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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Carrie Lee Gerringer, August 11, 1979. Interview H-0077. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Balancing work and family in a working community

Gerringer insists that she would rather have worked in the mills than to have stayed home while her children were growing up. Although Gerringer talks about how she and her husband often had difficulty making ends meet during other parts of the interview, here, she says that she worked because she wanted to, and not out of economic necessity. Her comments here indicate great pride in the fact that, with the help of her husband in household chores, she was able to successfully balance work and family without having to hire anybody to help with the children or the housework. Her comments offer one way that families in working communities were able to balance the responsibilities of work and family.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Carrie Lee Gerringer, August 11, 1979. Interview H-0077. 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

DOUGLAS DENATALE:
So you were working, too?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Yes. I'd stay home long enough to have a young'un, and by the time he was six weeks old, I was back at work.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
How did your husband feel about that?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
He didn't care.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
He wanted you to work?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
He didn't care whether I worked or not. He said I could do as I wanted to. [Laughter] So I done as I wanted to. I never. After the two oldest girls got big enough, it wasn't no problem much. But whenever they were little, he'd work one shift and me one to tend our young; then we wouldn't have to hire nobody. We never have, all of our life, as much as we worked, ever hired anybody to tend to our young'uns. He worked the third shift sometimes and me the first, and sometimes I'd work the second and he'd work the first, and that's the way it would go. He would tend the young'uns when they came home.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
How did you arrange that with the mill?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
They didn't care. They'd let us do any way, but good.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
You just went down and said, "I want to work the second shift," and they said. . . .
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Yes. They'd let you do whatever you could to get to work. But we was real lucky.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Was your husband a good housekeeper?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Yes, Lord, he was a better housekeeper than me. I didn't have to worry about. . . . He was a good cook, too. He could do me about anything. He wouldn't wash dishes; that was one thing you couldn't get him to do. [Laughter] And bake bread. Now, he didn't like that. But outside of that, he could just cook anything. And that was a blessing, because he could have one meal done, and me one, you know, while we was a-changing shifts. And when he cooked, he used light bread or rolls or something. By the time my oldest girl. . . . Now that was the one next to the oldest, that one there? Now every one I've got's a good cook, just like me. I ain't bragging, but I figure I am a good cook; I've been at it long enough. And they all are good cooks, too, all five of them. By the time they could be knee-high to a grasshopper, I put them to work. [Laughter] And it seemed like they enjoyed it. And we washed clothes, just rub them on a washboard with our hands. Oh! Maybe a hundred diapers at a time. You know, there wasn't no Pampers like there are now. And I had two babies at a time, sometimes three, wearing diapers. And I mean, I'd work down here and come home, and me and them girls would wash them clothes, rub them on a washboard.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Wow.
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
They all know what to do, I tell you that. [Laughter] They're all good cooks.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Did you want to work?
CARRIE LEE GERRINGER:
Oh, yes, I'd rather be at work than be at the house, anytime. But I've thought about it lots of times, if I hadn't had no children, I wonder if I'd have wanted to work. I've thought about it, you know. You know, sometimes you can't understand what your reasoning was. But when they was little and growing up, I'd rather be at the mill, somehow or another.