Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2024/spring/Section13/Mrs. M. C. Campbell

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Overview[edit | edit source]

Mrs. M. C. Campbell was interviewed by Mary Brown on May 19, 1939. In the original interview the names for people and locations were changed. People that were renamed include Mrs. Campbell renamed Mrs. McDonald, and Millard was renamed Wayte. Location name changes include Dan River Cotton Mill renamed Winding River Cotton Mill, next Rock Hill, South Carolina was renamed Delano, South Carolina, Highland Park #1 was renamed Maryville Mills #1, and lastly Danville, Virginia was renamed Exum, Virginia.

Lewis Hine, A little spinner in the Mollahan Mills, Newberry, S.C

Biography:[edit | edit source]

Mrs. M. C. Campbell worked as a textile worker in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was born in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Mrs. M. C. Campbell was born in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Her mother died when she was fifteen years old. Her father died first, leaving her mother to care for her and her ten other children. She was raised on a farm and her family was extremely poor. They could only afford to raise meat and flour. The family was constantly sick. In Mrs. Campbell’s neighborhood there was a barber that wished to marry her named, Wayte. She agreed to marry him and claimed that this was the happiest she ever was. But after ten children, and losing six, her husband fell ill and died. Her sister in Danville, Virginia asked her to come home with her after her husband’s death to which she agreed and got her first textile job at Dan River Cotton Mill in the spinning room. Her money was worth more than it was later in her life, she could afford dresses, meat, and flour. She moved back to Rock Hill, South Carolina and worked in a mill called, Highland Park #1 for twenty years. Struggling to afford a place to live and raise her children, they all lived in a one room, one window apartment until she could afford a five-room apartment. Campbell’s daughter, Carrie married a man. He soon after left Carrie, and Campbell accepted her back into the home. She assisted raising her grandchildren. Mrs. M. C. Campbell claims she prefers to work until her death. She loves working and does not want to have a retirement.

Social Context:[edit | edit source]

Health of Children During the Great Depression:[edit | edit source]

The most common diseases in the 1930’s was typhus, tularemia, Rocky Mountain fever, psittacosis, and polio. Cancer and heart disease killed twice as many as the flu, pneumonia and tuberculosis. While these diseases were still prevalent, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal began taking measures to improve public health. These include protecting water supplies to keep infection from water, insuring access to clean milk, and providing emergency and preventative healthcare.The Social Security Act of 1935 helped to expand health care by allowing states to have authorized health grants. This also helped people take more interest in hygiene, learning that a clean environment is essential to one’s health. “The Welfare of Children” is an article written in the American Journal of Sociology discussing the infant and child mortality rates during the Great Depression. The article states, “By the summer of 1933 evidence had accumulated pointing unmistakably to the fact that both malnutrition and illness were increasing among children as a result of the depression.”[1] Tuberculosis and other communicable diseases heavily influenced infant mortality rates. The third and fourth winters of the depression offered some hope when the infant mortality rate began to decline. These issues were worsened by the depression, as it had brought a breakdown in labor standards. Health improves as states rectify their child labor laws. The “baby-strike” in Pennsylvania in 1933 called attention to child labor and the unsafe working condition children are forced to work through. The Agricultural Adjustment Administration in 1934 decided that children under fourteen will not be hired to work in beet fields, making advancements towards minimizing child labor. By decreasing the number of children working in unsafe conditions, more children survive into adulthood.[1]

Great Depression Women and Widows Working:[edit | edit source]

In the 1930’s widows made up 32 percent of all female agricultural workers, 28 percent of domestic workers, and 6 percent of all clerical workers.[2] It was especially difficult for women to be employed during the Great Depression, with limited employment opportunities. Results of surveys determining the public support of women in the workplace was overwhelmingly negative, especially for married women. By 1940, 26 states restricted married women’s employment within the government provided jobs. To prevent married couples from both being employed, “Section 213 of the Economy Act of 1932 included a section that required the government to fire one member of each married couple working in government.” [3] This provided more opportunity for single and widowed women to make a living, especially widows with family. During a difficult time like the Depression, women’s socio-political role was to be a mother and a wife. Widows could not be wives; they lacked an income from their husbands and had to fend for their children and themselves with their own income. It is very significant that women made substantial progress during this period, as they were under public pressure to leave work, and to avoid competition with men in the workforce. Women were frowned upon for working, regardless of the fact it was out of necessity. The article states the statistic, “For instance, in 1930, about 3.9 million women combined the roles of homemaker and wage earner; nearly one million were from families with no male head.” [4] During this time, it was easier for a woman to be employed if she was single, not widowed or married.

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Lenroot, Katharine F. (1935). “The Welfare of Children.” American Journal of Sociology 40, no. 6 (1935) Pages 748, 750
  2. Kleinberg, S Jay. (1999). "Widows' Welfare in the Great Depression." Page 74
  3. Bellou, A., & Cardia, E. (2021). "The Great Depression and the Rise of Female Employment: A new hypothesis." Explorations in Economic History, 80, 101383. Page 10
  4. Bolin, Winifred D. Wandersee. (1978). “The Economics of Middle-Income Family Life: Working Women during the Great Depression.” OUP Academic, June 1, 1978. Pages 62, 63

Citations[edit | edit source]

Lenroot, Katharine F. 1935. “The Welfare of Children.” American Journal of Sociology 40, no. 6 (1935): 746–54. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2768342.

Bolin, Winifred D. Wandersee. 1978. “The Economics of Middle-Income Family Life: Working Women during the Great Depression.” OUP Academic, June 1, 1978. https://academic.oup.com/jah/article/65/1/60/785413.

Bellou, A., & Cardia, E. (2021). “The Great Depression and the Rise of Female Employment: A New Hypothesis.” Explorations in Economic History, 80, 101383. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eeh.2020.101383

Kleinberg, S Jay. (1999). “Widows' Welfare in the Great Depression.” 10.1515/9780585070414-007

Roscigno, Vincent J., and William F. Danaher. 2001. “Media and Mobilization: The Case of Radio and Southern Textile Worker Insurgency, 1929 to 1934.” American Sociological Review 66, no. 1 (2001): 21–48. https://doi.org/10.2307/2657392.

Feigenbaum, William M. 1934. “Textile industry paralyzed: From hand loom to the machine and mill, the story of an industry.” New Leader with Which Is Combined the American Appeal. Sep 08, 1934.

Brown, Mary 1939. “Glad to Work” Federal Writers' Project papers #3709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. May 19, 1939.