Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2021/Summer/105/Section 08/The Anderson's
Overview[edit | edit source]
The Anderson's were a family that lived in Cowikee Mill Village, Alabama. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, who worked at the cotton mill in Cowikee, were interviewed by Gertha Couric for the Federal Writers Project in 1938.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Personal Life[edit | edit source]
Mrs. Anderson, and her husband Sam Anderson, lived in a five bedroom house in Cowikee Mill Village, Alabama. Mrs. Anderson originally lived in a town called Comer, and she met Mr. Anderson when she moved to Cowikee Mill. Soon after meeting they were married, got jobs at the cotton mill in Cowikee, and had four children. Each of them grew up into different professions. Of her three boys, Frank Anderson was unemployed, Riley Anderson was a weaver, and Wallace Anderson worked at a printing office making 16 dollars a week. Her only girl, Leila May Anderson, was unmarried, and worked as a preacher in Georgia involved with “holy rollers”, which was a more fanatical sect of Christianity. Mrs. Anderson didn’t approve of holy rollers, as she was Baptist, and thought that the holy rollers were too eccentric. Going so far as to explain that “To see them, you'd think it was a barn dance” with all the jumping and singing they did. She did often attend her local Baptist church though, and that served as her main place to socialize, and hear gossip about other people in the town. Mrs. Anderson was actually one of the town's biggest gossips, and would often speak on the “scandalous and terrible” state of the younger generations.
Career[edit | edit source]
Mrs. Anderson worked at the cotton mill in Cowikee for thirty five years, and Mr. Anderson had worked there for forty five years by the time of the interview. Mrs. Anderson worked as a weaver at the mill for 12 hours a day. Long hours of weaving led her to do snuff, a type of tobacco, in order “to keep the lint out of my mouth.” And she continued to use snuff, even after she quit working at the mill. Mrs. Anderson stopped working in 1928, and then spent a lot of time at home, doing chores, and listening to gossip. Sam Anderson, who was mostly blind, still worked at the mill for eight hours a day and made nine dollars a week. He also tended a garden, as it helped the family keep grocery costs down. The Andersons also raised chickens and a cow, which similarly helped lower their food expenses.
Social Issues[edit | edit source]
The Great Depression and Women Joining the Workforce[edit | edit source]
The Great Depression began after the stock market crashed in 1929. The United States had just enjoyed a very prosperous time after the first world war, but “Between 1929 and 1933, unemployment in the United States jumped from 3.2 percent to 24.9 percent.” The American economy was destroyed, and production in the U.S. plummeted. Even food became hard to find, and food shortages were so bad that, “the most desperate unemployed workers began raiding food stores.” This ended up leaving many without jobs, or working jobs with unsustainably low pay. Women in particular had difficulty finding jobs that had livable wages. However, because households now needed extra income, women quickly joined the workforce, mainly performing "nursing, teaching and domestic work." Women also needed to enter the workforce because of a decline in marriages, which left more single women in need of a reliable income. And overall, “from 1930 to 1940, the number of employed women in the United States rose 24 percent.” So even though the Great Depression discriminated against women, it did push women to join the workforce.
Holy Rollers[edit | edit source]
Holy rollers, or Pentecostal denominations, were radical sects of religion that gained popularity during the Great Depression. Pentecostal denominations follow Christianity, and have an intense belief in God, and were popular among poorer white citizens. Holy rollers had high energy during their sermons, and would often speak in tongues, jump around, and sing emphatically. As they gained popularity, though, Pentecostal religions began to face increasing amounts of negativity and skepticism. People didn’t consider them to be actual religions. This is because they were seen as a “narcotic to the dull pain of living”, and were largely regarded as simply a reaction to poverty, instead of a religion born of faith. It also caused friction with other religions because the incredible intensity of belief that holy rollers held, led them to believe that you had to be “convinced of one’s sins to the point of intolerable misery.” This led other religions and scholars to regard them as fanatics. Some even insinuated that they were “psychologically troubled.”
References[edit | edit source]
- Anderson's. “The Sam Andersons-Cotton Mill Workers.” interview by Gertha Couric. Federal Writers Project, October 21, 1938.https://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/03709/id/1016/rec/1.
- Jerry Marx. “Great Depression: American Social Policy.” Social Welfare History Project, June 10, 2020.
- History.com Editors. “Great Depression History.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, October 29, 2009.
- Jessica Pearce Rotondi. “Underpaid, But Employed: How the Great Depression Affected Working Women.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, March 11, 2019.
- Holt, John B. "Holiness Religion: Cultural Shock and Social Reorganization." American Sociological Review 5, no. 5 (1940): 740-47. Accessed July 16, 2021. doi:10.2307/2083696.
- Flynt, Wayne. "Religion for the Blues: Evangelicalism, Poor Whites, and the Great Depression." The Journal of Southern History 71, no. 1 (2005): 3-38. doi:10.2307/27648650. 5-8.
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
Anderson's. “The Sam Andersons-Cotton Mill Workers.” Interview by Gertha Couric. Federal Writers Project, October 21, 1938.
Flynt, Wayne. "Religion for the Blues: Evangelicalism, Poor Whites, and the Great Depression." The Journal of Southern History 71, no. 1 (2005): 3-38. doi:10.2307/27648650.
History.com Editors. “Great Depression History.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, October 29, 2009.
Holt, John B. "Holiness Religion: Cultural Shock and Social Reorganization." American Sociological Review 5, no. 5 (1940): 740-47. Accessed July 16, 2021. doi:10.2307/2083696.
Marx, Jerry. “Great Depression: American Social Policy.” Social Welfare History Project, June 10, 2020.
Rotondi, Jessica Pearce. “Underpaid, But Employed: How the Great Depression Affected Working Women.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, March 11, 2019.