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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Letha Ann Sloan Osteen, June 8, 1979. Interview H-0254. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Women find it increasingly difficult to hold mill jobs while starting families

It grew more difficult for women to keep their jobs while having children between 1900 and the 1960s. Though mills used to let a woman like Osteen's sister-in-law return from pregnancy leave at her own convenience, supervisors eventually required a leave of absence or gave the job to someone else.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Letha Ann Sloan Osteen, June 8, 1979. Interview H-0254. 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

ALLEN TULLOS:
Well did she work in the mill?
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Well she did 'till she had one, or maybe two children. But she didn't work much in the mill. And back then, well, they didn't require a woman to work like they did on for years. You know they could work a day or two when they got ready and be outa day or two." They couldn't do that along when I was a working, eight or ten years before I quit. You had to be on your job.
ALLEN TULLOS:
You mean in the earlier days women could come in and out easier.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Yeah, that's right.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would you, usually when you were about to have a child, you would leave off work and then come back and they would let you come in.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Yeah, come back when you got able to go back to work. Stay out and have your baby and then go back to work when you got able.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And it was pretty easy to get back.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Yeah, easy to go right back on your own job. Because they took care of their people.
ALLEN TULLOS:
But you say that changed.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Yeah.
ALLEN TULLOS:
And that changed about eight or ten years before you quit working.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Oh yeah. Yeah, you had to get a leave of absence.
GEORGIA:
No, you just had to quit and your job was give away.
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
Yeah.
GEORGIA:
That's how come me to get to go to work because that Mrs. was pregnant and I got to go to work.
ALLEN TULLOS:
When-can we figure out when that policy started, the leave of absence, or when they changed.
GEORGIA:
Oh the leaves of absence didn't start down here until about in the fifties.
ALLEN TULLOS:
But, you're talking about . . .
LETHA ANN SLOAN OSTEEN:
It was after I quit when . . .
GEORGIA:
Oh lord yes, or maybe into the sixties.