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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Edna Y. Hargett, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0163. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Working community's customs regarding childbearing and childrearing

Here, Hargett discusses aspects of childbearing and childrearing in a mill community. Hargett gave birth to her first child just after she turned eighteen. In total, she had three children before health problems necessitated that she have a hysterectomy. Hargett describes how she returned to work shortly following the birth of all three of her children, which was made possible by the aid of an African American nursemaid. According to Hargett, this was typical for women who worked in the mill. Additionally, Hargett explains that birth control was a taboo subject and that children born outside of marriage were typically seen as outcasts.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Edna Y. Hargett, July 19, 1979. Interview H-0163. 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

Jim Leloudis: After you married your husband, when you were eighteen, did you continue to work in the mill?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes. I continued to work in the mill till I got pregnant, and then I'd get off to have my baby and go back in then, back on my job. Jim Leloudis: How old were you when you had that first child?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I was a little over eighteen. Jim Leloudis: Then you went to work right after you had the child?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Five weeks afterwards. Jim Leloudis: Who took care of the child?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
You had a colored woman to come in and look after him. They'd let me come home at nine and three, and I went home at twelve to nurse the baby. Jim Leloudis: They would let you take a break then, three times a day, to come home.
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes. Jim Leloudis: Was that pretty routine in most mills, to let nursing mothers . . .
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
It was then, but I think people started feeding their baby on bottles; they quit their breastfeeding. Jim Leloudis: How did you feel about your pregnancy? Did you want to have children?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, I wanted to have children, but I didn't want to have one that quick. Jim Leloudis: [Laughter]
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
We was both mighty proud when a child came, though, a strong, healthy baby. We wanted to get our furniture and stuff paid for first, but we didn't get that done. Jim Leloudis: How many children did you eventually have?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Three boys. And not any of them works in the mill. Jim Leloudis: Are you glad of that?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Well, I wanted them to do what they wanted to do. My oldest boy's a druggist. And then Jimmy's a mechanic. And Everett retired, twenty-two years in the Air Force, and he lives down in Marietta, Georgia, and he runs a service station down there now. Jim Leloudis: Did you have those children in the house, or did you go to the hospital?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
With the first one I went to the hospital, but the other two I had at home, on this bed right here. Jim Leloudis: Was there a midwife that came in?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, there was a midwife came in with the doctor, and sometimes the next-door neighbor. Because you didn't go to the hospital for that then; it was just looked at as something that had to be done, and you'd send for them, maybe they'd come over. Jim Leloudis: Did you want to have more than three children?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
No, I never did want a very big family, but I wanted a daughter and never did have a daughter. Jim Leloudis: Did you decide to stop at three?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
With my health, I had to. I had trouble carrying the last one, and I was put to bed several times. So after that they said I'd have to have a clean hysterectomy, so I did. Jim Leloudis: The reason I was asking that is we just found it real interesting; it seemed that people had real big families while they were on the farm, and then so many mill people didn't have very large families. They'd only have two or three children.
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
My health prevented me from having more. I would have loved to have a daughter, but now I don't regret it at all because I've got three boys I'm proud of. Jim Leloudis: Did most people only have two or three children? What's your impression of that?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Most of them that I remember had four or five, and some of them had more than that. Jim Leloudis: Was any kind of birth control available to people?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
No, people didn't talk about that at all. And it's amazing to hear how they talk about it now. I've told people that I was born a hundred years too soon, because I don't see the things the way they see them now. Jim Leloudis: You feel like it's wrong?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, I do. A lot of it, I think, is wrong. So many of these young girls now, just living together and having babies and all like that. I think a child should be with married couples. I don't like to hear of illegitimate at all. Jim Leloudis: Did you ever know of many illegitimate pregnancies in the mill village?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, once in a while, but that child was an outcast after that happened. Jim Leloudis: Oh, really?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, the parents didn't want you to speak to them or nothing. She was just simply an outcast. There wasn't many of them; there was very few of them that had babies. Jim Leloudis: Would the family usually have to leave the village?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
No, they didn't have to leave the mill village, but it seemed like that was the difference there then. People didn't associate with them like they used to, because they'd disgraced.