Title: Oral History Interview with Nell Putnam Sigmon, December 13, 1979. Interview H-0143.
Interviewer: Hall, Jacquelyn
Interviewee: Sigmon, Nell Putnam
Subjects: Women in the textile industry Concord (N.C.)--Race relations Newland (N.C.)--Social life and customs--20th century
Abstract: In this 1979 interview for the Piedmont Industrialization series, Nell Putnam Sigmon describes her upbringing in a large family, her decision at age eighteen to take a job sewing women's gloves, her work in the mill, and her experiences as wife and mother of two children. Sigmon grew up in a family of three girls and five boys; the family moved to various locations on account of her father's work supervising construction projects for Duke Power Company. On her own initiative, out of desire to make money and be with friends, she left school after completing the tenth grade and took a job sewing gloves at Conover Glove Company, in Conover, North Carolina. Except for a brief hiatus following the birth of a child, she worked her entire adult life in local textile mills sewing gloves, even taking a sewing machine into her home in order to continue working while tending to her ill husband and to earn extra money in retirement. She especially enjoyed the camaraderie with other women sewers and the relative independence afforded to them at the mill. Sigmon's mother died young, at age fifty-five, from a heart attack, which Sigmon attributes perhaps to the strain attending the overseas military deployment of all five of her brothers during World War II. At age twenty-seven, Sigmon married. Although her marriage was a happy one, she nonetheless recalls how she and another man, who still resides in the community, had earlier had strong feelings for one another. Sigmon explains how she knew nothing of childrearing upon getting married, but nonetheless managed with the help of her husband to ensure the children's health and education. Sigmon's husband, a mechanic, suffered from serious problems with his feet and later died of cancer after a long and painful decline; she was supported through this trial by women friends. Sigmon describes in detail her work making gloves, sketches the implications of changes in ownership of the mills, and notes that she and others often felt that the mill owners could have paid them more; that said, she regards unions as anathema. She also reflects on race relations in the mill and community, noting first that she can readily understand the desire by African Americans to have equal rights ("Well, they want to live, too") but also that she disapproves of mixed-race marriage ("that's just going too far") and worship.