunch from over at Danville come over here and tried to pull the people out up here to come out on strike with them. But nobody didn't go out with them.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Well, they did pull some, don't you know that bunch from up at the Plaid Mill come down?
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
Yeah they pulled a few of them, but they was glad to get back in there.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
You know that bunch from Plaid Mill came down here. And don't you Robert Coles was in it and he belonged to the National Guard. He was in the strike and was up there. The next day or two they called out the National Guards and he had to go in as a National Guard where he had been a trying to pull them out. Then he was up there protecting the rest of us going in.
MARY MURPHY:
Did you ever talk to him about that?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Yeah I told him about it.
MARY MURPHY:
Do you know, how did he feel about that?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Oh, he just laughed about it. We had one woman up there, I don't remember her name.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
The Pickard girl. I don't remember her first name, but she was a Pickard.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
I believe she's dead now. We started in one morning, into work. She met us out there at the gate. We was told not to say nothing to them, you know if they said anything to us. We had guards up there. They said if they put their hands on us they could take them up. But they couldn't no other way. So we went on in and she told me, she said, "Well, you'll be …"
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
"In the morning I'll be …"
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
"On the inside looking out and you'll be on the outside looking in." She went on to another mill. That evening after we came out of work, Sheriff Davis—he is the deputy sheriff here, we didn't have no policemen, not in here because it wasn't a corporation. The sheriff had to look after us. Davis was a good friend of our daddy's. He came out to the house. He said he couldn't hardly wait for me to get out from work. He heard what she said that morning. He couldn't hardly wait for me to get home from work, he wanted to come and tell me. He said, "You know that thing,"—that's what he called her, "That thing," he didn't call her a lady. I don't know whether she was a lady. She could have been. But he called her "that thing." Said, "You know that thing that talked to you this morning? Well, she sure is on the inside looking out. She's down at the county jail."
MARY MURPHY:
Really! Wow. Was she from Burlington?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
She was from around Graham or Burlington or somewhere.
MARY MURPHY:
Why did they arrest her?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
She went on up to the Plaid Mill and I think she take a hold of somebody up there and give them a good shake. And Davis, he just watched to get his hands on her to arrest her. He didn't like her.
MARY MURPHY:
Did they arrest a lot of people?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
No. They wasn't many arrests.
MARY MURPHY:
So they didn't have policemen then?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
No, we wasn't in the city limits. Still in the county.
MARY MURPHY:
So who were the guards up at the mill?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
The National Guards and the night watchmens was out up there. They wasn't worth a hill of beans. They'd run.
MARY MURPHY:
What did those people say when they would come up and try to get you to go out of work?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Well, they'd catch us as we'd come out the gates or go in. Now the first morning they pulled it, our supervisor, he come out to the house and he told us not to come in that morning. They said, "We going to work on it and get somebody around the gates. You all can come in in the morning." So we went in, we didn't go in that morning. The next morning we went in. There were several of them around here and some of them I guess you'll interview, they wouldn't go.