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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Louise Riggsbee Jones, September 20, 1976. Interview H-0085-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Women workers in the cotton mill

Jones describes gender dynamics in the Bynum, North Carolina, cotton mill during the early twentieth century. Jones went to work there as a spinner around 1916 when she was about eighteen years old. According to Jones, most of the spinners were young single women. Jones explains how these women workers often left the mill after getting married, but typically returned, at least part time, in order to help contribute to the family economy.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Louise Riggsbee Jones, September 20, 1976. Interview H-0085-1. 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

MARY FREDERICKSON:
How old were you when you first went into the mill?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
I don't know, but I was around eighteen or nineteen years old. I didn't go in early like a lot of them did. But then after Hetty was born, and then I had another baby right after my mother died. Well, it lived about a year in all. It didn't have much help. It was a sickly child, but it died. Well, I got so. . . . They had two shifts on down there then. When I worked they didn't have but one; we just worked all day. But during that time they had put on another one, and I worked some at nighttime. I wouldn't work all night. They would let me work maybe about six hours or something like that, extra, and when Paul would be at home with Hetty I would go down there and work some, you know, at night to help out. And the Depression came, you know, in 1928 on. Oh, we really had it then.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When you first went into the mill, you said you learned how to wind?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Mm-hm.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember who taught you how to wind?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Well, yes, Mrs. Ida Hearn. She lives at Carrboro now. She was in the hospital last time I heard from her. When the mill burnt down she was working here, but she went to Carrboro and worked. Some of them did up there. They had a cotton mill up there then. And a Johnson girl that used to live over the river; she's been dead several years. They had one little winder down here in the old mill, and she had worked on that. Well, they knew how to tie the knots and start them up. Well, they learned all the rest of us then, that learned to wind; they learned us how, taught us.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Who were the other people you were working with? Were most of them young women like you?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Yes. Well, now, Paul's sister, we worked right-I called it an alley-together. My winder was over here, and hers was over here, the sides. And we worked in the same alley together. And there would be somebody along the other side. But most of them. . . . Well, now, there was one young man. He worked on the other side of me. Because he had spooled, we called it, in the old mill, and you tie the knots and all. It's right much like the winding. And then, well, there was one or two maybe older married women, young married women, but most of them was just young girls like, you know, that went to work down there then.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Did most of the women quit when they married?
LOUISE RIGSBEE JONES:
Well, yes, they quit, and maybe if they had a child or two they'd go back and work some like I did, you know, at night, to help out.