Statement of Mrs. Edna Martin, Recording Secretary, Local 940, Textile Workers Union of America, Athens, GA., to the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives in Support of H.H. 3766. 1947.
At the age of eighteen I went to work in a cotton mill in Athens, Ga.: the Southern Cotton Mill, later the Athens Mfg. Co. [sic]. I was married and the mother of two children. My husband’s wage was $9.95 a week. We could not get by on $9.95 a week and I had to go into the mill to help make bread for my family. We worked 12 hours a day, 5 days, and 6 hours on Saturday–a 66-hour week for $9.95. We were not paid when we started to work in a cotton mill. Sometimes you would work 3 or 4 months in the spinning room and then the boss would come to you and say ‘we think you would make us a good weaver.’ You would then go to work in the weaving room for about 3 months without pay. The company called it ‘learning.’ In the mill village we lived in a shack and bought our groceries at the company store. When we drew any pay at all we just walked in the store and gave them our pay on what we owed at the store. We never had money for shoes or even for clothing or a doctor. When we needed a doctor we went to the mill office. There we had to see the owner of the mill to get a doctor. If he sent a doctor he would choose the doctor he wanted and sometimes in required 2 or 3 days before the doctor arrived. The company never forgot to take the doctor bill out of the pay ticket on pay day. The same thing happened if we needed clothing. We never had the pleasure of having our own money to spend where we wanted to. Then the N.R.A. With 12 years’ experience our wages were raised to $10.95 for 40 hours a week, but if we got 3 days work a week we were lucky. By that time I had six children and could not feed them properly. At times they fainted in school from hunger. My boys had only one pair of overalls and one shirt apiece; the girls’ dresses I made from waste cloth from the mill. This cloth was white sheeting and the only clothes we had. I can remember the time when not one of us had shoes. I have knitted bedroom shoes out of thread from the mill with hairpins and these shoes were all we had even for Sunday. The mill house we lived in had no water, no lights, or screens. It had four rooms for two families and sometimes there were as many as twelve children in this house. Just writing about all this now, it seems impossible, but as God lets me write, this is the way we cotton mill people in Athens, Ga., lived. Now things are so much better for us that I don’t even like to think back at the horror and suffering. My children are growing up and I have one son in college, on son working taking a business course at night, and the three girls at home are in school. Through organized labor I earn $35.20 for a 40-hour week, on the same job that not too long ago paid $9.95 for a 66-hour week. I am buying my home and I have lights, screens, telephone, and a bath. Today we have plenty of ice in the box, with milk for my children–something we never had up to a few years ago. To go back to the old conditions would be impossible for me and I know that there are many others that feel the same as I do. Sincerely yours, Edna Martin.
Hearings, Volume 2, United States Congress. House, 1947, 347-348.