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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin, August 4, 1974. Interview G-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Industrial Department of the YWCA

Lumpkin addresses the issue of class within the YWCA. In acknowledging disparities between women who came from middle class versus working class backgrounds, Lumpkin explains how the Industrial Department of the YWCA was aimed specifically at addressing the needs of working class women. In addition, Lumpkin explains how the Industrial Department was also geared towards the ideology of the social gospel and how its interests coincided with those of other women's organizations such as the League of Women Voters.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin, August 4, 1974. Interview G-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACQUELYN HALL:
It occurred to me in thinking about the industrial secretaries and the industrial work of the YWCA… you talked quite a bit about the way black women felt and were treated if they were brought in as sort of tokens to speak before white audiences and yet were segregated. Do you have a similar sense of the way working class women felt as they were recruited and brought in to organizations?
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
You mean among students?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Uhhuh.
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
This, some attempt at interchange there. We had that but it was totally different type of thing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did that work?
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
I'm having difficulty remembering just what our reactions were to it at the time. I have a faint impression, and it could be different as seen from the standpoint of a person like Eleanor Copenhaver or Louise Leonard McLarin. I have a feeling that it was harder to break the ice there. There was too much disparity of experience of these girls who came out of middle class homes and these who were factory workers themselves as many of them … Or store workers, or whatever. Now I'm not sure of that. I really am not.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was the YWCA trying to do about the condition of women in textile mills and industrial…?
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
It was trying, as much as anything… well it was kind of a two-fold, if I remember it rightly, a two-fold aim. One was to provide opportunities for self direction and initiative for groups of these girls to advance their abilities, to express themselves, to consider their own lives, their own conditions and to work for changing them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Unclear.]
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
Well, it was called the Industrial Department of the YWCA.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were working class girls more or less segregated into their own little…
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
Well, not segregated. They were really a part of the city department. The overall city organization. But they operated, they worked, their aims were so different from the city's. But they used the city buildings for the location of their work, normally. They had separate industrial conferences, summer conferences. And I attended two or three of those. I remember them well. And then, in some sense, I think the work of the Industrial Department, of this wing of the city work, was very much more, shall we say, advanced in its conceptions of how the conditions should be changed. And educating these young women in what standards should be were considered. But it was also, you must remember, a religious organization so some of their classes would be… and these factory girls especially… youngsters from cotton mill villages… were very often very deeply religious. And I remember… an industrial conference I was attending and it was in the period when Billy Sunday was a revivalist. And he had been to two or three of the villages from which these girls came. The Bible classes really almost were wrecked … I mean the classes in Bible study which they would have in the summer conferences, you know… as I say, it was much more a religious organization then even than now. Because these youngsters would say "But Billy Sunday says…" And this could throw you if you were the leader of a Bible class because most of the women who were leaders were what we might think of today as liberal religionists and not at all of the Billy Sunday school of thought. I was starting out to say, I think they had this two-fold thing. This trying to develop these youngsters into independence and thinking on their own feet and learning how to conduct organizations and to look out for their best interests in their work place and this sort of thing. But then they also had a general adherence to the so-called social gospel of the churches, meaning shorter work day, shorter hours, better wages, equal wages for the same work. This whole program or "social creed of the churches" it was called. Which was about an eight or ten point program. And the Industrial Department was very vigorous in promoting this and in getting the adherence of the full national YWCA to legislation that would change… They threw themselves in with other organizations in the South such as League of Women Voters and other organizations in that day to reduce hours from 11 to 10 to 9 to 8 to try to struggle for equal pay for equal work. Those were the years when the women's bureau of the Labor Department, [U.S. Government] Labor Department, was very very active.