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happy? - Sept 14 (Wiggins murdered)

Abby Sale 14 Sep 05 - 08:22 AM
Wolfgang 14 Sep 05 - 01:34 PM
Abby Sale 14 Sep 05 - 02:24 PM
Le Scaramouche 14 Sep 05 - 03:07 PM
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Subject: happy? - Sept 14 (Wiggins murdered)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 08:22 AM

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

                "Mill Mother's Lament," By Ella May Wiggins. In Hard-Hitting Songs for
                Hard-Hit People
, Lomax, Guthrie, Seeger.

Ella May Wiggins was a song-writer and union organizer in Gastonia, North Carolina. She wrote several union sings. Her songs were so popular among striking textile workers in Gastonia that she was murdered by company thugs, Sept. 14, 1929. Her story was told by Margaret Larkin, an outstanding writer and folklorist who focused especially on labor material. The story first appeared in the Nation in 1929 and was later reprinted in Sing Out! (Vol. 5, No. 4).

        The two victims of the strike were the town's police chief,
        Orville Aderholt, who was killed under highly uncertain
        circumstances during a skirmish with strikers, and Ella May
        Wiggins, whose songs made her the "balladeer" of the Loray strike
        and whose death made her its "martyr." She was killed by gunfire
        while riding with fellow strikers to a union rally; she probably
        was murdered by vigilantes, but the exact cause of her death has
        never been determined.

        The killing of Wiggins became a national and even international
        cause celebre.

        From GASTONIA 1929; The Story of the Loray Mill Strike,
        By John A. Salmond, U. of North Carolina Press.
                                 [thanx Irwin Silber]

Copyright © 2005, Abby Sale - all rights reserved
What are Happy's all about? See Clicky

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Subject: RE: happy? - Sept 14 (Wiggins murdered)
From: Wolfgang
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 01:34 PM

I didn't know her but I got curious (for you unusually left out her date of birth). Most accounts of her life give the age at her death as 29 and give no date of birth. I've found only one short biography that reports her date of birth as September, 17th, 1900, which would make her 28 when she was killed.

28, widowed(?), with five children and some more dead and a songwriter and a possible threat to company owners makes her an astonishing and admirable woman.


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Subject: RE: happy? - Sept 14 (Wiggins murdered)
From: Abby Sale
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 02:24 PM


Thank you for your contribution to the Happy File. The standard recompense is herewith dispatched.

This was a case for which I was unable to find the date of birth. She will be moved over to the Happy! side of the file for the future. Rule 32b is that it is better to celebrate the life of a person of valor than to memorialize the death.

I had a number of exchanges with the very knowledgeable Irwin Silber on the issue that women, in general, were excluded from the labor movement.   Men often went so far as to sabotage women's efforts - apparently concerned they were endangering men's jobs and income. The good piece you found goes further: unionists had shunned organizing African American workers. Women should be at home or, at most, support the men's union. (You might wish to read up on another extraordinary but very different woman, Rose Schneiderman- see All For One, 1967.)

Wiggins not only had to assert herself against the bosses and the government, but also against those one would have thought to be her natural allies. And had to raise her children, too.

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Subject: RE: happy? - Sept 14 (Wiggins murdered)
From: Le Scaramouche
Date: 14 Sep 05 - 03:07 PM

Being widowed at that age with loads of children back then, nothing unusual, but her union work was. Very strong woman, ought to be a household name.

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