Civilizing Capitalism: The National Consumers' League, Women's Activism, and Labor Standards in the New Deal Era

By Landon R. Y. Storrs | Go to book overview

chapter 3

A Subtle Program Come
Down from the North?
The Consumers'
League Develops a
Southern Strategy

On March 12, 1929, in a rayon plant in Elizabethton, Tennessee, section leader Margaret Bowen was demoted after she asked for a raise from the $10.64 she received for a fifty-six‐ hour week. Over five hundred women walked out in support of Bowen. Soon more than 5,000 workers, 70 percent of them women, had left the local mills. The next month, in Gastonia, North Carolina, almost 2,000 employees of the Loray mills went on strike, demanding better pay and working conditions. One woman who had worked in a Gastonia mill since she was fourteen reported, "We worked thirteen hours a day, and we were so stretched out that lots of times we didn't stop for anything. Sometimes we took sandwiches to work, and ate them as we worked. Sometimes we didn't even get to eat them. If we couldn't keep our work up like they wanted us to, they would curse us and threaten to fire us." Hundreds more mill women struck in Marion, North Carolina, in July. They told a similar tale: "I work twelve hours and twenty minutes a day and I am completely worn out at stopping time. Men and women who work in the mill are weak and sallow looking, some of

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