Title: Oral History Interview with Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson, November 5, 1974. Interview G-0005.
Interviewer: Frederickson, Mary
Interviewee: Anderson, Eleanor Copenhaver
Subjects: Trade-unions--Officials and employees--Southern States--Education Anderson, Sherwood, 1876-1941 Women in trade-unions
Abstract: Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson was born into a mountaineer family in Marion, Virginia. Her collegiate studies in social work benefited her later work with the YWCA. After graduate school, she immediately joined the YWCA as an industrial secretary, where she remained for over forty years. She helped to organize conferences and worked with Louise McLaren in establishing the Southern Summer School for Women Workers. She later became involved with the student YWCA. Anderson recalls the difference in class background between industrial secretaries and women workers. The most powerful tensions, however, emerged over the religious nature of the YWCA. Religion influenced workers' liberal ideas about race and labor conditions, which often led to the accusation that the workers were communists. Regardless of the communists' effective organizing strategies, southern textile mill workers rejected their atheist beliefs and liberal racial views. As a result, association with communist ideas frequently undermined efforts to organize labor unions in the South. Moreover, the YWCA's active involvement with labor unions caused a division among the wealthy pro-labor members and the working-class women. Anderson expresses her frustration with organizers who would instigate a strike and then leave, often creating difficulties for the workers. Anderson's neighbor and fellow YWCA coworker, Sue Stille, joins the interview and shares her positive experiences with the YWCA. Stille describes the YWCA as a place where strong female leaders developed; however, because of the Ford Foundation's acquisition of the YWCA, she believes men will gain firmer control over the organization. Finally, Anderson discusses her marriage to the writer Sherwood Anderson. Their married life incorporated labor activism; they helped with the strikes in Danville, Virginia, Gastonia, North Carolina, and Marion, South Carolina strikes. She reveals her protection of her husband's private papers. The interview ends with a discussion about the future of her family's ownership of Copenhaver Industries.
NOTE: Audio for this interview is not available.