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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Josephine Glenn, June 27, 1977. Interview H-0022. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The Virginia Mills, the Bakers, and Swepsonville

The Bakers owned the Virginia Mills in Swepsonville. Following the death of Ashby Lee Baker Sr. in 1933, his wife Minnie Fitch Tucker Baker assumed the presidency, making her the first female owner of the Virginia Mills. She was known as a generous proponent of patriarchy and led the mills well. Her son Ashby Baker Jr. led the mills after she died, but after his death, the mills failed, leaving all the employees—including Josephine Glenn—out of work.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Josephine Glenn, June 27, 1977. Interview H-0022. 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

CLIFF KUHN:
Did most everybody in Swepsonville belong to the same church?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
No, they had two churches there, and some of them went out in the country to other churches.
CLIFF KUHN:
How about your family?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
My family went to church there. I went to the Baptist. [Laughter] Two of the children went to the Baptist, and two of them to the Methodist.
CLIFF KUHN:
Why is that?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
I don't know. Their friends, when we first moved there. That's where their friends went, and that's where they started going.
CLIFF KUHN:
Did the company start those churches?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
I don't know. Mrs. Baker gave the bell and the organ. She was the owner of the mill.
CLIFF KUHN:
She was the first lady owner of a mill?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
Yes, her husband died and left it to her.
CLIFF KUHN:
Did she ever come into the mill ?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
Oh, yes, she'd come up there and look around.
CLIFF KUHN:
What kind of a lady was she?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
She was real nice, just another one of the girls, so's to speak. And they lived there for a long time, and they finally moved to Raleigh. And I've heard a lot of the ones that lived there--they were about my age, and they lived there when they were kids--and they said that when her children would have a birthday, she'd throw a big party for her children and invite all the kids in the village. Of course, there were not as many then as maybe there is now. And she'd give out the gifts to the other kids, instead of kids bringing her children gifts. She'd always have gifts for the kids that she invited.
CLIFF KUHN:
When did Mrs. Baker die?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
I don't know.
CLIFF KUHN:
That was when you were still working.
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
Yes, I was still working.
CLIFF KUHN:
What happened after that, in terms of the relationships the people who worked there?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
It didn't make any difference. The boys had already took over . Their oldest son never married. He was the business end of the work. And the other one was just slap-happy, and he didn't care if the wind blowed or not. But as long as Ashby lived, you'd never know the difference. Everything went on. But after Ashby died, it just started going down.
CLIFF KUHN:
When did he die?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
I can't remember. I knew when it was, but I don't know how long it's been.
CLIFF KUHN:
What happened after that?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
It just went from bad to worse till they went bankrupt and had to close.
CLIFF KUHN:
How long a notice did they give you before it closed down?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
We didn't have any notice.
CLIFF KUHN:
How did they tell you?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
We had been being on short time every once in a while, and they'd say, "If I need you next week, I'll call you." And then finally I went out of work and that was it.
CLIFF KUHN:
Did they give you any pension or any money?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
We had a [laughter] little retirement pension there, very little, and we didn't get that for a long time. But as they become sixty-five, if they have as much as ten years' service (the last ten years), they get it. They didn't start paying it, though, for a good long while. They finally started paying it, and I guess they'll continue, for the ones that are eligible for it. But they let us sign up for unemployment. I was out of work six or seven weeks.
CLIFF KUHN:
Was it hard for you to get a job at Cannon Mills?
JOSEPHINE GLENN:
Not when I really tried. I kind of wanted to rest for a little bit. Of course, I went every week and asked for work different places, and then I heard there was a vacancy at Cannon. And I went down there and I applied for one in the cloth room. I had worked in a cloth room at Virginia Mills. The man that was over it said he didn't want to put me on the third shift. I'd been on the first shift so long, and I was too old to try to go back to the third shift. He said, "I'll see what works out." So about two or three days later I heard that somebody had quit in the preparation, so I called the personnel man and asked him if he would change my application and give me a chance at that, So the next day they called and wanted to know if I'd come to work that day. I told them I couldn't go to work that day, but I'd come in the next day, so I went to work.