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Oral History Interview with Emma Whitesell, July 27, 1977. Interview H-0057. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Emma Whitesell started her working life at age twelve, inspecting cloth at a textile mill, and continued work after marrying a childhood friend and bearing five children. In this interview, she describes her work at these mills—many in or near Burlington, North Carolina—sharing details about the kinds of work she did. As she does so, she offers a glimpse into the life of a working mother in the early twentieth century. This interview provides a portrait of a strong personality, as well as a broad sense of the world of the white working class in the American South.
  • A girl starts mill work at age twelve
  • Moving from job to job in the mill economy
  • Whitesell describes weaving and spinning
  • Mill workers hire African American women to help with childcare
  • Reversal of a prohibition on sitting while at work
  • The Great Depression fails to rattle the already-poor
  • A violent strike at a textile mill
  • Changes in mill life, social and technological
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Children--Employment--North Carolina
  • Women in the textile industry
  • 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.