Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Tom Lee

Committee Members

William Burgess, Dinah Mayo-Bobee


In southern labor history the role of women remains one of the most overlooked and misconstrued. Most works on the subject have relegated women to support roles within the labor movement or designated those who stood out as wild women. Through the use of existing works on the topic, interviews with strikers and witnesses, and contemporary newspaper articles, this thesis will show, in two case studies, of Elizabethton, Tennessee, and Gastonia, North Carolina, that women involved in the 1929 strikes were neither merely supporters nor wild women. They were instead the public faces of the textile labor movement and took major roles in the leadership, organization and course of their respective strikes. Like women before them, in the suffragist movement, and the early women’s labor movements in Lowell, Massachusetts and other northern mills, they acted at the confluence of competing forces and demands. Often characterized in the newspapers and popular mindset as mothers striking for better wages for their families and for better conditions, they couched their militancy in the language of motherhood, garnering public support for their unions and rousing outrage at the mistreatment directed toward them. The women in Elizabethton and Gastonia merged the new woman of the 1920s and the Victorian ideals of motherhood. Their fight reflected the tensions surrounding gender and labor which had arisen in the economic and cultural struggles of the 1920s South.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.

Included in

History Commons