Women’s Lives

Women’s Attitudes Towards Secession and the Civil War

Original, unpublished documents and correspondence from gifted Sandhills women provide unique and fascinating perspectives of the beginning, middle, and end of the Civil War period in North Carolina. An initially uplifting, idealistic support of the Union as a great experiment in democracy and self-rule ultimately fades into prayers for return of the surviving men as well as hopes for peace, followed by ultimate acceptance of the bitter realities of war on a land and a people crushed in the aftermath.

Lectern, small table for display

Forgotten Rural Black Women: What Happens When the Farms and Men Are Gone?

Fifty years ago when NC’s agricultural landscape was flourishing, African American women were surrounded by strong-spirited black men who loved the land and their children. Now, all across NC, the farm equipment stands silent and there are echoes in the barns. Where did the farmers go? Many families fled to small towns and urban areas for hourly wages. What happened to the families who stayed? Where, now, are the old women who still survive long after the men have died and the children are grown and gone? Starting within her own community, E.J.

Lectern, microphone, and if feasible, a wide-bottomed comfortable armchair

Hard Times in the Mill: Working Lives Past and Present

The history of NC's textile industry includes jobs migration, labor unions, and globalization, all of which parallel manufacturing industries throughout the world today. This program focuses on NC's rich textile heritage as told through the stories, songs, and images of the people who worked in the mills. While some mill owners practiced so-called welfare capitalism and took care of their employees, others were more motivated by profits. Mill villages existed either as family-oriented communities or as high-rent company houses.

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The Fabric of Hope and Resistance: North Carolina Women on Strike

Though they have often been silent, NC women who have been on strike have powerful stories to tell. Their voices are rarely heard in a state that has consistently maintained the lowest rate of unionism. These women worked in textiles, telecommunications, tire manufacturing, and paper production and participated in disputes that span the decades from the General Textile Strike of 1934 to strikes in 1999 and 2001. Some of their stories tell of finding strength and resilience in so-called "men's” jobs, competing in non-traditional jobs for women.

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Blood on the Cloth: Ella May Wiggins and the 1929 Gastonia Strike

Amid the strife and upheaval in the American South of the 1920s, the 1929 Loray Mill Strike in Gastonia serves as an emblem of the violent textile labor disputes of the time. During this calamitous period, textile worker Ella May Wiggins became a labor leader who rallied people to the union cause with her impassioned speeches and moving ballads. In a letter, Wiggins wrote: “I never made no more than nine dollars a week, and you can’t do for a family on such money. I’m the mother of nine. Four died with the whooping cough. I was working nights. . .

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The Crusade Against Illiteracy in the United States: The Life and Times of Cora Wilson Stewart

Cora Wilson Stewart was one of the most widely known authorities on adult illiteracy in the United States during the first third of the twentieth century. Long before it became popular to decry the problem of adult illiteracy, she was leading public crusades to solve this problem. She gained national and international fame while helping thousands of adults learn the basic skills of reading and writing. In this program, Willie Nelms describes the life and times of Cora Wilson Stewart and the literacy movement.

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Outside the Frame: The Astonishing Life of Whistler’s Mother

This program, complete with slides, focuses on Anna Whistler’s life in nineteenth-century America, Czarist Russia, and bohemian London, where she lived with her eccentric son, the brilliant artist James McNeill Whistler. William McNeill, a relative of Anna, traces the history of the Whistler’s Mother portrait from a nineteenth-century masterpiece to a twenty-first century American icon and popular culture object of caricature.

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