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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eunice Austin, July 2, 1980. Interview H-0107. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Gender roles at a furniture factory

Women were prevented from working as upholsterers at the furniture plant where she assembled chair covers, Austin remembers, because the job required lifting sofa. Upholsterers earned the best wages at the factory.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eunice Austin, July 2, 1980. Interview H-0107. 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:
How many women were there in the plant, in comparison to how many men at Conover Chair?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
When I first went to work there, it wasn't very many women. The women just worked in the sewing room. But later on they started hiring women in the frame room. And there were more women working in later years than there were when I went to work there, but I'd still say at least two-thirds were men. Because they had a machine room; they cut their own frames, and they glued them and sprayed them. And they didn't have women upholsterers.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why is that?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
They tried a couple, but they didn't work out. They may have some now—I don't know—but they didn't when I was working there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What are the best-paying jobs at the plant?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
Upholsterers.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why couldn't women be hired to do those jobs?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
A frame on a sofa like this is heavy, and it had to be lifted, and a woman just wasn't able to lift it. Now they could lift a chair, but you couldn't do just chairs; you had to take whatever was coming through on the line.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Which of these places that you worked did you like the best?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
Oh, I don't know. As I said before, I was just happy to get a job.