M.C. Campbell, a white woman, was born circa 1880 (1879-1881) in Rock Hill, South Carolina. M.C. grew up poor on a farm with her father, mother and ten siblings. Her father died when she was eight. Her mother also died seven years later. To help provide for her orphaned brothers and sisters, M.C. married a local barber named Millard Campbell. The couple had 10 children together, only of which 4 daughters survived. Death was unfortunately all too common in Mrs. Campbell’s early life as she was widowed when her youngest baby was only 13 months old.
Facing Financial Burden
Struggling to provide for her children, M.C. moved to Danville, Virginia to live with her older sister. There, she got a job working in a spinning room at Dan River Cotton Mill. She did not stay here for long, and shortly moved back to Rock Hill, South Carolina. She continued in the spinning business, employed at Highland Park, Mill #1. Her youngest daughter, named Carrie, was soon married and had a child. However, the couple divorced and M.C took in Carrie and her son. The life of her other 3 daughters is not known.
Working conditions in Textile Mills
The southern states had the largest concentration of cotton mills in the United States. Wages for textile mills employees were reported lower than most other industries. This was a major concern for Campbell in her Life History, providing exact details:“1600 spindles and get $12.80 if I make full payroll” (Campbell, 7). Furthermore, “the ultimate importance of wage rates resides in the command of good and services which they could afford” (Douty, 3). The textile workers’ low wages significantly impacted their way of life. Many workers, such as Campbell, were forced to work multiple jobs just to provide for their families because the wages failed to cover simple living necessities.
Textile companies justified paying lower wages as they claimed to provide living amenities to their employees such as child care. However, according to Campbell, this was not case. Additionally, companies declared to practice “open-door policies” where employees could talk easily to the management. However, the industry did not adhere to such policies. Southern textile companies had grown to suppress the Unions and ignore employee rights such as working hours (de Vyver, 1). In M. C. Campbell’s life history, she mentions the 1913 strike. She recalled that “When they started the stretchout down there a lot of 'em joined the union and struck, but I don't believe in onions in the South because the people won't stick together” (Campbell, 7).
Women and Unemployment
Unemployment was rampage during the Great Depression, as seen by Carrie’s ability to find work: “She has tried every place to get work bat can't find none. She sold furniture polish as long as the man was in town bat that didn't last long” (Campbell, 5). Money was scare and North Carolina residents relied heavily upon the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) that was implemented to provide cash relief for states and local governments. Between the years 1933 and 1935, the FERA “provided relief payments to about 300,000 North Carolinians per month” (Abrams, para 11).