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Oral History Interview with Geddes Elam Dodson, May 26, 1980. Interview H-0240. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    At thirteen, Geddes Dodson entered the local textile mill as an employee, and he remained a mill worker for the next sixty years. During that time, he worked a variety of jobs, moving from cleaning up the spinning room to more skilled positions and eventually into work as a machinist, one of the most respected and highly paid positions in the factories. His father had entered the mill as a young man but retained a strong connection to agriculture, owning farmland that he either rented to a tenant farmer or cultivated himself much of his adult life. Nevertheless, his father, mother and all of their children spent most of their lives working. Dodson describes life in a mill village in the 1920s and 1930s, offering examples of how his mother balanced work and family, the way race determined employment, the ways children moved from education into the workforce and the various ways injuries could happen during the workday. In addition, he returns several times to issues of violence and gender, showing how men used physical force to defend their reputations, establish their authority over other men, and protect their women from other men. As an anti-union worker during the 1934 strike, he also offers some insight into the reasons some workers chose to join with the mill owners to fight against the flying squadrons.
    Excerpts
  • Poverty during the 1870s
  • Children learned mill work before their first job
  • Violence among textile workers
  • First jobs in a textile mill
  • Families in a mill village try to maintain a connection to the farm
  • Violence among textile workers
  • Women negotiated raising their children and contributing to the family income
  • Religion, salvation, and death in a textile mill village
  • Race and racism in a textile mill village
  • Resistance to unionization
  • Resistance to unionization
  • Learning new aspects of a textile mill job
  • Various accidents that happened in textile mills
  • Mill jobs for African American men and the process of unloading coal
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Strikes and lockouts--Textile industry--South Carolina
  • Textile workers--South Carolina--Training of
  • 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.