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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 >>

Giving middle-class women industrial experience for the YWCA

Lumpkin describes one project of the YWCA that involved placing young women, from primarily middle class backgrounds, into industrial positions so they could better understand the challenges working women faced. Lumpkin focuses on how the project operated where she was posted in Athens and Atlanta, Georgia; however, she also focuses on the regional scope of the project in describing the leadership roles of Juanita Saddler and Juliette Derricotte as well.

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

KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
Juanita Saddler… While we were there Juanita Saddler was on our staff. Juliette Derricotte was national head for the black student, the Negro student—I keep correcting myself so as to be in the terminology of the time. It was either colored or Negro then. I found a phrase where one of the … the woman I was speaking of who was then Dean at Talladega Negro College referred to "colored" students. She was Negro. It was in good repute, they used the term "colored." But Negro was commonly used. Juliette was the head, Juliette Derricotte, and Juanita Saddler was assigned to the southeastern Negro colleges. And there were three of us. At first there was only one Negro staff member but Juliette often came down and worked with us. And Juanita. And then there were three of us on the student staff. We changed some in that period as to who they were, but three. And Juanita Saddler (which we insisted upon in renting the offices in this Richmond office building), had her desk right there with our group of student secretaries in the one office… We had one office, I think, of several there in this group. And she had her desk there. And this we made a condition of renting. So that we had joint, we had our offices together in Richmond. That was, you see, '20, '21, '22, in there. So did the industrial staff people. Have desks in these offices. So that when we were both in our offices, off the road at the same time, we worked together on these student industrial relations matters. One year we… and it may have been two years that it existed… we had this project, as you know—or maybe don't know, I don't know—with the industrial department. Set it up jointly. For what we called students-in-industry. And we would go and work in industry—our students would. We would recruit students interested in having the experience of working for six to eight weeks in industry. I did it myself. I didn't do it in the South. I did it in Philadelphia. Took off, got leave from my job. I told of that I think in The Making. And worked in a shoe factory, or two shoe factories in Philadelphia. But then we had a project for the southern region, in Atlanta. And that summer I'd been assigned to work briefly… when the colleges were closed we did other types of work, so I'd been assigned to work at the University of Georgia in Athens. This was also in order to help super- vise the group of students in Atlanta who were working in industries there. And Louise Leonard McLaren was on the ground supervising and I would go over several… oh, once a week at least from Athens, and we would talk over and meet with the students and discuss industrial problems and legislative means and what they were encountering and they would relate their experiences to us.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you hope to accomplish by having…?
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
Students work in industry? A better understanding of what industrial conditions were. They were still very poor. [interruption]
JACQUELYN HALL:
I asked you what you were trying to accomplish by having students work in industry.
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
Oh, this was to… They literally had no knowledge of the life… After all, the great mass of students in the colleges were middle class students. Comfortable—reasonably. Some came out of ruralish backgrounds but even those were comfortable rural backgrounds. And many out of small towns and a great many others out of, nearer cities. But they had no knowledge, first hand knowledge, of the condition of industry in the South. Which, at that period, was still in an era of, for women as well as for men, longish hours in the cotton mills, deleterious conditions, and with a certain measure of child labor, though that was declining in the factories. This book I collaborated on, co-authored on child workers in America… that was, after all, in the 1930s. We were studying conditions in various parts of the country, in particular in one area in the South, a sample, and another area in Pennsylvania. And child labor still existed to some extent. But what was being attempted through state legislation was to end child labor and to make better, through legislation, the conditions of women, both in terms of hours and in raising the wage level and getting a minimum wage. Which… none existed. These were far more remote problems to the ordinary student. They recognized them and became interested in them, but it was difficult for them to put themselves in the place of… whereas racial problems and racial relations, they could not escape. So you did not have any need there to get the issues raised. They were there. But in this other instance it was partly an educational process, a "put yourself in the other fellow's place," kind of conception.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you have any idea how many students you had working in industry?
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
I don't recall, no. These projects went on for quite a while, I think, in any one group. Now, in the Atlanta group I could merely give a guess. My memory carries me back to sitting in the rooms with these girls. I would think we probably had 12 or 15 that summer, at least. And it may have been more.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you get the jobs for them?
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
No. They had to… that was a condition. They had to find their own. The most we would do would be to give them some indication of the types of jobs that they could look for and help them find the streets where the factories were. Then the great difficulty, in a place say like Atlanta, was that it was a light industry town and most of the jobs they could find were in such industries as candy factories, box factories… places such as this which were semi-, almost unskilled. They could learn their process, if they got a job, in a day or two. And then that was it. They went in as regular people asking for work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about labor unions?
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
Well, you see, these industries were the least organized. And certainly I'm sure none of them were organized in Atlanta. Even cotton mills were not much organized then. The great organizational effort came at the time of the CIO in the cotton mills. There had been sporadic efforts and there had been sporadic walk outs of cotton mill workers because of the deleterious conditions, but this came after the period.