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Oral History Interview with Ethel Marshall Faucette, November 16, 1978, and January 4, 1979. Interview H-0020. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    At age eighteen, Ethel Marshall Faucette began her official employment at the Glencoe Mill Town cotton mill making outing shirts. She remained for nearly fifty years at the same mill until its closing in 1954. As a young child, Faucette brought lunch to fellow village mill hands. While they ate lunch, she worked on the machines, learning various skills that would train her for future mill work. Her early practical education of mill tasks allowed Faucette to complete multiple jobs during her longtime employment at Glencoe Mill. Her father served as the mill's superintendent, and due in part to his managerial role in the mill, he instilled a strong work ethic in his eight children, and dismissed work-related gossip.

    The social benefits and economic limitations of mill life from the late 1910s to mid 1950s are exposed in Faucette's account. She describes the twelve-hour shifts and physical layout of the mill. Faucette explains how the mill owner's acceptance of the new eight-hour workday labor law prevented the growth of organized union activity. Instead of painting a picture of discontent, she downplays the perils of working in a mill. Faucette remembers that workers rarely complained about loud noises or potential health hazards. In fact, they largely accommodated changing work tasks and found avenues for relaxation at the mill. Because Glencoe Mill relied on water to power the machine, the unpredictability of nature resulted in free time for mill workers. Not until the advent of electrical power did workers have to relinquish leisure time during the arid summer season. Faucette also portrays the cohesive nature of a mill village among blacks and whites. Although blacks were omitted from employment as mill hands, they forged a social bond as domestic workers. Faucette's family demonstrated how mill hands took care of their own when they adopted an orphaned child of a fellow mill worker. The social and religious socialization of mill workers is exemplified throughout the interview. Faucette hints, however, that the emergence of a heightened consumer culture and increased job mobility contributed to the loss of the mill village's social cohesion.

  • Family garden required outside help
  • Faucette was taught to work hard and avoid gossip
  • Children learned skills that would be useful for work in the mills at an early age
  • The mill's pay scale system
  • Changes in nature provided workers with free time
  • Changes in flour making decreased mill workers' economic self-reliance
  • The mill's acceptance of a shorter workday led to worker support
  • Mill-owned homes underwent changing clientele
  • Adoption of an orphaned child represented the extension of assistance to community members
  • Ideas about gender-based employment and job loyalty
  • Leisure time declined with the advent of electrical power in the mills
  • Blacks not included in textile mill worker culture
  • Church provided mill workers an opportunity for socializing
  • Black women especially worked cooperatively to wash clothes
  • Mills sponsored social activities for their workers
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Textile workers--North Carolina--Social conditions
  • Women in the textile industry
  • Elmire (N.C.)--Social life and customs
  • Textile workers--Religious life
  • 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.