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Oral History Interview with Josephine Glenn, June 27, 1977. Interview H-0022. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    During the course of her career, Josephine Glenn worked in several mills around Burlington, North Carolina, allowing her to compare the textile factories in Burlington and their various working environments. In this interview, she discusses life in the mill villages, explaining how the textile workers provided entertainment, support, and housing for themselves.

    Glenn opens her interview by describing her family's transformation from rural farmers to members of the industrial workforce. Her family followed a common trend among textile workers, moving between mill and farm according to their economic situation. As a result, Glenn did not enter the mills until after she had married Bill Matthews and given birth to her first four children. Her first job was as a spinner in the Virginia Mills at Swepsonville. She insists that she never joined a union because she could always find work; she also describes how she used connections to find employment and how the hierarchy of jobs functioned at the mills.

    While Glenn did not change jobs frequently, other textile workers did. Even owning homes did not seem to make a difference in their employment habits, according to Glenn, because enterprising mill workers provided transportation to factories located in other towns. As a result, though her family remained in their home near Swepsonville and Saxapahaw, she worked at the Plaid Mill for several years. She then accepted work at the Swepsonville mills, where she remained until 1970. She describes the technological changes that occurred during those decades.

    Though the mills' employees worked long hours, the mills also provided a variety of entertainments. Glenn describes the movies, concerts, plays and softball leagues they enjoyed during their off hours. She also discusses how the plants around Burlington adapted for wartime production. After the war came further changes, but one of the most drastic developments was not technological: segregation ended during Glenn's employment, and women's roles in the workplace changed.

  • Transitioning from the farm to the mill
  • Employment process in the 1930s and 1940s
  • Life in the mills
  • Finding transportation to the mills
  • Issues of job security during the Great Depression
  • Changing technology in the textile mills
  • Entertainment in Swepsonville, North Carolina
  • Glenn describes where her children and grandchildren have gone
  • Conditions in the mills
  • Class and race among mill employees
  • Differences between town and country
  • The Virginia Mills, the Bakers, and Swepsonville
  • Finding childcare when both parents work
  • Purchasing the mill houses
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Women in the textile industry
  • Burlington (N.C.)--Social life and customs
  • Burlington (N.C.)--Race relations
  • 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.