Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Dark Underside

An article  this week by American journalist Joseph B. Atkins about Ella May Wiggins has caught my eye.

I was surprised I hadn't heard of her before (my partial excuse not being an American) but when I researched further and read her story that exposes what Atkins calls "the dark underside of class in America", I was almost moved to tears.

What a woman! She truly deserves to be world famous for her guts in standing up for the rights of female and black workers in the 1920s. But the combined forces of American big business, politics, anti-communism and racism have all been determined to leave her holding the bucket since her murder at the age of only 29. It appears that even today controversy still surrounds her.

I won't reproduce here what is available online elsewhere, but please follow the links below to read or hear more about this remarkable woman and the violent history in the Carolina textile mills.
The strike at Loray Mill,  Gastonia, resulted in violence, including the shooting death of leader Ella May Wiggins, depicted in this drawing from Labor Age, October 1929

Two Youtube presentations telling Ella May's story by Sherry Lovett. One. Two.

Article on Ella May's music.

Ella May's grave.

The Mill Mother's Song

by Ella May Wiggins

(This song was sung at the funeral of Ella May by one of the women strikers)

We leave our home in the morning,
We kiss our children good bye,
While we slave for the bosses,
Our children scream and cry.

And when we draw our money,
Our grocery bills to pay,
Not a cent to spend for clothing,
Not a cent to lay away.

And on that very evening,
Our little son will say,
"I need some shoes, dear mother
And so does sister May."

How it grieves the heart of a mother,
You every one must know,
But we can't buy for our children,
Our wages are too low.

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