First published in Journal of American History 73 (September 1986). Used by permission.
This essay is part of a larger study of southern textile workers cowritten by Christopher Daly, Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Lu Ann Jones, Robert Korstad, James Leloudis, and Mary Murphy. It began as a collaborative endeavor with Sara Evans of the University of Minnesota, who joined me in gathering many of the interviews on which I have relied. Support for this project came from a University Research Council Grant, an Appalachian Studies Fellowship, and a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Fellowship.
Dan Crowe, Old Town and the Covered Bridge (Johnson City, TN: 1977), 32, 71; Florence (Cole) Grindstaff interview by Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, 10 July 1981 (in Jacquelyn Dowd Hall’s possession). The oral history component of this essay consists of approximately thirty interviews, the most detailed of which were with pro-union activists, a National Guardsman, one of the original German managers of the Bemberg plant, a leader of a company-sponsored organization of “loyal” workers, and members of the sheriff’s family. Briefer interviews with workers who remembered the strike but who had not been actively involved are also included.
Elizabethton Star, 13 March 1929; Knoxville News Sentinel, 13 March 1929; Margaret Bowen, “The Story of the Elizabethton Strike,” American Federationist 36 (June 1929): 664-8; US Congress, Senate, Committee on Manufactures, Working Conditions of the Textile Industry in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, 71 Cong., 1 sess., May 8, 9, and 20, 1929; American Bemberg Corp. v. George Miller, et al., minute books “Q” and “R,” Chancery Court minutes, Carter County, TN, 22 July 1929 (Carter County Courthouse, Elizabethton, TN).
For the 1929 strike wave, see Tom Tippett, When Southern Labor Stirs (New York: 1931); Liston Pope, Millhands and Preachers: A Study of Gastonia (New York: 1942), 207-330; James A. Hodges, “Challenge to the New South: The Great Textile Strike in Elizabethton, Tennessee, 1929,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 23 (December 1964): 343-57; Irving Bernstein, The Lean Years: A History of the American Worker, 1920-1933 (Boston: 1960), 1-43; David S. Painter, “The Southern Labor Revolt of 1929” (seminar paper, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1974, in David S. Painter’s possession); and Jesse Creed Jones, “Revolt in Appalachia: The Elizabethton Rayon Strike, 1929” (honors thesis, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1974, in Paul H. Bergeron’s possession).
On Ella May Wiggins, see Lynn Haessly, “‘Mill Mother’s Lament’: Ella May, Working Women’s Militancy, and the 1929 Gaston County Textile Strikes” and “‘Mill Mother’s Lament’: The Intellectual Left’s Reshaping of the 1929 Gaston County Textile Strikes and Songs” (seminar papers University of North Carolina,