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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eula McGill, February 3, 1976. Interview G-0040-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Working conditions in a southern textile mill

Here, McGill describes what it was like to work in the Dwight textile mills during the late 1920s. Where McGill worked, nearly all of the workers were women, especially the ones that occupied the positions that were less highly regarded in terms of required level of skill. Hours were long and the work required constant vigilance, which made it difficult for the workers to get to know one another for socializing or organizing. When asked how she and the others tolerated such conditions, McGill identifies economic necessity and survival as her driving force.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eula McGill, February 3, 1976. Interview G-0040-1. 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

The weavers were always considered the aristocrats in textile, and I remember they used to talk about they needed roller skates to watch all their looms, you know. Yes, it was part of the struggles there in the turn there coming into the thirties, that Bidot system (or stretch-out, we called it).
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about spinning? I thought spinning was a fairly skilled task in a textile mill? Is it not one of the. . . ?
EULA MCGILL:
Well, it's not as skilled as weaving. Weaving's the most, I think; it was higher paid than any other, as I remember it, among the jobs. Women mostly, but a lot of men were weavers; very few women, as I remember it, were in weaving. And I tried to get away from spinning so I could get into something else. I always considered my hands were too big and I was too tall for a spinner-I had to stoop too much, you see, to get down. I was not cut out to be a spinner. And I never could get transferred out into nothing else. I asked to be going into winding (felt I could do better) or the warping, where you had to reach high to take the big spools and put it on this frame, and it run down into a big bin that run the warping to go down into the weaving room. And I always figured I'd be better off there. It looked sensible to me to put me over in something like that (me and my height), but I never could talk them into it. I never was able to move; they just wouldn't transfer you, hardly.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, were there a lot of other women and children working in that mill?
EULA MCGILL:
No children when I was in there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
A lot of women?
EULA MCGILL:
Oh, all of us were women; all of the spinners were women. Spinners, spoolers, warpers-all women, and in the card room a lot of women.
JACQUELYN HALL:
After you quit school and were working there full-time, working the night shift, did your social life revolve around the mill and the people that you. . . ?
EULA MCGILL:
No, never associated, I never associated with the people in the mill. I just lived in a different part of town, and Dorothy (the girl who worked with me) and I still had the same friends. I never associated.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And there wasn't any . . . ?
EULA MCGILL:
Not because I felt any different, but because I just didn't live . . . my friends were different, and I just still associated with the same people that I'd gone to school with.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And while you were at work there wasn't really any time to get acquainted with people; there weren't any breaks.
EULA MCGILL:
No, no, you didn't have no time to talk, no. You didn't get to talk; you yelled at each other through the room if you talked to somebody. You didn't get time to leave your job and go nowhere else, I guarantee you; there was no idle time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about the lint and noise?
EULA MCGILL:
Oh, it was terrific; I couldn't stand it. I hated every day I ever spent in there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Really?
EULA MCGILL:
It was uncomfortable.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you get through the day? I mean, twelve hours standing!
EULA MCGILL:
Well, you had to; you had to eat, you had to live, you needed the money.