The Story: The Workers

We talked about how bad we hated to work, and how tired we were, and how little bit we were getting paid, and we wished we were somewhere else, doing something else. There were a few younger girls that worked up there, and we would talk about our dates, and the parties we went to.

- Eva Hopkins, former mill worker - Charlotte, NC

COTTON MILL, WHITNEL, NC. Child workers on the night shift.
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COTTON MILL, WHITNEL, N.C. On the night shift, waiting for the
whistle." - Child Labor in the Carolinas, 1909

For the child workers, working in the mills wasn’t always uninterrupted drudgery. Children were allowed to take breaks when their work was caught up, and some of the less strict supervisors let them go outside to play during breaks. The child workers were also allowed to talk to one another in the mill across the openings in the machinery. Sometimes, the workers learned how to read lips because the machines were so loud they couldn’t understand each other otherwise!

Interview with Alice P.
Evitt - Concord, NC

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Workers in the mills also played pranks on each other. Frank Durham remembered workers teasing new employees who had just moved from the farm and didn’t know much about mill work. “There was something like that going all the time, some little old tricks and then playing pranks,” said Durham. “A new hand would come in down there sometime to work, and they'd send him after a left-handed monkey wrench, or go down there and get the key to the elevator, or the bobbin stretcher and all that stuff. Somebody that didn't know there was no such thing.”