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Oral History Interview with Letha Ann Sloan Osteen, June 8, 1979. Interview H-0254. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Letha Ann Sloan Osteen talks about her work as a child on her father's farm and in Poe Mill. She spent most of her life living in rural South Carolina in a family of eleven children, her father, stepmother, husband, and six children. Most of the interview deals with the specific tasks involved in working at a textile mill, including responsibilities, and how workers were treated by employers. She also discusses how families handled working in the mill together, common illnesses, wages, and the death of parents. In her experience, families tended to be large and migratory, often working together in mills throughout the region. That changed with the Great Depression, when jobs became so scarce that people were more likely to stay in one town and maintain smaller families.
    Excerpts
  • Many large families move from the country to work in textile mills
  • A supervisor replaced Osteen to make room for a personal friend
  • Osteen's long-term job at the textile mill paid her just enough to get by
  • Mill work seemed fun when Osteen was a child because of her kind supervisor
  • Families started settling in one community once jobs grew scarce during the Depression
  • Mill supervisors often fired married women to open jobs for men
  • Osteen's family moved to a mill town in search of better wages
  • Hard work for little money at the textile mill
  • Many children enjoyed performing smaller jobs at the mill
  • Osteen's older sister gave up mill work to care for the family home
  • Mill work did not seem to cause illnesses or injuries
  • Osteen and her siblings had good reputations at work
  • Women find it increasingly difficult to hold mill jobs while starting families
  • Large families could only send one to three members to work at the mill during the Depression
  • Common diseases in mill towns traced to dirty conditions
  • Women may have married young in the early 1900s to avoid caring for many siblings
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Women in the textile industry
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.