Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Spring/105/Section 60/Emma Willins
Overview[edit | edit source]
Emma Willins, was interviewed by Muriel L. Wolff in association with the Federal Writers’ project. This interview took place on September 21, 1928.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Emma Willins was a proud eighty three year old woman who was born in Gold Hill, NC but lived all her life in Concord, NC. Emma Willins only went to school up until she was ten years old. When she was 12 she had to start working in the Concord cotton mill because she needed to support her family. Her family needed her help because when she was 4 years old her father came back from the Civil War and passed away shortly after. She had to work from six in the morning to seven at night and would only get paid twenty five cents a day. Emma had a mother who had a heart problem. Other important people in her life were her aunt, little sister, and little brother. Emma worked in the mills for 63 years and had to quit working because of a case of gripe. After Emma quit her job, the Mill let her live there for a while without paying rent or anything but she claimed to say that she does not know what she would have done if it wasn’t for the people in the mills. Emma got a lot of visits from the preacher and she enjoyed them because she was part of a small Lutheran church. The preacher was young so Emma referred to him as a “young boy” or “baby”. She would receive visits every week from the preacher.
Social, Political, and Cultural Issues[edit | edit source]
Working Conditions for Women in the Great Depression[edit | edit source]
During the early 20th century, the working conditions for women were not the best. A lot of people suffered from working in these cotton mills, especially women. “Life was lived close to the bone. Under these conditions, necessity and habit fostered rural traditions of mutual aid” (1). The roles for women were changing because during World War I many women that had been staying at home and working had now entered the work force so this was a big change. Children and women were taken advantage of because they had never really worked outside of home before. Most of the times it was better to quit than to be under working conditions like that, because women would be treated very poorly and would later reflect that towards the children in their families. Women were still given benefits by working in the mills for example housing without having to pay rent and many more things. “Although their hours and wages were both cut, they were still able to work in the mill without fear that it would shut down, and living in the mill village meant they had secured housing, plumbing, and electricity” (2)
Religion in the Great Depression[edit | edit source]
Popularity of religion was declining during the Great Depression this was because there was an observation that less missionaries and less people attending the church during this time. There was a transition period that happened from religion having a lot of popularity to a period where religion was slowly declining in popularity. A general trend toward the dropping of traditional Sunday evening services, especially in the cities, was also evident.” (3) Not only there were less missionaries and less people but the important people from the church were the ones that were noticing the difference the most. “By the middle of the third decade of the present century, Protestantism was becoming aware of a serious decline in missionary enthusiasm and conviction.”(4) It made sense that the popularity of religion decreased because we were in a period of depression.
Women in the Great Depression[edit | edit source]
During the Great Depression women's roles were changing rapidly. Even though they had hard working conditions they were still prospering because they had a stronger place in society and this was caused because there was a lot of new technology which caused new jobs to expand. “But some women still needed to work, and work they did. While the economy was losing some jobs, in newer fields, such as the radio and telephone industries, job opportunities for women were actually expanding.”(5) Women were also thriving in other places such as film industry there were a lot of women who were becoming stars, they were fulfilling their jobs as women in society and were getting more freedoms.
References[edit | edit source]
- ↑ Dowd et al. "Cotton Mill People: Work, Community, and Protest in the Textile South, 1880-1940."
- ↑Dunne, "The Great Depression."
- ↑Handy, "The American Religious Depression, 1925-1935."
- ↑ Ibid
- ↑Johnson Lewis, "The 1930s: Women’s Shifting Rights and Roles in United States."
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
- Dunne, Sierra . n.d. The Great Depression. Digital Rocky Mount Mills. https://rockymountmill.prospect.unc.edu/mill-history/narrative/great-depression/.
- Johnson Lewis , Jone . n.d. The 1930s: Women’s Shifting Rights and Roles in United States. Thought CO. 2020. https://www.thoughtco.com/womens-rights-1930s-4141164.
- Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd, Robert Korstad, and James Leloudis. "Cotton Mill People: Work, Community, and Protest in the Textile South, 1880-1940." The American Historical Review 91, no. 2 (1986): 245-86. doi:10.2307/1858134.
- Handy, Robert T. "The American Religious Depression, 1925-1935." Church History 29, no. 1 (1960): 3-16. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3161613.