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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 >>

Decision to divorce

In this excerpt, Hargett describes her tumultuous marriage and her eventual decision to divorce her husband during the 1940s. Hargett explains how her husband was never able to hold a job and quite often his temper would flare. As a result, they were often forced to move because, in spite of the fact that Hargett continued to be an employee in good standing, mill policies prevented women from holding a house in the mill villages. Eventually, mill policies changed and Hargett was able to maintain her home and continued to raise her children without the support of her husband. Hargett argues that divorce was not overly uncommon during those years, although she hesitates to speculate about what caused most divorces. Additionally, whereas divorce was something that many people disapproved of, she explains that most of her friends and family supported her decision.

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: When did your husband die? You said he died sometime before your children were grown?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes. We were divorced, though. He died in 1950. Jim Leloudis: When did you get divorced?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Oh, my goodness, I don't remember the year of that. He was bad to quit his job and didn't like to work, and we divorced, and I stayed on working here at the mill so then they let me have a house. They used to wouldn't let a woman hold a house. And then they let me have this house right here, so I'm still here today. Jim Leloudis: Were your children young when you got divorced?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
The oldest one was nineteen, but he was in the Navy. Jim Leloudis: So that was in the forties, then.
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes. Jim Leloudis: He was bad about staying at work?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
No, he was bad about getting mad and quitting his job. When he'd get mad he'd go off down to Union County to see his people, and I wouldn't know he was quitting till the bossmen would come out to the house hunting him. And I'd tell that he was in the mill working. They said, "No, he's not. He hasn't been there." And I'd go look, and part of his clothes would be gone. When he'd stayed down there a week or two, he'd come back. Well, I had to move to Piedmont Court. Then when he came back, they'd let us have another house, move back down here. Jim Leloudis: What would he get mad over?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
He was just hot-tempered and didn't like it when they wanted to take him off his job and put him on another job. And when you work in the card room, you have to know how to run about every piece of machinery in there, and there's different things, and he liked to be a slubber, and they wanted to put him on drawing or something else. Well, he didn't like to do that. Like I didn't like to have to weave. I loved to smash. So they wouldn't let a woman hold a house then, and you had to move. Jim Leloudis: How did you feel about that? Did you think you should have had a house?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, I did, but rules was rules with the company, and you couldn't tell the company how to run their job. You'd love to, but you couldn't do it. But finally they got to the place where they'd let women hold a house, so I got this one. Jim Leloudis: Why wouldn't they let women have a house? Do you know?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
So they could get more hands to work in the mill. The more hands they could get for one house, the better they liked it. Jim Leloudis: Were there many people in the mill village that got divorced?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, there was quite a few. Jim Leloudis: Do you feel like marriages were more unstable among mill families?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
No, I believe they were more stable with mill families, because there wasn't many of them got divorced. Jim Leloudis: Why would people usually get divorced?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I couldn't speak only for myself, and it was because he wouldn't work regular then. Jim Leloudis: Did you feel funny about getting that divorce? Did people kind of treat you funny because of that?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Yes, some of them did, I think, but I didn't have time to worry over that. I had too many other problems I had to worry over. Jim Leloudis: How did they react?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
Some of them acted like they did about illegitimate children. They thought you done something terrible when you was getting a divorce. Jim Leloudis: Did you lose any friends because of that?
EDNA YANDELL HARGETT:
I can't say that I did. A lot of people said, "Well, I'd have stuck with him. I took that vow to stick with him" and all like that. But I'd tell them to tend to their own business. So there was quite a few got divorces, but I couldn't speak about them because all I can is about myself. . . . I was hoping you wouldn't ask me about that. [Laughter]