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Portraits of Gastonia: 1930s Maternal Activism and the Protest Novel


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1 PORTRAITS OF GASTONIA: 1930s MATERNA L ACTIVISM AND THE PROTEST NOVEL By PATRICIA R. CAMPBELL A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2006

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2 Copyright 2006 by Patricia R. Campbell

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3 To my mother, who died never knowi ng a world beyond childbearing and poverty. To my children, Jarret and Cherish, who ta ught me about mothering and motivation.

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank the chair and members of my superv isory committee for their mentoring, the staff at the University of Florida and Lake Sumter Community College libraries for their research assistance, and the staff and facu lty at the University of Florid as Department of English who offered their support. I also thank my partner Tr acey, my family, and my friends whose love and encouragement motivated me toward the completion of this dissertation.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 TABLE OF CONTENTS.............................................................................................................. ...5 ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ..............7 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION................................................................................................................... .9 Maternal Representation as Discursive Strategy......................................................................9 Writers Go Left, Go South, Go Away....................................................................................16 Proto-Feminist Politics and the 1930s Protest Novels........................................................19 Theorizing a Visibility for the Undervalued...........................................................................23 Protest Narratives and Maternal Activism..............................................................................28 2 MARY HEATON VORSE : UNCOVERING THE MATERNAL MILITANCY IN STRIKE! ................................................................................................................................37 Labor Correspondence and Leftist Conversion......................................................................37 A Life of Contradiction: Militancy and Maternity.................................................................42 Socially Conscious Plot and Maternal Plight.........................................................................45 Maternal Veil of Ignorance.....................................................................................................50 Maternal Ballads of Union Solidarity.....................................................................................53 Maternal Muse of Militancy...................................................................................................57 3 GRACE LUMPKIN: LABORING WOMEN AND THE POLITICS OF LABOR IN TO MAKE MY BREAD ...............................................................................................................64 Mother Work and Mill Work..................................................................................................64 A Mill Writers Artistic Intervention......................................................................................66 Mountain Myth and Material Reality.....................................................................................69 Cradles, Kin, and Maternal Caretaking..................................................................................77 Grinding Bones and Making Br ead from Maternal Bodies....................................................82 4 DOROTHY MYRA PAGE: WEARING THE RADICAL RED SHOES OF MATERNAL SOLIDARITY IN GATHERING STORM: A STORY OF THE BLACK BELT .....................................................................................................................................90 Maternal Memorial.............................................................................................................. ...90 Shield of Southern Tradition..................................................................................................92 Radical Red Shoes.............................................................................................................. ....95 Maternal Legacy of a Fightin Spirit.................................................................................100 Maternal Challenge of Racial Bigotry in the Black Belt......................................................106

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6 Maternal and Material Contradictions..................................................................................110 Maternal Solidarity: Marge Cren shaw and Ella May Wiggins............................................117 5 OLIVE TILFORD DARGAN: A VI VID RED MATERNAL VISION IN CALL HOME THE HEART .......................................................................................................................124 Envisioning Vivid Red.........................................................................................................124 An Inheritance of Maternal Resistance.................................................................................129 Marital Resistance and Material Reality...............................................................................133 Maternal Solidarity in a Celestial Dystopia..........................................................................139 Mountain Utopia of a Maternal Collective...........................................................................144 6 CONCLUSION.....................................................................................................................152 Maternal Militancy............................................................................................................. ..152 Maternal Solidarity as a Feminist Vision.............................................................................159 WORKS CITED..........................................................................................................................163 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.......................................................................................................166

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7 Abstract of Dissertation Pres ented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy PORTRAITS OF GASTONIA: 1930S MA TERNAL ACTIVISM AND THE PROTEST NOVEL By Patricia R. Campbell December 2006 Chair: Stephanie Smith Major Department: English This dissertation examines how the novels of Mary Heaton Vorse, Grace Lumpkin, Dorothy Myra Page, and Olive Tilford Dargan invoke and revise the glorif ication of domesticity and motherhood to articulate an operative model of maternal activism. The works of these authors are analyzed as proletarian social novel s where the authors underlying motives are to move their readers toward a working-class symp athy through their identification with maternal representations. The four female-authored novels include: Mary Heaton Vorses Strike! (1930), Grace Lumpkins To Make My Bread (1932), Dorothy Myra Pages The Gathering Storm: A Story of the Black Belt (1932), Olive Tilford Dargans Call Home the Heart (1932). This body of proletarian fiction illustrates how female author s relied upon the depiction of the maternal body to represent and reveal a discursive strategy of female political activism and a lived history within the material and political realities of the Depression era. Based on the 1929 strike at the Loray Mill in Gastonia, North Carolina, each nov elist depicts Gastonia as a seminal event in unionism by revising the events surrounding the life and the death of Gastonias balladeer and maternal martyr, Ella May Wiggins.

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8 By examining how these authors fictional representations of a maternal figure, like Wiggins, is a discursive strategy of realism, a fic tional attempt to represent the actual events at Gastonia, my argument hinges, in large measure, on Nancy Chodorows The Reproduction of Mothering. Chodorows model offers a theoretical le ns for understanding the maternal-based female socialization among the southern millwor kers living and working within the Southern Piedmont region of the United States. This study offers a valuable contribution to th e body of literary research of Depression era fiction. The Gastonia novels epitomize how fe male authors manipulated an acceptable maternal role, where a womans primary motivation for resistance was rooted in securing the survival of her children, in order to create a space for a womans political voice.

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9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Maternal Representation as Discursive Strategy Ella May Wiggins, a union activ ist, balladeer, and single mo ther, was shot and killed on September 14, 1929, in Gastonia, North Carolina. She was traveling in the b ack of a truck with twenty-three other union members on her way to a rally to protest the substandard wages and conditions of the textile workers at the Loray Mi ll. While several arrests were made and motives were debated as issues of comm unist infiltration, working-class re volution, or the race politics of the Jim Crow South, no one was legally pros ecuted and the murder still remains unsolved (Salmond 127-129). While the accounts of Wiggins d eath, union activity, and personal life vary, most reporters and historians iden tified Wiggins as a mother of five, or as a mother of nine to include her deceased children, or as a materna l martyr, as well as the composer of the union protest ballad, Mill Mothers Lament. Her ba llad reflects both the ma terial reality of her situation as well as the motivati on of the workers that led to b loodiest strike in history: It grieves the heart of a mother,/ You everyone must know,/But we cannot buy for our children,/Our wages are too low (Salmond 133). As the lyrics of her ballad show, Ella May Wiggins sense of self was grounded by poverty--her wages of nine dolla rs a week could not provide ev en the most basic needs for herself and for her children. Her ballad not onl y illuminated the plig ht of the Southern millworkers, but her lyrics also immortalized the historic resistance demonstrated by the millworkers at the Loray Mill in Gastonia. Gastonia historian John Salmond contends that the shooting of Ella May Wiggins had made her a martyr, a symbol of the deeper mean ing of the Gastonia struggle (131). The search for this deeper meaning begins with her lived hi storical experience. Despite the humility of her

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10 heart-rending if somewhat sentimental ballad, biographical studi es of Wiggins life reveal a selfsufficient, independent woman whose philosophy of union solidarity and ra cial equality were considered, by the police and by her friends to be the primary motives for her murder. According to Salmond, Ella May was born in Tennessee in 1900 and her early years reflect the transient existence of the May family: she and her mother moved from logging camp to logging camp earning money by doing laundry. She developed her talent for music, singing to the loggers at night. While in her teens, she married John Wiggins and began working in the textile mills. Little is known of John Wiggins outsi de of his inability to hold a job, leaving his wife to be the primary breadwinner. The couple and their growing family moved from mill to mill throughout the Southern Piedmont until he finally abandoned her in Bessemer City shortly after the birth of their eighth ch ild. After his departure, she recl aimed her maiden name of May; birthed her ninth child, that of her lover, Cous in Charlie Shope; and was pregnant with her tenth child at the time she was murdered (S almond 51-58, 166). Although Shope was listed as the childs father on the birth cer tificate of Mays ninth child, th ere is no record of a formal divorce between Ella May and John Wiggins. To da te, most accounts of Mays life include her married name of Wiggins. Vera Buch Weisbord, in her autobiography A Radical Life, remembers Ella May Wiggins as a striker who lived in St umptown among the African Americ ans and came to Gastonia for union meetings. Weisbord had arrived in Gast onia as second in command with Communist organizer Fred Beal. Weisbord remembers Wiggi ns contributions to union organizing and credits her as being instrumental in recruiting her black neigh bors for the union. Wiggins advised Weisbord, I know the colored dont like us. . But if they see youre poor and humble like themselves, theyll listen to you (208). Ella May Wiggins recognized her black neighbors as an

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11 integral part of union solidarity and brought union cards to their homes. Weisbord also remembers a threat on Wiggins life about a month af ter the first walkout at the Loray Mill that may have been racially motivated. One morning Wi ggins discovered that the spring that she and her family depended upon for their water supply looked blue and had a chemical smell (218). After Wiggins was fatally shot, Weisbord confirmed, I am certain it was as an organizer of the Negroes that Mrs. Wiggins was killed (260). Wh ile the poisoned water wa s one incident within a wave of terror against the millworkers, aligning the incident with Wiggins murder on September 14 suggests the possibility of a specifical ly political vendetta against Wiggins dictated by racism. Weisbords memoir names Horace Wh eeler, an employee at the Loray Mill, as Wiggins murderer. Despite the te stimony of more than sixty witn esses to a murder occurring on a public highway in broad daylight, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Weisbords autobiography memorializes Wiggins life as a [b] rave heart, songstress of millworkers, pioneer organizer of the blacks whose death earned h er [a] place among labors martyrs (Weisbord 288-289). The story of Ella May Wiggins and the events surrounding the strike at Gastonia inspired six novels: Mary Heaton Vorses Strike! (1930), Grace Lumpkins To Make My Bread (1932), Dorothy Myra Pages The Gathering Storm: A Story of the Black Belt (1932), Olive Tilford Dargans (Fielding Burke) Call Home the Heart (1932), Sherwood Andersons Beyond Desire (1932), and William Rollins The Shadow Before (1934). Although each novel depicts a unique, fictional reconstruction of the strike at Gastonia, only those fictions written by women create a version of Ella May Wiggins as a mother who c ould represent, as a fictional compound figure, the collective experience of S outhern female millworkers.

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12 While most contemporary studies of Depr ession era fiction acknowledge the use of maternity as a trope for representing female unity among women, only a fe w studies specifically address the fiction of Gastonia written by women, and the repres entation of Wiggins as a union activist, motivated in part by her motherhood. For example, in her examination of the Gastonia novels, critic Laura Hapke argues that the representations of feminine solidarity via the Ma Joad model diminish the effectiveness of the fictional representation of Ella May Wiggins by creating a female militant palatable to the dominate culture ( Daughters 172). Such a compromise, in Hapkes view, reinforces a patria rchal interpretation that regards Steinbecks Ma Joads maternal role as a traditional nurturing and protective mother rather than as an active union activist. What I intend to argue in this study is that although the Gastonia (women) novelists represent motherhood as nurturing and protective, in order to unify a female collective, they also rely upon presenting a Wiggins-like figure to sugge st a more active more militant image of motherhood could exist. In other words, I seek to reveal how a woman character, like Wiggins herself, manipulated an acceptable maternal role, where a womans primary motivation for resistance was rooted in securi ng the survival of her children, in order to create a space for a womans political voice. Motherhood legitimized the women strikers' motives both for working at a time when women were facing hostility for taking jobs from men and for protesting substandard wages and working co nditions at a time when most of the countrys population was facing a phenomenal rate of unemployment. As these novels strive to demonstrate, wo men millworkers could recognize as Wiggins did, that they were not alone and isolated in th eir oppression; this sense of unity motivates them toward their active participation in collective, unionized resistance. My inquiry focuses on the

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13 novels of Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan as a proto-feminist body of Depression era fiction that relies upon a figure like Ella May Wiggins to demonstrate why working womens oppression specifically as mother s might give these women part icular and crucially gendered motives for striking. Although a fi gure like Wiggins appears comp licit with her oppression in her adoption of a traditional maternal role, she is in fact, using th e ideology that oppresses her to inspire union solidarity among the Southern millworkers. The fictional representations of Ella May Wiggins in the Gastonia novels not only reflect a unifying identity of a female collective, but they also offered a means by which a female readership could identify with female workers in the seemingly safe domain of fiction. Readers were offered a traditional and sentimentalized ch aracter with whom they could identify, yet also be shown how a social consciousne ss might arise out of a specifi cally working-class experience. In her introduction to her study of multi-ethnic labor stories, Labors Text: The Worker in American Fiction Laura Hapke emphasizes a need to ex amine the lived histories of working people whose lives were shaped by their pr esence in a politicized time and place: [W]hile there is no unitary working-class experi ence; there are observable lived histories of workers, from seminal events of unionism to the everyday stories of the apolitical communities and work cultures shaping the outlooks of working people. . My assumption throughout is that labor novels and stories originate in a specific time, place, and ideological milieu that shape their meaning. (7) Hapkes claim is central to this study, inso far as the Gastonia (women) authors attempted to reconstruct the everyday life of Wiggins as a working-class character whose life reflected the lives of a community where women were not only oppressed by childbearing, but also oppressed by their economic role of providing for th e survival of their ch ildren. Historically, the Loray Mill employed both men and women; but the demonstrations of resistance were predominantly led by the female millworkers. The overwhelming presence of female strikers shocked the community and as Cora Harris reported in the Charlotte Observer, If Gastonia has

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14 never realized that militant women were w ithin its bounds, . it certainly knows it now (Salmond 31). As Hapke notes, there is no un itary working-class experience but this study asks: what unifying experiences could explain the collective re sistance at Gastonia as a seminal event in womens participation in unionism? Why w ould middle-class white women write about working-class women? What kind of lens did the female authors of Gastonia use to reveal their historical depiction of female working-class re sistance? At a time when womens wage work could be justified only by their visible poverty, ho w did the female authors justify working-class resistance? How were the material realities and the Leftist politics of Gastonia reflected in the narratives as gender, class, and race? In sum, how do the female-authored depictions of Gastonia articulate stories of a gendered, lived history of the working-class resistance in Depression era south? The primary goal of this dissertation is to illuminate how Vorse, Page, Lumpkin, and Dargans use of motherhood as a trope helps to answer the above questions. By examining how these authors fictional representations of a matern al figure, like Wiggins, is a discursive strategy of realism, a fictional attempt to represent the ac tual events at Gastonia, my argument hinges, in large measure, on Nancy Chodorows The Reproduction of Mothering. Chodorows paradigm is a valuable tool for me, because she interprets the social bond s between women as an extended pre-Oedipal experience, which, she explains, is a sociological bond that creates a sense of unity among women. Chodorow contends that an excl usive feminine pre-Oedipal experience establishes a relational continuity between mo thers and daughters that results in women producing daughters who also have a desire to mother. Chodorow al so suggests that the lack of differentiation in the pre-Oedipa l experiences of fema les produces more flexible ego boundaries

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15 among women in their adult lives; as a result, ma ny women seek to triangulate their heterosexual relationships with additional fema le relationships (Chodorow 92-100). Although Chodorows model of cultu ral replication is critici zed for its ethnocentricity, it provides a plausible explanation for understandin g a maternal-based female socialization among groups sharing a common identity. The continuity of the mother-daughter relationship into adulthood and the integration of female friendships suggest both a psychological need and a sociological expectation for a wo man to create a maternal-based social bond with her female community. Chodorows reproduction of an intern alized cultural view of mothering also highlights the cultural reproduction of a traditional division of la bor where women are relegated to a domestic sphere while men tend to a public sphere. Indoctrinated in to a domestic tradition, rural Southern Appalachian women formed bonds with their community through acts of nurturing and caretaking through the rituals surrounding birth, illness, and death. Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, in Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World, notes how women brought the tradition of female social bonding into the mill villages. Hall contends that the women performed ritual s that reaffirmed the cohesiveness of the neighborhood. When a child was born, women shower ed the mother with gifts and boxes of second-hand clothes. Moreover, the maternal caret aking in the mill villages also extended to childrearing where the millworkers believed that the [c]hildren belonged to the community as well as the family, and mill mothers shared in the care of infants and toddlers (Hall et. al.169170). These interdependent female relationships tr anslated into a model of solidarity rooted in motherhood among the workers within the mill. Ha ll also notes that the workers sense of solidarity was understood as a multi-layered and deeply-felt family relationship. The millworkers understanding of family was not describing their dependence on a fatherly

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16 employer so much as they were explaining their relationships with one another (Hall et al. xxiii). Halls study of the southern millworkers not only illustrates how their feelings of solidarity emanated from a sense of community, but it also reveals their feelings of solidarity were fostered through a shared sense of motherhood. By 1929 southern female workers constituted 60% of the total number of textile millworkers at the Loray Mill in Gastonia (Sal mond 30). Large portions of these women were also mothers who were not only bearing a bur den of dual labor, but also depending on their wages for the survival of themselves and their families. The motivation for female militancy had very little to do with the politics of the Comm unist Party. The political unity of the female millworkers extended beyond their shared historic time and place to what they held in common, their poverty and their e xperience of motherhood. Writers Go Left, Go South, Go Away In January 1929, Michael Gold, editor of the New Masses commanded young, emerging proletarian writers to Go Left, Young Writers (Foley 222). In the May 1 issue, four weeks after the April 1 walkout at the Loray Mill, Gold redirected the geographi cal course of his Leftist writers. The Southern Piedmont region, according to Gold, was the site of a working-class revolution where [t]he battle in the tent colony in Gastonia sy mbolizes the advance of a new contingent of the American Proletariatthe wo rking class of the South; . liberals who continue to deplore the use of the term class-warfare should go down to Gastonia and reality (qtd. in Cook 52). Michael Golds 1929 directiv e points toward a global political communist perception that counters the west ern perception of capitalism. In the 1930s, the politics of the Left reflected an ideology that condemned the ownership of private property and advocated an economic system of collective ownership. Hinging on the works of Karl Marx and the worlds perception of the Bolsheviks ove rthrow of provisional government as the political rise of the

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17 working-class, in the Russian Revolution of 1917, I use the term the Left to span a broad range of political identities within the United States in th e early part of the twentieth century including: socialism, anarchism, and communism, in the same way Gold used the term. Gold, a socialist who later joined the Comm unist Party, advocated for a working-class revolution in the United States that mirrored th e Russian Revolution. For Gold, as well as for many other writers and artists who supported the propaganda coming out of the Communist Party in Soviet Union, believed in partys vision of a working-class revo lution. Interpretation of revolutionary change, however, was as diverse as the political ideologies that claimed to be the definitive cures for the economic malady brought on by the Great Depression. Rabinowitz contends that female interpreta tions of working-class experience written during the Depression era resist the boundaries of genre set by the 1930s identification as proletarian because much of womens revoluti onary writing was fostered by rebelliousness of the 1920s. In the 1920s writers revolted against gendered Vict orian ideals, as well as from the muckraking naturalism of the late nineteen th and early twentieth centuries (38-39). The novels of Vorse, Page, Lumpkin and Dargan clearly fit into Rabi nowitzs category of revolutionary because these novelists were not working-class writers, but rather middle-class women who were drawn to literary radicalism in the 1920s by a vision of a sexually liberating culture and inspired by the revol utionary politics of the 1930s. Revolutionary fiction, for the Gastonia novelists extends beyond the narrative of a masculine proletariat leading a workingclass revolt against capitalism. Vorse, Page, Lu mpkin and Dargan use the protest of a workingclass mother and a female collective to reveal the social injustice of gender, race, and class oppression.

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18 Much of the literary legacy of Leftist nove lists has been recovered and analyzed by Daniel Aaron, David Madden, Ral ph Bogardus, Fred Hobson, Alan Wald, and others, but critical attention to female-authored proletarian lite rature, until the late 1980s and 1990s, has been sparse. Critical attention to the female-autho red Gastonia was fleeting. Bill Mullen and Sherry Lee Linkon, in Radical Revisions, note the publication of Tillie Olsens Yonnondio as the first step toward breaking the silence of the unsung story of women of the depression and emergent womens voice of the 1970s femi nist movement (1). In 1983, Feminist Press responded to the need for recovering womens writing and reissued Olive Tilford Dargans Call Home the Heart. Four years later, Feminist Press releas ed Charlotte Nekola and Paula Rabinowitzs Writing Red: An Anthology of American Women Writers, 1930-1940, which revived the poetry, fiction, and reportage of thirty-six working-class fe male writers. As part of the series, The Radical Novel Reconsidered, the University of Illinois Press reissued of Vorses Strike! in 1991 and followed with Lumpkins To Make My Bread in 1995. Pages Gathering Storm: A Story of the Black Belt is the only female-authored Gastonia novel still out of print. The literary recovery of these works and the ongoing effort to recover even more of the work of marginalized writers provides the impetus for a growing body of scholarship in prol etarian literature focusing on the representation of gender as well as the representations of race and ethnicity. The recovery and critical analysis of wo mens Depression era literature has sparked multiple descriptive identities to discern author ial commitment or sympathies with left-wing values and goals. Despite Michael Golds mantra s directing writers to Go Left or Go South or Write your life, he advocated for individual creativity. Michael Denning, in Cultural Front contends that Gold maintained the diverse inte rpretation of revolutiona ry fiction and claimed, proletarian literature is taking many forms. There is not a standard model which all writers must

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19 imitate, or even a standard set of thoughts. Th ere are no precedents. Each writer has to find his own way. All that unites us, and all we have for a guide, is the revolutionary spirit (qtd. in Denning). Golds definitions for the genre of proletarian fiction open a broader area of interpretation for working-class narratives. Vo rse, Page, Lumpkin, and Dargan, like many other writers, were guided by the political sp irit of an era that inspired them to write the life of Ella May Wiggins. Proto-Feminist Politics and the 1930s Protest Novels The recovery and critical reviews of th e female-authored Depression era fiction by feminist critics not only provides the impetus for critical analysis, but also implies a critical historical link between Golds revolutionary leftist politics and feminist politics. Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan were initially drawn in to political activism because of their concern for social justice. Yet, as thei r novels attest, the revol utionary spirit of th ese Gastonia novelists was informed by the political culture of the early part of the twentieth century that embraced a wide variety of political ideolo gies. Although their political c hoices evolved throughout their adult lives within the leftist polit ical milieu of the Depression era, their revolutionary spirit and collective identity as progressive women who cam e of age in a period when female suffrage and early feminism were at their peak, lies at the core of their social activism. Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan were all bor n in the latter nineteenth century. By the time they were writing their narra tives of Gastonia, they were mature college-educated women whose political foundations developed within the womens suffrage movement. Female militancy, to these authors, extended beyond the pur suit of womens franchise to encompass the social concerns of a historical period. Many contemporary historians refer to this period of social activism, in the United States, as the Progressive era when franchise served as a platform upon which women could participate in social and political reform.

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20 Nancy Cott states that many of the female re formers during this pe riod were privileged women seeking cross-class alliances whose activ ism represented not simply victims to be assisted but a vanguard to be emulated (33). The model of social reform for this female vanguard was grounded in womens roles as mother s and as moral guardians I use the term of maternal-based activism in my study of the Gastoni a novelists, to represent an ideology of social motherhood practiced by women who crossed class boundaries and provided nurturing and caretaking as a model of activism for economic and political reform. Mary Heaton Vorse, for example, dedicated her time and her writing sk ills to a female collective whose maternal concerns led them to organize and implement a pure milk project in New York which provided milk for the infants of the immigrant textile wo rkers. At the time, Vorse was a single mother struggling to raise her own children. Vorses apar tment was not far from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory where young immigrant mothers worked l ong hours and could not return home to feed their infants. Vorses dedication to this project was motivated by her identification with the other working women whose childcare ne eds were similar to her own. In the examination of the early activist vanguards who fostered the activism of the female authors of Gastonia, my study also acknowledges the historical roots of feminism as the core of the womens suffrage movement within the United States. While the term feminism appears as a broad, if not modern, term, the feminism that emer ges out of the historical struggle for franchise was grounded by the practices of female solidar ity and activism. Feminism, as Nancy Cott contends, was at its peak in the United States in the early part of the nine teenth century when the term feminist articulated the unified goals of progressive women who moved from their domestic sphere to advocate for civic rights, soci al freedoms, higher education, remunerative occupations, and the ballot (3).

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21 As Cott, Weigand, and other feminist theo rists concur and th e Gastonia novelists confirm, the feminist activists did not disapp ear after the ratification of the nineteenth amendment in 1920. Franchise was only the first step toward a political voice for women. The goal of feminists in the early twentieth century was a complete social revolution (qtd. in Cott 15). Living within the historical moment when womens political activism was modeled through a culturally prescribed role and at a time wh en women had gained pol itical franchise, the Gastonia novelists envisioned the possibility of a majo r ideological shift in societys social consciousness that reflected a female wo rking-class vision of social change. In his 1985 article, Proletarian Literatu re and Feminism: The Gastonia Novels and Feminist Protest, Joseph Urgo was among the fi rst to examine the Gastonia novels through a feminist critical lens. Urgo cont ends that the female authors express a feminist protest and expose patriarchal oppression by showing fem ale subjugation through the realities of childbearing, sexism, dominating males, and a so cietal structure which assumes male primacy (83). Urgos article focuses specif ically on the female-authored Ga stonia as a feminist portrayal of gendered experiences of su rvival and resistance. Howeve r, Urgo resists addressing the representations of motherhood in the female-authored Gastonia not ing that the complexity of the female novelists portrayal of motherhood might indicate the contradi ctory emotions that function produces in women (82). As Urgo not es, the maternal representations are both complex and contradictory. However, viewing th is complexity as compound depictions of motherhood as a discursive strategy of realism reveals a salient area for expanding a feminist analysis of the representations of motherhood as militant. While the story of Ella May Wiggins survival and resistance as a southern millworker illustrates the burdens of maternity, the authors ch aracterizations also suggest that maternity was

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22 also recognized as a mothers authority with in her domestic sphere. As Urgo argues, the physiological and economic effects of childbearing represented a ha rsh reality, but Vorse, Page, Lumpkin, and Dargan had lived among the women of Appalachia and understood that these rural women also took great pride in th eir reproductive role of childbir th and of caring for their large families. Alice Kessler-Harris contends, by invoki ng an idealized as well as institutionalized maternal image, progressive women drew upon the only authority granted to them by a patriarchal system, power within their domes tic sphere (50). Add itionally, the use of a reproductive body as a political body, according to Kate Weigand was a pattern of many progressive women of the 1930s who defined th emselves and their interests around the family and adopted a maternalist style of activism that va lorized features of trad itional femininity (5). Although maternal authority has been historical ly subjugated by patern al authority, it has nonetheless, been perceive d culturally as the domestic core of social order and the enforcement of moral and social values within the family structure. However, Rabinowitz cautions that theorizing the valorized maternal trope verges on essentialism because it invokes womens biol ogical capacity to bear children without interrogating the cultural platitudes surrounding motherhood (123). In this study, the legitimacy of female working-class activism hinges upon th e foregrounding womens reproductive ability as its perceived, as well as its va lorized, cultural interpretation as a natur al vocation. The cultural perception of motherhood as a natura l, as well as social, right legitimizes womens political work or wage-earning work as her moral and social contribution to society. Moreover, the female Gastonia novelists also shift the focus of wo rking-class consciousness from the similarly valorized rhetoric of masculinit y, depicting the experiences of an individual revolutionary male

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23 proletariat, to the working-class feminist consciousness of a working-class collective, emphasizing the cultural percep tion of the feminine as bot h maternal and relational. My study examines the novels of Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan as proto feminist discourses of social protest fostered by the pol itical milieu of the Depression era. The Gastonia novels advance the Lefts revolutionary spirit through working-class ac tivism. While Barbara Foley highlights some components of fic tional autobiography, collective novel, and bildungsroman within these novels, the underlying focus hinges on the strike at Gastonia as a depiction of class struggle which supports a so cial novel. Foley defines the social novel as one that focuses on a strike or some other event in the class struggle and st resses confrontation over apprenticeship (362). The social novel blurs the boundaries between the other components of proletarian fiction. Underpinning the social novel, however, is th e goal of the author to move their readers toward a working-class sympat hy through their identification with specific characters (Foley 362). Vorse, Page, Lumpkin, and Dargan draw their readers sympathies through protagonists who are mothers as well as ac tive participants in a historical moment. The Gastonia novels, in this disserta tion, are analyzed as proletarian social novels which narrate the lived history of a southern wo rking-class female collective an d their confrontation of class oppression as demonstrated by the strike at Gastonia. Theorizing a Visibility for the Undervalued In her introduction to Better Red the late Constance Coiner calls for a kaleidoscopic social field of inquiry for th eorizing radical womens workin g-class writing (5). Coiner illustrates her kaleidoscopic inquiry as an interdisciplinary approach into the lives and the works of Tillie Olsen and Meridel LeSueur, which includes feminist literary criticism, cultural studies, social history, labor history, and biography. Although Coiner recommends expanding areas of critical inquiry, she also cautions researchers:

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24 [C]ompensatory criticism ignor es or glosses over weakness es and contradictions in writing by women, people of color, and members of the working class as a way partly to compensate for its exclusion. Our task is not simply to promote, but to understand the undervalued. Failing to engage the problems of working-class writing leads us away from its historical complexity (6) Following Coiners advice, I expand my areas of i nquiry to include interd isciplinary bodies of critical work focusing on the biographical, cultu ral, historical, and political milieu surrounding the Depression era and the stri ke at Gastonia. Although Mary Heaton Vorse, Grace Lumpkin, Dorothy Myra Page, and Olive Tilford Dargan su ffered decades of exclusion as radical writers, my intent is not to gloss over the weaknesses and contradictions with in their novels, but to understand how the working-class writing of th ese women was historically informed by the culture, the time, and the place. The working-class experience of a strike in the Southern United States in 1929 differs radically from the workingclass experience of a strike in the Northeast or the Midwest. While Coiners ground-breaking study was one of the first to illuminate the writing of Olsen and Le Sueur, it also illuminates the presence of other women whose Depression era narratives were marginalized because they focu sed on female experiences such as pregnancy, birth control, and child care as well as worki ng for wages. This study examines how Depression era southern culture, history, a nd politics specifically shaped th e lives of working-class women in their compliance as well as in their resistance. In Gastonia: The Literary Reverberations of the Strike Sylvia Cook Jenkins contends that in creating a proletarian he ro from a quaint southern peas ant, the Gastonia authors relied on the sensationalism of atrocitiesrather than an analysis of [the workers] causesto produce a correct response (64). Although the authors replic ate the sensationalism that pervaded the news reports, their re-exposure of the brutality also served to remind their socially conscious readers of their partic ipation in the oppression of the working class. The impact of the

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25 literary image of working-class exploitation evokes a sense of accountability for those who buy the fabric without any consider ation of the life blood that wa s lost in its manufacture. Cook also insists on an analysis of the sociol ogical realities of the massive migrations in the South from cotton field to cotton mill (50) She suggests a theoretical need to look beyond the sensationalism and examine the sociological realitie s of the strikers as a response to their material reality rather than a response to the political ideology as a method of mass conversion. All four of the Gastonia novelists address the sociological realities of the mi gration of rural poor to the mills as part of a material concern a nd a maternal concern highlighting the contributing factors as rural privation and motivation for a better life for their children. The migrations of the rural poor into the cities oc curred in the wake of the Civil War, when the Reconstruction of South brought about industrialization thr ough the opening of railways, coal mining, logging, and th e textile industries. Rural Appa lachia proved to be a source of abundant, cheap labor that could be lured into industry by the promise of modernity. The migration of many families was motivated by a mothers concern for the basic human needs of her family such as food, clothing, homes with el ectricity, and education for their children. Once at the mill, the rural poor discover that the prom ises of modernity that guarantee food, shelter, clothing, and education, are priced hi gher than the wages they are paid. Studies by Hall, Salmond, and others illustrate that in some ways, the workers colluded in their exploitation through their conservative, evangelical religious beliefs that emphasized obedience and their passive accepta nce of a paternalist factory system whose benevolence was reinforced each Sunday in church while their exploitation continued th roughout the work week. While Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan realisti cally portray these soci ological factors, they also challenge the negative stereotypes that pervad ed previous literary depictions of an ignorant,

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26 rural southern poor. The strike at Gastonia is a seminal event of unionism that debunks the myth of southern millworkers as docile and ignoran t pawns in an ideological battle between Communism and capitalism and illuminates the mo tives behind the strikers response as a collective response to thei r material reality and to the patern alistic systems that oppress them. Jacquelyn Dowd Hall also confirms the motive and the collective ideology of the southern millworkers as the collective concern for their families. Like a Family confronts the perceived rural ignorance as well as the mate rial reality of the southern millworkers by illuminating the complexity of the cultural tran sformation of the southern millworkers through the testimonies of over 200 interviews conducte d in the Southern Piedmont region of the Carolinas. Like a Family provides a sociological definition of family as both an image and an institution. The image of family is rooted in a ru ral, patriarchal southern tradition steeped in a deep evangelical religious base. The institution of family reveals a gendered division of labor and a structure of extended kinship that incl udes blood relationship and church family. The image and the institution of fam ily play across the Gastonia novels as both motive and collective ideology linked to a maternal figu re who assumes the responsibil ity for the material well-being of her household while she works for wages and guards morality. Hall explains the interdependency of the rura l poor as a social system where [g]roup solidarity served as a buffer agai nst poverty and, above all, repres ented a realistic appraisal of working peoples prospects, . casting ones lo t with family and friends offered more promise and certainly more security than the slim hope of individual gain (172). Most families were acutely aware of their lot and the destiny of their children, most of who by the age of twelve follow the path of their parents and become millworkers. The millw orkers cling to their shared

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27 identity as family, which was universally underst ood and easily translated into class solidarity in their transformation from the cotton field to the cotton mill and from docile to militant. In his praise for Paula Rabinow itzs study of female militancy, Labor and Desire: Womens Revolutionary Fiction in Depression America, Leftist scholar Alan Wald notes that in bringing to the foreground the issue of genderespecially fema le sexuality and maternity, Rabinowitz opens new areas of inqui ry (52-55). More specifically, Labor and Desire prompts the focus of this dissertation as an inquiry into how the maternal representations of Ella May Wiggins reflect collective female militancy in Gastonia. Rabinowitz contends that the maternal body is the central trope in most of the women s revolutionary novels of the Depression era because it connects women through experience a nd reinforces the relationship between the individual and the collective. Drawing upon LeSueurs assertions of female hi storical experience as written in the book of the flesh, Rabinowitz theo rizes that the female narrativ es of the Depression era are embodied and textualized as both labor and desire (qtd. in Rabi nowitz 2). In her comprehensive study of more than forty Depre ssion era authors, Rabinowitz gende rs the bodies and the texts of the working class insisting: The body of the working-class man of the 1930s and to an extent its textis hungry, an empty space once filled by its labor; the body of the working class woman, as well as her text, is pregnant with desire for childre n for butterfat to feed them, and most significantly, for history to change the world for them. (3) Rabinowitz calls for the revision of scholarship that reflects the material conditions of the 1930s as a female embodiment of both labor and desire. This study illustrates how the depiction of Ella May Wiggins labor and desire sign ificantly changes a history that is written in the flesh. The maternal bodies at Gastonia not only birthed their infants, but also bore hunger, disease, eviction,

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28 and violent acts of castigation committed in the name of the law as a consequence for their protest against substandard wages and living conditions. In support of her theory of gendered histor ical experience, Rabinowitz also draws upon the approach of labor historian, Joan Scott, who challenges traditional historical study by insisting the interrelationship of history and lite rature are both forms of knowledge, whether we take them as disciplines or as bodies of cultural information (Scott 8). Rabinowitz validates the narratives of working-class women as depictions of experiential knowledge and contends that [t]he only way we know history is through the rete lling of accumulated stories that are narrated, either literally or metaphorically, by and thr ough the bodies of gendere d subjects (9). The atrocities depicted in the Gastonia novels are, in fact, literal historical real ities reproduced within the fictional narratives and serve as testimony to womens participati on in what Gold refers to as class-war. Specifically, in the novels of Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan, the representations of Ella May Wiggins as both an activist and a martyr, hist oricize the subjectivity of the women at Gastonia. Protest Narratives and Maternal Activism My dissertation is divided into four sectio ns with each section fo cusing on the specific work of Mary Heaton Vorse, Grace Lumpkin, Dorothy Myra Page, and Olive Tilford Dargan. Each provides a brief biographica l history showing how the persona l and political experiences of each author inform her working-class writing. Th e balance of each chapter frames the individual novel as a feminist body of Depression era fiction that relies upon the mate rnal representation of Ella May Wiggins as a discursive strategy for ch allenging the prevailing po litical ideologies and inspiring solidarity among the southern millw orkers through a working-class activism which used motherhood as a rallying cry.

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29 While the novels of Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan attempt to represent the lived, material experiences of the Depression era southern millworkers, these novels also reflect the political engagement of four white, privilege d, middle-class authors w ith their working-class subjects. Like their subjects, Lumpkin, Page, a nd Dargan were women wh o were born and reared in the South, and their life experiences reflec t their acceptance as well as their rejection of southern cultural traditions. A lthough Vorse was born and raised in New England, she arrived in Gastonia not only as a seasoned labo r journalist, but also as the working single mother of three children who understood the historical impact as well as the maternal desperation of the striking female millworkers risked the loss of their wage s. Additionally, all four authors experienced at least one pregnancy resulting in abortion or birth. In their recrea tions of Ella May Wiggins, they depict an accurate historical a nd gendered account of the female working-class experience that they had both observed and experienced as women living in a specific place and time. In framing the historical activ ism of Gastonias female aut hors, this study is deeply indebted to the biographers of Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan, whose documentation of the authors lived histories has help ed to construct the relationshi p between writer and subject. Dee Garrisons Mary Heaton Vorse: Life of an American Insurgent depicts Vorse as the epitome of the labor journalists, whose life experiences chronicle the firs t half of a century of the history of labor. Vorses experience as a labor reporter be gan with the strike in Lawrence in 1912. Her biography reveals a life filled w ith maternal guilt as a single mother, living in Greenwich Village and struggling to support her children as a writer and a labor journalist (Garrison xv). Vorse was fifty-five years old and a seasoned re porter by the time she arrived in Gastonia and began writing Strike! while she was sending dispatches to Harpers and the Federated Press. Vorse spent more than six weeks in the Southern Piedmont covering the wave of strikes through

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30 the neighboring mills that began with the strike at the Loray Mill. While in Gastonia, she shared a room and established a close friendship w ith Communist organizer Vera Buch Weisbord. While conducting interviews, Vorse established re lationships with Ella May Wiggins, the female strikers, and other the fe male organizers. Vorses Strike! is the first of all the Gastonia novels and by far the most historically accurate in its depiction of the events of the strike and the life of Ella May Wiggins. Vorse establishes three points of view thr ough the observations and experiences of three distinct classes of characters: the objective journalists who report the events; Mamie Lewes, the fictional Ella May Wiggins, who witnesses the br utality; and a fictionali zed Vera Buch Weisbord as a female union leader who steps in for an ineffectual Fred Beal to implement organized demonstrations of resistance. The plot of Strike hinges on the development of the social consciousness of a young journalist and the developing militancy of her fictional Ella May Wiggins. Wiggins observations reve al the specific historical at rocities such as the police brutality against women on the picket lines; the ra id of a vigilante group on the relief store; and, ultimately, the union rally where Wiggins loses her life. As a Northern reporter, Vorse appears to be separated from her southern sister-novelists as well as from her southern subject. However, he r radical social consciou sness has it origins in her own maternal activism at prev ious historical demonstrations of female resistance. Vorse is motivated by her social consciousness as well as her maternal experience, and her lived history aligns her with her subject through an empathic relationship. In her fictio nal portrayal of Ella May Wiggins, Wiggins represents the eye witnes s as well as the core of a working-class collective whose maternal-based activism inspires union solidari ty and documents a realistic portrayal of historical female partic ipation in the 1929 strike in Gastonia.

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31 In her introduction to Grace Lumpkins To Make My Bread, Suzanne Sowinska offers a brief but comprehensive biography. Although born in to an upper class, Lumpkin grew up in a post-Reconstruction period of ec onomic desperation where she can recall picki ng cotton on the family farm. Prior to living in New York as an active member of the Communist Party, Lumpkin worked as a home demonstrator and taught the children of the sout hern poor as well teaching at a night school for southern millworkers. At thir ty-three, following the death of her mother, Lumpkin left the South for New York City where she shared a house and her idealistic vision of the Communist Partys platform for social change with Esther Shemitz. Lumpkin and Shemitz met their future husbands, Michael Intrator and Wittaker Chambers while they worked for the Party at the strike in Passaic. Although there is conflicting da ta as to whether Lumpkin and Intrator were actually married, th ere is a record of the marriag e between Chambers and Shemitz. Scandalizing their neighbors, all four shared the house on Elev enth Street (Sowinska xvi). Sometime in the mid to late 1930s, Lumpkin becam e pregnant with Intrators child. Friends believe that Lumpkins a bortion was the result of pressure fr om Intrator. Her relationship with Intrator proved detrimental professionally as well as personally. Intr ators expulsion from the Communist Party as a Lovestoneite in 1929 resulted in Lumpkin s alienation from her friends. She was not only abandoned by her friends, but Intr ator also left her s oon after her abortion. By 1948 Lumpkin adamantly denounced her affilia tion before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities and retreated ba ck to her southern agrarian tr adition living in South Carolina as a religious witness expos ing the evils of Communism (Sowinska xix-xxi). Lumpkins fictionalized Ella May Wiggins originates from a period that Lumpkin refers to as her Communist Phase, ea rning her the 1932 Gorky Prize as best labor novel of the year (Sowinska viii). As Ba rbara Foley suggests, To Make My Bread is structured as a proletarian

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32 bildungsroman which traces the parallel political development of male and female children by contrasting their growing awaren ess of class consciousness (330). Lumpkin also integrates her personal experiences as a government home demo nstrator and teacher among the southern poor by depicting Ella May Wiggins as a composite of two women, a mother who represents the rural mountain woman driven to the mills out of econom ic necessity and a daughter who depicts the mill mother who inspires union activism. To Make My Bread is divided in half with the firs t half illustrating the sociological structure and the material realitie s of southern rural Appalachia. The first chapter opens with an infant Bonnie in a cradle and the maternal body of a widowed Emma McClure separated from her female community by a snowstorm while in the throes of a long and painful childbirth. Lumpkin aligns her proletarian bildungsroman with the characters of Bonnie and her new brother, John. The encroachment of the logging industry and the personal tragedies that force Emma and her family to flee from the mountains to the mills fill the first half of the novel. The second half of the novel documents the oppressi on of mill upon the bodies of both Emma and Bonnie McClure. At the novels end, Bonnie di es, a militant maternal martyr on the union platform, leaving her brother lives to carry on a maternal-based so lidarity and assuring Lumpkins readers that pain . accompani es birthpain and some times death (Lumpkin 373). Christina Looper Bakers In a Generous Spirit: A First-P erson Biography of Myra Page portrays the lived history of a radical writer w hose political idealism le d her to the Communist Party during the interwar era a nd through the persecuti on of the McCarthy era. Dorothy Markey adopted the pseudonym of Dorothy Myra Page to protect her family from embarrassment and later from political persecution. Born in Newport News, Virginia, Page challenged the traditions

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33 of her southern upbringing that result ed in her belief that she was held up by tradition and held by tradition (authors emphasis, qtd. in Bake r xxiii). Pages biogra phy reveals a history of frustration where she was thwarted by her gender as well as southern tradition. Inspired by her fervent belief in social justice and the goals of the Communist Party, Page created Gathering Storm: A Story of the Black Belt as her artistic intervention. Th e novel was both criticized and commended for its adherence to the Communist Party platform Pages Ella May Wiggins transgresses cultural boundaries a nd offers answers to questions of class as well as to the Woman Question and the Negro Question. Pages resistance to southern tradition is reflected through the resistance of her fictional subj ect to gender, class, and race oppression. Dorothy Myra Page was the youngest and the most educated of the female Gastonia novelists. Actively involved in the Communist Party, Page and her husband delayed having children until 1934. Although Page was in Russia at th e time of the actual strike in Gastonia, she drew upon the material of her doctoral research from the summer of 1926 when she studied the female millworkers attitudes about children and work. While Pages advanced degree positions her in a more comfortable economic situation, he r doctoral research also reveals much of her heartfelt empathy for the southern millworker as well as revealing her political and feminist sympathies for the southern millworkers at Gastonia. Pages Gathering Storm begins in the mill village rather than the mountains and relies upon a maternal grandmothers narrative for the sociological history of the familys rural migration. The grandmother sabotages her husbands potato patch so that the family can escape from rural privation and the children can get an education. Like Lumpkin, Page pairs her female protagonist with a brother and throughout the novel, and both de velop a social consciousness. However, Pages male proletariat travels nor th for his educational experiences in union

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34 organizing and racial equality. Pages female protagonist, Marge Crenshaw, remains in the South; and Page documents a lived history of female subjugation with yearly pregnancies and capitalist oppression at the hands of the mill mana gers. Page also parallels the Crenshaw family with the African American Morgan family. Mart ha, the Morgans eldest daughter is raped and murdered by the mill owners son, and the historical events that reveal the ingrained racism of a Jim Crow South subsequently lead to the mass acre of the entire Morgan family and mass exodus of the black families who live in the Back Row, the segregated area for African Americans. Marthas rape and murder are depicted as Marges first lesson in racial equality, and Marge carries this memory throughout the nove l. Despite her oppression, Marge, female millworker, finds her voice as maternal militant who defends the union stand on racial and class equality. Marge shares the union pl atform with Pages version of Ella May Wiggins. Page uses Wiggins maiden name, Ella May, to depict the lived history of the st rikes balladeer. Marge Crenshaw and Ella May are linked as sisters and comrades, sharing similar experiences and supporting each others union activ ism The death of Ella May, however, does not end the novel. After Ella May is shot and dies in the arms of Marge Crenshaw Crenshaw joins the ranks of union organizers and goes north to attend an even larger union rally and emerge as a female organizer inspiring working-class solidarity among her sisters. Sixty-six-year-old Kentuckyborn playwright and poet Olive Tilford Dargan chose the male pen name Fielding Burke and emerged from her isolation in the North Carolina hills to create her version of Ella May Wiggins as a working-class maternal heroine in Call Home the Heart In the novels Biographical Afterword, Anna Shannon notes that the gaps and inconsistencies in Dargans biogr aphical record may be attributed to Dargan herself, who may have conspired in the destruction of the evidence of her political activit ies and contacts during

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35 two of the periods of political repression through which she lived (433). In a letter to her friend, she implied that leftist ideology inspired her vision of soci al change. Dargan claimed she was "perusing the Daily Worker regularly and assiduously" and that she was "still vivid red" (Shannon, Biographical 440). Although much of her personal correspondence wa s destroyed in fires occurring in 1919 and in 1924 as well as during the Red Scare of the 1950s, the papers that were treasured and saved along with her earlier works offer striki ng evidence of Dargans feminist activism. Shannon contends that much of Dargans correspondence reveals a network of women providing one another with their primary source of identity and energy (434). The voices of Dargans supportive network includ ed feminists like Rose Pastor Stokes, a fellow socialist and one of the founding members of the American Communist Party; Alice Stone Blackwell, daughter of womens rights pi oneer Lucy Stone; and Anne Whitney, a lesbian sculptor. At age forty, when Dargan learned she was pr egnant, she sought the support of her friend, Rose Pastor Stokes. Dargan left her husband behind in the Caroli na Hills and spent the summer in the Stokes home. Dargans daughter was born prematurely in May 1907, living for only two hours after her birth. Shannons biographical study reveals that Dargans summer with Stokes not only helped her to heal physically and em otionally from her lo ss, but the Socialist atmosphere of the Stokes home also strongly in fluenced Dargans politics (Afterword 437). In Call Home the Heart the maternal body of Dargans fictional Ella May Wiggins represents and reveals Dargans feminist philoso phy as a sharp contrast to the material reality and the cultural traditions of the working-cla ss poor of the Appalachian South. Dargans story begins with an adolescent Ishma Waycasters early resentment of the rural patriarchal traditions that circumscribe her life as a woman. Dargans protagonist runs the fa mily farm that supports

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36 her mother, sister, and shiftless brother-in-law as well as a brood of hungry children. Ishma soon marries; as she begins to replicate the cycle of ye arly pregnancies of her sister, the farm fails due to a series of disasters. Out of frustration, a pregnant Ishma escapes with an ex-beau to a mill town in the valley. Mentored by the towns Marx ist physician, Ishma Waycaster evolves from a volunteer home health-care provider into a maternal activist. Dargan saves her fictional Ella May Wiggins by returning her to th e mountains just as the violence of the strike begins to unfold. Ishma returns to her husband and together they plan to convert the family farm into a retreat that will offer a healthy environment for the children of the millworkers. Ishmas call home to the mountains is more than a nostalgic call for a retu rn to the past; it is a militant maternal call to provide for the future generations. At the same tim e, Dargan's feminist message is carried back to Cloudy Knob as an epilogue written upon th e recalcitrant reproductive body of Ishma Waycaster who claims that she couldnt go on li ving like an old cow. Fodder in winter and grass in summer, and a calf every year (393). Although Dargan returns Ishma to the mountains, she also provides her protagonist with the knowle dge to control her year ly reproductive destiny. In Labors Text Laura Hapke contends, some of th e most important texts of worker fiction came from three radical women writers who told the mothersand their mothers story. . .Whatever their leftist biographies Olsen, Smedley, and Le Sueur radicalized the maternal plot by documenting the work conditions of the blue-collar domestic sphere (231). It is important to make visible four other female wr iters whose novels also radicalize the maternal plot and document a working-class domestic sphere. Mary Heaton Vorse, Grace Lumpkin, Dorothy Myra Page and Olive T ilford Dargan depict of a Depr ession era Gastonia in which a fictionalized Ella May Wiggins se rves as a (female) catalyst fo r working-class activism that will change the world for the future of all children.

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37 CHAPTER 2 MARY HEATON VORSE : UNCOVERING THE MATERNAL MILITANCY IN STRIKE! Labor Correspondence and Leftist Conversion Published in the early fall of 1930, Mary Heaton Vorses Strike emerged as the first of six novels inspired by the strike at Gastonia. As a reporter for Harpers, Vorse had spent almost six weeks among the female workers and had deve loped a friendship with Ella May Wiggins. Of the four female authors who por trayed Wigginss life and focused on the role of women in a fictionalized version of Gastoni a, Vorse was the only author who experienced the events first hand and knew Wiggins personally. On the da y Wiggins was murdered, according to Dee Garrisons biography, Mary Heaton Vo rse: The Life of an American Insurgent, both Vorse and Wiggins were en route to the same union rally. Vorses car was blocked by an angry mob, but police intervention saved Vorse and the cars othe r occupants At the same time, some distance past Vorses vehicle, the truc k in which Wiggins was riding wa s also blocked by another group of vigilantes; guns were fired and Wiggins wa s fatally shot (Garrison, Introduction 229). Hearing the news of Wiggins murder, Vors e recalled Wiggins last words to her: I belong to the union because of my children. I havent been able to do anything for them. . But when they grow up, they wont have to work tw elve hours a day for nine dollars a week . . They would have to kill me to make me l eave the union (Garrison, Introduction 229). Though Vorse sent dispatches to Harpers and the Federate d Press, the reports appear to have fallen short of conveying the maternal motives of the murder ed woman. Vorses reports also fell short of conveying the story of the maternal activism that drew Wiggins toward union solidarity and that fateful journey to the rally. Along with writing her dispatches, Vorse also began writing her novel, Strike! Vorse integrates the actual historical events occurri ng in Gastonia as well as in neighboring mill towns

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38 throughout the Southern Piedmont. The historical reality within Strike! extends beyond the reported acts of oppression and demands a clas s-based accountability. Vorse reveals Wiggins murderers as the class of comfor table people(12) who resort to mob violence out of ignorance, rather than a nameless capitalist system. Vorses novel specifically focuses on Wiggins, not as a singular protagonist or victim, but as the co re of a female collective whose activism was motivated by her desire to earn a living and create a better life for her children and whose death was a class-based political act of violence. As a labor journalist and freelance writer, Mary Heaton Vorse arrived at Gastonia with extensive experience in documenting strikes and an acute understanding of the concerns of working mothers. Vorse was the mother of two when she arrived at the Lawrence Strike in 1912, and her career in labor journalism reveals a sweeping historical chronology of the labor movement including the 1916 Mesabi Range Stri ke; the 1919 National Steel strike; the 1920 Amalgamated Clothing Workers strike and the 1926 Passaic Strike (Garrison Mary xiii-xvi). In addition to her reportage, Vorse produced a massive collection of articles and stories, as well as two plays and sixteen books, all of which Garr ison notes, are marked by Vorses consistent attention to the special concerns of women ( Mary x). Vorses understanding of womens concerns came from her personal and her prof essional experiences as a working mother. Despite the recognition and cri tical acclaim of her career as a radical writer, Vorse struggled with an intense sense of failure in he r attempt to balance her professional role as a labor activist and reporter and he r personal role as a wife and a mother. Garrison states that the professional and personal contradictions of Vorse s life experiences give her life its greatest poignancy (xvii). In 1922, followi ng her disastrous affair with Robert Minor, Vorse suffered a

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39 miscarriage and fell into a dark depression. Fo cusing on her neglect of her children, Vorse draws a self-defeating port rait of maternal guilt: My failure is that of almost every worki ng woman who has children and a home to keep up, whether she scrubs floors, or works in m ills, or is a high-priced professional woman. Its nearly impossible to do both jobs well. So most women fail in ei ther or both. . Are two things possible? Must there always be a double failure ? (qtd. Garrison, Mary xv). Vorses sense of double failure reflects a distin ctly female conflict be tween the demands of mothering and the demands of working for wages. In her inclusive descri ption of almost every working woman, Vorse implies a collective ma ternal experience that unites working women and stretches across class boundari es spanning the most menial to the most prestigious of professions. Vorses focus on the roles of women reveals an attempt to negotiate the conflict between a womans reproductive role and her professional role. As part of a larger project of examining the re lationship of maternal representations used in womens revolutionary fiction, this chapter explores Vorses fic tional representation of the life of Ella May Wiggins as a maternal activist w hose narrative voice refl ects the professional and personal struggles of the worki ng-class maternal collective in Gastonia. This chapter briefly addresses how the contradictions between the pe rsonal and political expe riences of Mary Heaton Vorse inform her fictional representa tion of Wiggins maternal activism in Strike! The balance of the chapter focuses on Vorses fictional portrayal of Ella May Wiggins as the core of a workingclass collective whose maternal-based activis m inspires union solidarity and documents a realistic portrayal of historical female pa rticipation in the 1929 strike in Gastonia. The plot of Strike! is loosely based on the radical conversion of a young nave reporter, Roger Hewlett, into a man with a working-clas s consciousness. Hewlett is closely mentored by an older more seasoned reporter, Ed Hoskin s, who provides an informative summary of Gastonias local history and cu lture, as well as the historic al background of working-class

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40 resistance. Hoskins narrative of experience spans Vorses own career in labor journalism beginning with the Lawrence strike in 1912 thro ugh the Passaic Strike in 1926. In the novels introduction, Garrison contends that the ch aracterizations of Hewlett and Hoskins are representative of the various st ages in Vorses career in journalism, as well as representing a more authoritative voice in a profession dominat ed by men. Additionally, Garrison suggests that the political conversion of Hewlett reflects th e development of Vorses own working-class consciousness (Introduction xv). Most critics concur that the plot of Strike! relies upon the presence of Hewlett and Hoskins for its unity and its message of political convers ion. However, viewing the novel from a maternal lens reveals historical moments of female activism at the core of the reporters consciousnessraising narratives. Although th e journalists observed, reported, and were transformed by the strike, the heart of Vorses nove l lies in the collective strengt h of the women who experienced the physical, emotional, and economic brutality. Strike! illustrates the message of maternal solidarity in the strike at Stone rton through the characte r of Mamie Lewes. Lewes participation and eye-witness accounts document the experiences of a female collective whose maternal-based activism not only inspires working-class militancy, but also portrays a history of injustice meant to inspire a social consciousness within the hearts of the middle to upper classes. Joseph Urgo notes that upon its release, Strike! was highly praised by reviewers for its truthful depiction and its moral purpose, howev er, the novel was also criticized as a secondrate piece of fiction (68). In his 1930 review for the Nation Sinclair Lewis concurs with most of Vorses contemporaries and contends that Strike! is more a statement of facts than a novel (qtd. in Urgo 68). Strike! did not meet the expectations of the reviewers in the 1930s because it defied the formulas for both bourgeois and prolet arian fiction in its lack of a specific singular

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41 protagonist. Although Vorses histor ical facts appear to overshadow the literary quality of her novel, the female testimonies beneath her histori cal reportage reveal an in-depth coverage of human experience. In her contemporary study, Barbara Foley notes that Vorses extensiv e use of historical facts reflect a documentarism that is characte ristic of a collective nov el. According to Foley, the documentation of facts links the texts collective protagonist to historical actuality by multiple threads of reference. Moreover, Foley asserts that a collective novel has no hero because reality has no hero (420). The stri ke at Gastonia extends beyond traditional representations of northern and western industrial strikes with the heroic revol utionary male proletariat because the strikers were pre dominantly female. Written from a journalists perspective, there is no single pr otagonist to act as a heroine. Vorse posits her fictional Wiggins within the historical events as part of the collectives resistan ce. Therefore, Vorse depicts the strike at Gastonia through the multiple threads of collective female experiences of the striking millworkers. In the opening chapter, Vorse confronts th e limits of journalism and suggests the possibility of a story behind a story through her characterization of Roger Hewlett. The reporters questions highlight how even the mo st realistic documentati on of collective human experience cannot be reduced to the space of a headline or a summary lead in a newspaper. Hewlett asks: How can you tell people who have never seen a strike what it means to the people who are striking? How can one indicate in the space of a few pages what makes people strike? How are you going to make other pe ople feel terror? (17). In Strike! Vorse lifts journalisms objective and editorial veil to make people see, feel, and und erstand what motivates the militancy of the millworkers. Vorse also lifts jo urnalisms objective and editorial veil to make

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42 the comfortable people feel the terror at Gaston ia and recognize their accountability for the brutality against the female millworkers and for the murder of Wiggins. Through her depiction of Wiggins, Vorse reveals the story behind the headlines and illustrates the m eaning of a strike as the collective belief that a strike is about life and life is more importa nt than business (14). Vorse characterizes the lives of the Southern m illworkers as a maternal collective who believe that the lives of their children are more importa nt than the textile business in North Carolina. A Life of Contradiction: Militancy and Maternity Vorses perceptions of motherhood and gender re lations were diametrically opposed to her mothers Victorian ideals of femininity; her resistance resulted in severe economic consequences. As a child born into an upper-c lass eccentric New England family who avoided the society of Amherst, young Mary Heaton was surrounded with five ol der siblings from her mothers first marriage. Vorse was youngest and only child of Ellen Marvin Heaton and Hiram Heaton. Vorses mother inherited her first husba nds estate and maintained control of the familys finances as she steered her sons to ward successful economic careers and her daughters toward successful economic marriages. When Vo rse defied her mothers traditional ambitions for her and expressed her desire for a writing career, her father cauti oned her that he was powerless and could not support her decisions. Hi ram Heaton explained that he was not his wifes equal, but rather his position was one of servitude to the Queen of Persia (Garrison, Mary 20). Vorse defied the queen and pursued he r writing. The power of Vorses mother over her husband and her children was painfully demo nstrated through extended silences and finally through disinheritance, leaving a widowed Vorse struggling to support he rself and her children for most of her adult life. At eighteen, Mary Heaton met and secretly married Bert Vorse, a thirty-two year old newspaper reporter and aspiring author, and move d into an apartment in Greenwich Village.

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43 Shortly after the birth of their son, Mary wrote and sold love stories for womens magazines to supplement the family income while Bert struggl ed with his own writing career. As the marriage floundered through her husbands defeats and infide lities, Mary opted to ease [his] suffering through maternal solicitude (Garrison 35). Vors e set aside her writing, sweetly tended to her husbands childish behavior and birthed a second child, Ellen. Yet, Vorse discovered another of Bert Vorses affairs and again, attempted reconcilia tion in an attempt to save her marriage. The familys tour of Europe in 1909 appears to be th e pivotal moment marking the end of the Vorses marriage as Bert returned to New York and Ma ry remained in Europe. Bert died on June 14, 1910 of a cerebral hemorrhage, freeing Mary from her marital constraints. The next day, June 15, Vorses mother died of heart failure, leavi ng Vorse without a penny of inheritance (Garrison Mary 44). After the deaths of her husband and mother Vorse wrote in earnest. According to Garrison, Vorses fiction reflects the transformation of a nineteen th-century Victorian ideal of maternal love as a selfless form of female supe riority to a demonstratio n of mens inferiority ( Mary 41-44). In writing for women s magazines, Vorse created narratives that exposed the idealized marital myths. Vorses fiction depicted mothers who were frus trated, bored, tired, and even angry at meeting the ever-constant de mands of motherhood. Vorses stories gained popularity and helped to st abilize her financially. Garrisons biography notes three transforming e xperiences that were pivotal in Vorses development of a class consciousness and that in spired her commitment to working mothers and the politics of labor. In 1910, liv ing in Greenwich Village as a single working mother, Vorse joined the New York Milk Committee as a wr iter publicizing the need for pure milk. The committee provided milk for the babies of the immigrant mothers who worked in the garment

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44 district and could not take time away from th eir jobs to nurse thei r infants. Many reports attributed the infant death rate to either inherent ethni c traits or flagrant neglect of the immigrant mothers. Vorse responded to the accusations wi th passionate claims against the sale of contaminated milk that risked the lives of wo rking-class infants to make more money for the wealthy (48). Vorses concern for lives of immigran ts babies led her to ye t another realization in 1911 when she witnessed the loss of the lives of the mothers who worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. According to Garrisons biography, Vorse ran eight blocks from her apartment and watched in horror as women th rew themselves from the windows of a burning building because the exit doors were locked a nd the firemens ladders reached only as high as the sixth floor. Vorse stood helpless and in shock as she stared at the bo dies of the mothers who would not be returning home to nurse their ba bies at the end of th eir work day (Garrison, Mary 49). One year later, in 1912, Vorses activism was again sparked by matern al concern when she convinced Harpers Weekly to send her to Lawrence where the mill owners had arrested fifteen children and their mothers who were boarding a tr ain to Philadelphia to escape the violence of the strike. Although the beating a nd jailing of strikers appeared to go unnoticed, deterring the interstate travel of women and children to safe ty resulted in a public outcry and sparked a national investigation (Garrison, Mary 48-61). While in Lawrence, Vorse met Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who became her friend and confidant, and Joe OBrien, who became her second husband. Vorse returned from Lawrence w ith a newfound career in radical journalism In witnessing the atrocities occurring in New York and Massachus etts, Vorse realized that she was she was ignorant of injustices that surround ed her; she knew that she need ed to be on the side of the workers and not with the comfortable people (qtd. in Garrison 61). Although Vorse was born

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45 into the class of comfortable people, she believ ed that their indiffere nce, like hers, was only naivet. Vorse felt that her radical journalism and her maternal-based activism could enlighten those who did not understand how the most basic co mforts of human survival were denied to working-class women and children. In their first year of marriage, Vorse and O Brien continued to actively work for the cause of labor. After only three years of marriage, O Brien fell ill with stomach cancer and died in 1915. Once again, the weight of the roles of mo ther and breadwinner fell upon Vorse (Garrison, Mary 99). By this time, Vorse was in her mid-thirties and had three small children; yet, she had emerged as leader among radical journalists. Vo rses working-class enlightenment arose from her maternal identification with the working mothers of New York who unwittingly fed their babies contaminated milk, from the immigrant women of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company who were struggling to feed and clot he their children, the mothers in Lawrence who just wanted to save their children from the hunger and violen ce, and her own desperate struggle to support herself and her children as a freelance journalist. Socially Conscious Plot and Maternal Plight The first chapter of Vorses Strike! establishes three point s of view through the observations and experiences of three distinct classes of characters: the union leaders who organize demonstrations of re sistance, the journalists who re port the events, and Mamie Lewes who represents the material reality as well as the militancy of the millworkers. Hapke notes that Vorses attempt to meld mens and womens expe riences, male strategists and female rank and file contributes to the novels flawed fragment ed structure by alternating gendered experiences at thirty-page intervals (157) Although the portrayal of male and female involvement appears fragmented or divisive with rega rd to a formal plot or a singul ar protagonist, Vorses intervals

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46 reflect a structural technique th at illuminates the development of the class consciousness of an entire collective. Class consciousness in a collectiv e novel, as Foley attests, c onsists in the development of a new, more collective self, one that acquire s identity through acknowledging rather than denying its multiple extensions into others ( 237). In alternating be tween the multiple and gendered experiences within a singular historical event, Vorses collectiv e novel depicts realistic, and perhaps more palatable identities, within a tr aditional division of labo r. Vorses readers were comfortable middle-class people w ho could accept the need of a mother to work outside the home, but accepting a militant working mother went against the grain of Southern tradition. Yet, through the gendered intervals of factual repor ting, Northern union orga nizers strategizing, and maternal activists picketing, the naivet of the middle-class comf ortable people is dispelled and social consciousness emerges as part of a natural societal order. Vorses experience on the Milk Committee in New York proved th at economically comfortable pe ople understood the need to provide milk for infants. Consequently, Vorse foregrounds the militancy of the collective as a model of maternal activism th at invokes and revises the glor ification of domesticity and motherhood to draw the sympathy of the comforta ble people as well as to inspire solidarity among both the female and the male member s of the working-class collective. When Vorses young reporter, Roger Hewlett, firs t arrives to cover the strike in Stonerton, he seeks out the location of a union rally wher e he expects to interview Fer Deane, the fictionalized Communist leader, Fr ed Beal. However, Hewletts firs t interview at the speaking event is with Mamie Lewes, who emerges as the unifying character among the female millworkers. Lewes testimony reveals the e ffects of long hours and low wages upon female strikers and also presents an abbreviated biography of Ella May Wiggins. Vorse closes the

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47 chapter with a brief interval that offers an insi ght to the struggles of the union organizers. Fer Deane admits his alienation and suggests the wo rkers would do a lot be tter if they had a southern feller for their leader. Deane states, [t]hey like me but I don t belong to them (12). Deanes confession implies that as a Northerner, he falls short of understanding his rank and file because he cannot identify with the regional and cultural experiences of the southern millworkers. Significantly couched between He wletts introductory arrival and his interview with an alienated strike leader, is Hewletts unofficial interview with a southern woman who meets all but one of Deanes qualificati ons: gender. In her in troduction to her fictional Wiggins, Vorse posits Mamie Lewes as a maternal voice of au thority who belongs to the working-class and enlightens a nave Hewlett to th e plight of mill working mother through the course of his informal interview. Where the character of Deane, similar to the real-life Beal, is consistently absent from picketing demonstrations, Vorses na rrative establishes the presence of Lewes as the voice of the southern work ing-class collective. After settling into his hotel and locating th e union rally, Hewlett notices Lewes in the audience and notes that she appears poor enough to be a mill worker but seems to distinguish herself through her enthusiasm. Hewlett initia tes a conversation with a short curly haired woman dressed in poor clothes, but there was something about he r that was alert and gay and extremely alive. He asks if she has joined the union and Lewes responds, No, I aint jined up yet, but Im a goin to (5). Lewes explains how maternal responsibil ity conflicts with her professional goals and that between working lo ng hours at the mill and tending to her children, she doesnt have time to get to the union headquarters before the office closes.

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48 After discovering that Lewes ha s four children and lives with her kin in a two-room shack almost two miles away, Hewlett also learns that Lewes earns only eight do llars and forty cents a week and caint even afford to git a house on the mill hill (6). The real-life Wiggins already a joined the union and served as union secretary by the time Vorse had arrived in Gastonia (Hall, et al. 227). However, Vorse alte rs this historical fact to depict how the promise of union solidarity drew its membership from the sout hern millworkers. Vorses fictional maternal narrative echoes Wiggins historical last words to Vorse and justifies union membership as viable solution for working-class oppression. Vorse illuminates the workers belief that the union would help them to improve working and liv ing conditions as opposed to the middle-class perceptions that the workers joined the union as the result of a political decision to become Communist revol utionaries. Unlike the other female Gastonia novelists, Vorse avoided any formal political affiliation with organized labor or with th e Communist Party. However, Vors es reportage of strikes also extended to her participation in labor politics through organi zing, picketing, and advocating union solidarity. More notably, Vorse had worked with her good friend, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, as a co-leader in organizing the workers on the Mesabi Range stri ke of 1916. The union recruitment of Lewes in Strike! not only illuminates Vorses union advocacy, but also plays out in the novel as the recruitment of Hewlett into a working-class coll ective of labor journalists. Hewletts interview with Lewes also reveal s how the mill manipulates workers through a system of reward or punishment through the assignment of shift work. Many mills permitted female workers to take the eveni ng shifts while their spouses worked the day shifts so that they could be at home with their children. When Hewlett asks Lewes if she works nights, Lewes continues her maternal testimony w ith I couldnt git to work nights. I had eight children and

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49 they took sick with dipthery. I cr ied and begged for thet supintende nt to let me work nights sos I could stay home and take keer o the children daytimes, but he wouldnt me go. . Four o my children died. Lewes voices her resentment at not being assigned an evening shift when she requests the assignment and declares the superintendent to be the sorriest man in the world (6). Hewletts question implies his understanding of th e managements past practice as a legitimate request. Lewes testimony suggests that the s uperintendents denial of any maternal consideration is an intentional act of cruelty directed toward Lewes and represents mill managements abuse of the collective. Vorse also suggests that the superintendents denial of a night shift contributed to the destruction of Lewes marriage. Lewes symp athetically explains that her husband, Wil, abandoned her and her children because he got all discouraged like, havin the chillen die. Plum did take his ambition away. He went off to anothe r town to git work and I never did yeah from him no mo (6). Through Lewes lack of bitte rness, Vorse emphasizes how poverty affects the male millworkers perception of their traditiona l roles as providers. Moreover, Vorses own experience attests to the disast rous effects upon her first marriag e when her success as a writer overshadowed that of her husbands. In Vorses biography, Garrison notes that in two separate articles, Working Mother and Failure, Vorse wrote: Not many men will forgive their wives for supporting them (qtd. in Mary 33). Lewes concludes her maternal testimony with her concern for her childrens education, My little girl, shes eleven, and she heps me ri ght smart. Dont none of my chillen git to school. How could they? I wouldnt have no one to leave th e little ones with, and ef I could, how would I git clothen and shoes for em? (6). Lewes te stimony, again, reflects Ella Mays lived reality where her eleven-year old daughter, Myrtle, tend s her four younger siblin gs whose ages ranged

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50 from eight years to thirteen months (Salmond 129) Myrtle Wiggins and her siblings also reflect the reality of the millworkers children whose la ck of education and opportunity perpetuated the poverty of the mill worker and guaranteed the mills supply of cheap and contented labor. Hewlett offers no answer to Lewes question of how to supply somethi ng as basic as clothing and shoes as the fictional Wiggins drifted away in the crowd (6). Vorse shifts her reporters attention toward the organizers, leaving the Le wes interview open-ended with the answers to Lewes questions left in the hands of the comfortable people who read her novel. Maternal Veil of Ignorance In her second chapter, Vorse introduces ec onomically comfortable people as reproductive bodies that reproduce class oppression. Drawing a sh arp contrast to the in terview with Lewes, Hewlett stops briefly to chat w ith friends of his family who also live in Stonerton. Vorse depicts a veil of ignorance skewing the perceptions of the middle-cla ss comfortable people through the maternal body of Mrs. Parker and her daughter, J ean. Similar to her own experience in growing up in an upper-class environment and developi ng a class consciousness through her reportage, Vorse links Hewletts ignorance with a maternal class inheritance. Vorse introduces the Parker women as friends of Hewletts mother. Young Hewl ett remembers the shared vacations with the Parkers in the North East. The reporters escape to the home of family friends appears to provide a brief respite for Hewlett who is initially ove rwhelmed by the harsh realities in Gastonia. However, Hewletts visit to the Parkers home illuminates a place of class ignorance within himself and within the Parkers. In contrast to the shack shared by Ella May Wiggins and her daughter, Mrs. Parker and her daughter live on a street of pl easant houses Hewlett remarks that he is back in a familiar comprehensive world (17). For Hewlett, comprehensive meant a familiar place outside of the desperate world of the millworkers, where his in clusion in the world of middle class comfort

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51 makes sense. Vorse jars Hewletts sense of escap e with a dose of class-co nsciousness and reveals the malignancy of class ignorance through the nav e exaggerations and over simplifications of a mother and daughter who represent the grace an d manner that people iden tify with the South (17). The feminine perceptions of the Parker women draw upon the s outhern tradition of womanhood. The image of a southern lady, according to Ann Goodwyn Jones, is a representation of her cultures idea of religious, moral, sexual, racial, and social perfection (9). Jones also asserts that the idea lized virtue of southern woman hood is perpetuated through female ignorance where a womans goodness depends dire ctly on innocencein fact, on ignorance of evil (9). Mrs. Parker and her daughter repr esent Jones model of a southern lady whose perceived goodness depends upon what she reads in the newspapers and hears through the towns gossip. As the Parker women chat with Hewlett, they not only reveal their ignorance of evil, but they also reveal how they perpetuate the pate rnalistic system that oppresses the millworkers. According to Jean and her mother The absent ee mill owner, Mr. Schenk represents a man of southern honor, as well as an economic savior who bettered the cond itions of the ignorant mountain people who came from th eir mud-floored cabins (18). Mrs. Parker claims, We have never had any trouble with our workers. . Th ey are far better off than when they left the mountains (19). Mrs. Parkers comments mimic th e antebellum justification of slave ownership, as well as the separation of a cla ss with our workers. Mrs. Park er notes the generosity of Mr. Schenk who provides nice houses with electric light free. And lots of them have baths. Mrs. Parkers daughter immediately interjects that the families never use the baths because [t]hey just use them to keep things in (19). Ironically, the Park ers are revealing the facts as they naively understand them. They have no idea of the amount of rent Mr. Schenk charges the workers to

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52 live in these nice houses or the mitigating circumst ances that require the millworkers to use bath tubs as additional sleeping arrangements in an overcrowded mill house. Mrs. Parker also invokes a flawed economic comparison between a mountain family and an unnamed college-educated cousin. Despite the t housands of dollars spent on a college degree and study abroad, Mrs. Parker laments that Jeans cousin only earns forty dollars a week. Mrs. Parker highlights the economic in justice as she explains, Tak e a family of four mountain people, each making eighteen-fif ty a week, and that gives them an income of seventy-four dollars a week (18). Mrs. Parkers flawed statistic suggests a cla ss entitlement and implies that a mountain familys income is almost twice that of the poor Parker cousins income. Mrs. Parker not only reports an inflated salary level, but sh e also compares the wages of one worker to the wages of four workers. Ensnared within their ow n naivet, the Parkers fail to comprehend that even in the most ideal of situ ations, a mountain family of four would still be comprised of a mother, a father, and two children working in the mill, which would deny the children the educational opportunities availabl e to the Parkers cousin. As Hewlett questions the wo mens wage estimates, the wo men respond with additional evidence to validate their percep tion of how the millworkers selfishly spend their high wages by consuming the choicest products from the local fa rmers. Mrs. Parker posits conspicuous grocery consumption with, Oh, lots of them are maki ng much more, my dear boy. Why, the time when farmers with eggs and vegetables and chickens used to drive up to the house all the time to sell things. Now they never get past the mill village The mill village buys up everything (18). The Parkers resentment is rooted within basic human survival in a competition for eggs, vegetables, and chickens. Hewlett recognizes that the epitome of resentment is rooted in real life within the Parkers home. Through her objective reporter s two short interviews, Vorse documents class

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53 contradiction between the lives of the Park er women and those of Mamie Lewes and her children. Sitting in a comfortable parlor with two wo men, Hewlett makes a startling discovery about class warfare: Here was where the hate came fr om. . Here was the home of the Mob. The comfortable people, the well-fixed people of Ston erton felt fury and outrage at the mill hands revolt. . Hate and Mob were a multiplication of the Parkers (19-21). Through his reproductive rhetoric, Hewlett creates an originary myth that implies that class hatred and mob rule are not only reproduced through the Parker women, but also reproduced within himself through his maternal inheritance. The individual identities of the Parker women and Hewletts unnamed mother are replaced by a unifying collective matern al identity that not only reproduces a class, but whose veil of ignorance contri butes to the reproduction of cl ass oppression. Hewlett, like the Parkers and others of their cla ss has not experienced economic di scomfort, and his recognition of his own ignorance is the first step to ward class consciousness. Moreover, in Strike! Vorse attempts to shift the consciousness of her economically comfortable readers through her characterizations of the Parkers as a maternal ideal grounded in a tradition of ignorance resulting in the exploitation of the working-class. Maternal Ballads of Union Solidarity The day after his interview with the Parkers, Hewlett witnesses his first working-class demonstration of resistance with the picketing of the Manville-Jenkes Mi ll. Vorse relies upon the narratives of her reporters, Hewlett and Hoskins, to project a voice of social consciousness and to reveal the maternal-based activism as the legitimate motive for working-class resistance. In aligning the observations of Hewlett with Ho skins with the narratives of Lewes, Vorse foregrounds the experiences of the working-class co llective and its desire fo r a better life for the children. The collective workers parade in Stonerton is describe d by Hoskins and Hewlett as a

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54 scene of solidarity and maternal activism: Here were people, men and women and children walking together, rank on rank of young millworke rs walking along bearing banners that read we want schools. . There were smaller children marched with bannersMust we go to the mill? (26). The banners reflect the common goal of the collective as concern for the children, but the observations of the reporters lend credibil ity to the messages on th e banners by creating a vivid image of maternal-based solida rity for a skeptical readership. Vorse also depicts the emotional connection between the journalists by narrating Hewletts response: he felt unexpectedly moved. He wasnt ashamed to say as much to Hoskins. Hoskins then responds, they get me t oo. I cant help remembering they re the docile one-hundred per cent Americans. . .[T]heyve been docile and one-hundred-per cent so long (26). Vorse suggests that the reporters are emotionally move d because they person ally identify with the workers and their children as Americans like th emselves. The shared identity of the reporters with the southern mill worker invokes both a patern al and a patriotic unity that differs from the emotional affiliation with the labor demonstrations of the North where the strikers were immigrant workers. Vorse also emphasizes the industrialization of the South as built upon the backs of the southern working-class who also sh are a historical sense of regional affiliation. Vorse moves from the observations of the sympathetic reporters to depicting the developing social consciousness of Lewes. Lewes reflective observ ations shift from a sense of isolation to a sense of collective affiliation and purpose: She had lived alone and isolated. She made so little since her husband left that she couldnt even live on the mill hill. She knew few people. Now she was part of somethingshe was part of the parade. Yesterday she had joined the Union . . She felt part of the crowd. They were all keeping time to one thing. They were all absorbed in something bigger than they weresomething that brought them all together and merged them in something outside themselves. I reckon this is the solidar ity that theys always talkin about, thought Mamie Lewes, feeling she had made a valuable and novel discovery. (27)

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55 Until the working-class demonstration of solidarity, Lewes and her co-workers passively accepted their wages and conditions because th ey were silenced by their isolation and vulnerability. Entirely dependent upon a patriarchal system of e xploitation, workers feared for their livelihood and could not risk voicing their singular resistance. However, Lewes affiliation with a parade shifts her perc eption as an individual voice toward something bigger a powerful collective voice against so cial injustice. However, Vorse contrasts Lewes discovery of solidarity with the prevailing opinion of the middle-class people. According to Hoskins, Americans dont understand the ph ilosophy of demonstration(27). Rocks are thrown, a fight breaks out, and the governor calls in the militia. While the power of demonstration of a large organized contingent of union members appears to be a genuine threat to the economically comfortable Americans, for Mamie Lewes, the ri ght of the collective represents the power to resist an oppressive patriarchal tradition. Despite the presence of the militia the next day, Lewes leaves her children at home and joins the picket line to prevent scabs from entering the mill. When a union leader asks if she could leave her children, Lewes answers, reckon ef I kin leave em to work I kin leave em to picket (35). Vorse illuminates part of her own personal conflict between wage work and mother work through Lewes comment. The parallel of Lewes responsibility to the union and her responsibility to her children also mirrors th e concerns of many who, according to Vorse, are the mothers of small children [who] have to wo rk at night to keep their families in food and necessities (47). As the only breadwinner, Le wes commitment for better wages is a commitment to the survival of her family. Vors e illustrates how a womans sense of commitment to her family is inseparable from her commitme nt to her work. At the same time, the conflict between picketing and child care also reflect s Vorses own sense of double failure and the

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56 compromises needed for her to leave her childr en to report labor upris ings across the United States. Although Lewes experiences her revelation of so lidarity at the first picket parade, Vorse draws upon the solidarity among women to further Lewes understanding of collective identity and dedication to the union. Before appearing on the platform at union meetings, Lewes writes and sings her ballads while she is working at the relief store with other women who are distributing food staples such as co rn meal and lard to the families of the strikers. Lewes rises to the union platform to sing only after Old Ma Gilfill in assures her, Weall admires fer to hear you sing your song-ballits (52). Ma G ilfillins assurances convince Le wes that she is part of the maternal collective and her voice is a viable part of the union voice. To emphasize Lewes sense of maternal solid arity, Vorse, like the other three female Gastonia novelists, draws upon the voice of Ella May Wiggins and the lyrics of her powerful ballad, Mill Mothers Lament. Written in first person plural, Mill Mothers Lament affirms Wiggins commitment to the union and to maternal-b ased activism. Vorse re produces four of the six stanzas within her novel to illustrate how Lewes is an integral part of a female collective and to invoke the power of maternal tradition as a means of evoking the sympathies of the middleclass comfortable people who subscribe to the paternal tradition of southern womanhood. Lewes stands on the union platform and sings easily and without effort at the union rally: We leave our homes in the morning,/We kiss our children good-by/While we slave for our bosses,/Our children scream and cry. . /It is for our little children/That seem to us so dear,/But for us nor them, oh, workers, the bosses do not keer (53) Invoking maternal trad ition, Wiggins ballad employs the plural we, which represents a biol ogical unity of women, as well as the paternal responsibility of men an d implies a maternal-based solidarit y. Lewes comfort in singing before

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57 a crowd from the union platform also suggests the developing social consci ousness of the female millworkers as maternal activists in, it is fo r our children. The ballad emphasizes the shared responsibility of the co llective for taking care of our ch ildren implying a moral and social obligation for both women and men to care for the small and helpless. Vorse affirms how Lewes ballad inspires a unified response: It wa s their own story, put in incredibly simple terms. Every one had lived through this. There was no piece of sentiment; it was the history of every one there put into song (53). The response of the collective reveals a sense of maternal solidarity for every one in th e all-inclusive lyrics of Wiggins ballad. Vorse implies a collective identity through shared expe riences reflected in their own story and suggests that every one there at the union rally identi fies with the struggle for subsistence survival and a mothers concern for her dea r little children w ho suffer from capitalist exploitation. The Mill Mothers Lament highlights the social injustices inflicted by the comfortable people through the depiction of the children of the millworkers and justifies the resistance of the working-class through maternal activism. Maternal Muse of Militancy Although Lewes ballads inspire ma ternal solidarity w ithin the collective, the character of Lewes resists the heroic identity as the muse of the millworkers. Rather, Lewes view of the union as her muse implies that the lyrics of he r ballads are a reflecti on of a collective voice. Lewes claims [t]he songs just seem to come to me now that the union came (166). The arrival of the union also coincides with the arrival of Lewes social c onsciousness and the recognition of Lewes as dedicated to union solidarity. Th e reporters comment upon Lewes dedication and note that the scabs continue to return to the mill instead of maintaining the strike. The scabs excuse their actions with maternal concerns claiming that sickness in the family and a new baby force them to violate the picket line. Hoskins claims the scabs dont understand the

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58 meaning of solidarity and states, these folks here havent got it yet. Hoskins clarifies his definition of solidarity as that real heart of it that all for one and one for all. However, Hewlett contends that Mamie Lewes certainly got it (109). With Hewlett as her witness, Lewes ballad writing, relief work, picketing, an d militant resistance plays out in the novel as heart-felt acts of union solidarity inspired by a co mmitment to the unions maternal collective. In addition to her portrayal of female militanc y within the maternal collective, Vorse also depicts union solidarity through maternal care taking. Although Lewes escapes much of the physical brutality that inflicted upon Vorses other characters, Lewe s is ever-present sharing in the operation of the relief store, rushing to the aid of the wounde d and the evicted, and helping in the packing over three hundr ed homeless strikers into make-shift homes in a tent city. Vorses portrayal of Lewes counters th e perceptions of the middle-cl ass who believe the union a challenges the southern tradition of white s upremacy; represents anarchists, Communists, Bolshevists and socialists who promote free love; and wants to kill people and incidentally destroy the State and industry (Vorse 153-158). Vorse depicts the heart of militancy as the heart of a maternal caretaker who is dedicated to peaceful demonstration for social justice. In response to their fears, the comfortable people reinforce their police force by forming, the Committee of One-Hundred, a vigilante group to defend American decency. Vorse documents the terror of this organization through vivid descriptions of their attacks upon the maternal bodies in the break up of picket marches and the destruction of the relief store and tent city. Vorse depicts each brutal incident with children screaming and crying in the background and women being beaten, choked, and blackjacke d. After the raid of the Committee of One Hundred on the strikers tent c ity, seventy-two females along with nine males are arrested and charged with the murder of Chief Humphries, the fictionalized Chief O.F. Aderholt.The number

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59 of females arrested in Vorses fictional portray al affirms the historical reality of a militant collective that consiste d largely of female activists. A lthough the women are released in Gastonia, as well as in Vorses Stonerton, the ju dges declaration of a mistrial leads Committee of One Hundred, once again, down a path of brut al revenge upon the maternal activists that results in the murder of the unions ballad singer. Vorse alters the historical events surrounding the murder of her fictionalized Wiggins to emphasize her portrayal of Lewes as the core of a female collective w hose death highlights the maternal-based activism as the motive behind th e strikers militancy. Vorse foreshadows the murder through the character of Dewey Bryson, a weaver and local union organizer who appears as Lewes love interest, who got up Saturd ay with a feeling of execution. A death house feeling (201). En route to the meeting, Bryson and a group of strikers are delayed in Stonerton by a confrontation with the mob and by the time they arrive in Tesner, the rally had already been broken up by vigilantes. As Lane notes, Lewes murder occurs dur ing a union rally as a singular event as opposed to the actual historical even t during which Wiggins was shot en route to the rally (86). With Bryson delayed and no other uni on leaders are present at the event, Vorse places Lewes in a union leadership position. The absence of the organizers foregrounds the maternal presence of Lewes, whose ballads, to this point, had consistently followed the oratory of the male leadership. Vorse locates the event in Tesner, rather than Stonerton, wh ere Lewes worked and lived, suggesting the geographical expansion of the st rike and positioning Lewes as cal ling forth the membership to hear her message of solidarity. Bryson confirms Lewes presence as central to the rally through her taunting lyrics: Come all ye scabs ef you wa nt to year/The story of a mean millioneare /Basil Schenk is that millioneares name (201) Lewes message is cut off when Bryson and

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60 the vigilantes arrive at the same time and the m illworkers flee in fear. Lewes stands on the back of a truck, along with other depa rting millworkers, and confirms her attempt to hold the rally telling Bryson, We tried to hold [the rally] e nnyway, Dewey. Lewes then completes the ballad that had signaled the event with the last line of her lyrics: He caint buy the Union with his money and frame! (authors emphasis 202). The song that de picts the end of the event where the collective has gathered al so represents the end of Lewes life. A report of gunshot follows and Lewes collapses and utters her final words, O h Lawdy, theyve hit me. Bryson confirms the death of the ballad singer scream ing, Mamie Lewes! Shes daid! Mamie Lewes is daid! As Bryson helps to carry Lewes body to a neighboring house, the death of union solidarity pervades his every thought: Its over! he thought. Its over! . She and her song ballits had been the very core of the strike ( 202). Bryson confirms that Lewes is the core of th e collective and her death occurs as an act of maternal activism in the presence of her maternal collective. Brysons testimony extends beyond that of a grieving lover to a grieving comrade who recognizes the heart of the maternal resistance has literally and figurativ ely stopped beating. Vorses depiction of Lewes funeral mirrors the funeral of Wiggins. In addition to the attendance of Lewes children, family, and co-w orkers at Lewes funeral, Vorses narrative confirms with historical accura cy that reporters from [a]ll th e big metropolitan newspapers appeared with photographers who took pictures [that] would go to workers all over the country, and all over the world. Vorse ends the rituals wi th the voice of a mill worker from Tesner who offered Lewes ballad to the workers of world and sang, How it grieves the heart of a mother! (204). In her final hour, Lewes emerges as a world renowned mill mother whose lament led her to a core position of l eadership where she gave her life for cause of the maternal collective.

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61 Vorses documentation of the arrests and trials in Stonerton reflect the same futility of the arrests and trials in Gastonia; No one was prosecuted for the murder of the ballad singer. Yet, in the final thirty pages of Strike! Vorse portrays the historical re percussions when the murder of Wiggins at Gastonia sparked widespread dem onstrations among the mi llworkers within the Piedmont region. The final strike of Vorses fic tional Stonerton memorializes Lewes, as well as the participation of the female collective who gath er together in maternal solidarity in another tragic demonstration that claims the life of Fer Deane and four male strikers. Despite the death of Lewes, the fictional mill owners, like the real mill owners, still did not keep their promises. Vorse reveals the impact on the six female and two male workers: There was discrimination. Ma Gilfillin and Daisy West could get no work. Nor could Jolas or Binney nor any other of the Jolas girls (215). In a report to Fer Deane, a striker notes the readiness of the millworkers for another picketing demonstration: When Mamie Lewes wuz shot, we all tuk an oath wed not rest till wed got em out agin. . The womens ben takin' a part. Mis Cuthbert and some of the Trent wives ha be n organizing right smart amongst the women (213). The mill worker invokes Lewes as the maternal martyr who motivates more women to take an even more militant role in resistance. Moreover, the death of Lewes inspires women to make a sacred pact to unite and resist as a memorial from the heart of the maternal collective. The final strike results in the deaths of Fer Deane and five male millworkers, as well as the death of the resistance of the maternal collectiv e. John M. Reilly argues that in her historical alteration of the fate of the fic tionalized Beal, Vorse martyrs Dean e rather than revealing Beals defection to Russia (153-154). Reillys comm ent suggests that the martyrdom of Deane overshadows the martyrdom of Lewes and the part icipation of a female collective. Vorses fictional alteration of shared union martyrdom, however, supports her portrayal of the multiple

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62 and gendered experiences of the collective and emphasizes the signi ficant participation of female activists. The shooting of the male millworkers and the funeral scene following the death of Wiggins are taken from another workers demons tration in Marion, outsid e of Gastonia. Beals fate depicts a final act of solidarity among uni on brotherhood and the subsequent end of the story. Conversely, the death of Lewes symbolizes the de ath of a maternal martyr who inspires the militancy of the entire collective. Lewes is not only the first to die a martyrs death, but her death inspires Deane to join the picketing workers in their final demonstr ation of resistance. Throughout the novel, Deane, fearing assassinati on, hides safely in his room, as well as in neighboring towns, leaving the organizing of the demonstrations to his assistant, Irma Rankin, Vorses fictionalized Vera Buch Weisbord. Joseph Urgo suggests that Rankins name is a play on words implying rank and file (69). Reading Ra nkin from a maternal lens, her gendered role aligns her with Lewes, as well as with the ot her female strikers a nd relief workers whose positions as rank and file were the real backbone of the strike. Lewes unites the rank and file to represent a collective whose maternal activism sustained a militant working-class resistance. In Strike! Lewes is immortalized as a maternal w hose death inspires the radical conversion of Vorses young nave reporter to a working-class consciousness. Del Evans, a mill worker from Stonerton, tells Hewlett, Were a goin to bring solidarity to the whole South. We cait lose no time. . sos they all, an Mamie Lewes too, w ont have died fer nothin (235). Vorse narrates Hewletts epiphany as a heart-felt affiliation to reporting for the unions cause: And he had to go on too. He had lost his own class; he could ne ver belong in their class of workers. He was without country now, and yet wherever they went, wh at ever their destination might be, he had to go with them (235-236). Roger Hewletts conv ersion reflects Vorse s own lifes journey.

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63 Inspired by Wiggins and almost every working woman, who balanced work and family, Vorse also had to go on as a labor journalist from Lawrence, to New York, to Philadelphia, to Passaic, and to wherever there was a spont aneous uprising of workers. Vorses Strike! not only reveals maternal solidarity as the heart of co llective human experience through her fictional portrayal of Ella May Wiggins, bu t she also delivers a message of maternal-based activism to the comfortable people.

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64 CHAPTER 3 GRACE LUMPKIN: LABORING WOMEN AND THE POLITICS OF LABOR IN TO MAKE MY BREAD Mother Work and Mill Work In reporting the murder of Ella May Wiggins in the 1929 textile mill strike in Gastonia, North Carolinas News and Observer linked the union-organizing activism of Wiggins with her maternal need to supply bread for her hungry chil dren. The summary lead read: The state of North Carolina stands shamed and disgraced by this inhuman crimeThe humble woman sought to improve the conditions under which she worked sixty hours a week to find bread for her five children (qtd. in Salmond 129). Where most of the newspaper reports questioned Wiggins morality as a single mother, the lead of the News and Observer evoked a sense of shame from the entire political body of the stat e of North Carolina. The report of News and Observer emphasized the inhumanity of murdering a woman whose labor was measured in both her wageearning hours at the mill and in her maternal responsibility for the care of her children. Although the motive for the murder was never clearly established, Wiggins death legitimized workingclass protest by inspiring a social consciousness across class distinctions, not only in North Carolina but across the United States. In To Make My Bread Grace Lumpkin moves her readers to a working-class sympathy by recreating the life and th e death of Ella May Wiggins thr ough two generations of women who labor in mother work and mill work. Lumpkin s fictional Wiggins, Bonnie McClure, and her mother, Emma McClure, portray the experiences of women who left ru ral privation in the Carolina mountains to work in the mill villag es. Through her female protagonists, Lumpkin articulates a revolutionary mode l of maternal-based activism where the nurturing and caretaking of a womans family in the rural Appalachian Mo untains extends into mills and inspires a model of working-class solidarity.

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65 By the time Lumpkin was writing To Make My Bread she was a loyal member of the Communist Party. Like many revolutionary writers in th e 1920s and 1930s, Lumpkin believed that the party offered a cure for the social a nd economic ills that plagued the United States; she also believed that she could be a part of the artistic intervention that could help to spread hope to the working-class (Sowinska vii). This chap ter briefly addresses how Lumpkins personal and political experiences inform her revolutionary writing. The balance of the chapter focuses on Lumpkins fictional recreation of Ella May Wiggins as a ma ternal representation of two generations of women who left the rural mountains to work in the Carolina cotton mills. In To Make My Bread Lumpkin recreates her fictional Gastoni a and depicts a revol utionary model of maternal-based activism through a mother and daughter, Emma and Bonnie McClure. The first half of the novel traces a widowed E mma McClures struggle to take care of her daughter, Bonnie; her three sons; and her aging fa ther in a small rural farming community in Southern Appalachia. Lumpkins narrative refl ects the experiences of most women in the Piedmont Region who, out of economic desperation, were forced to abandon their rural farm life and seek work in the mills. The novel opens w ith an unseasonable spring blizzard and Emma birthing her youngest son, John. Isolated from her female community, Emma relies upon her father to assist in her delivery. The newborn is placed in the cradle w ith an infant Bonnie, Lumpkins fictionalized represen tation of Wiggins. The cradle sharing links Bonnie and John in a parallel childhood as well as politic al development. By the time Bonnie is thirteen, her mother will have taken in an unwed mother into their already crowded cabin, her grandfather will have been arrested for bootlegging, one older brother w ill have been murdered, and the eldest brother will have sold the family farm to a lumbering company and abandoned the family entirely. Out

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66 of desperation Emma is forced to pack up he r two youngest children and her aging father, join the family of her husbands brother, a nd seek work at the Wentworth Mill. The second half of Lumpkins novel focuses on the experiences of the McClures, who discover that the mill offers no respite from povert y. When Emma is stricken with pellagra and can no longer work at the mill, Bonnie and he r younger brother, John, begin working so the family can remain in mill housing. Along with their adolescent development, Lumpkin traces the development of Bonnie and Johns social consci ousness. While her brothers union militancy occurs soon after his employment, Bonnie marries ; like the reallife Wiggins, her labor is interrupted by yearly childbirth. After her mother, husband, and daughter die of malnutrition and lack of medical care, Bonnie jo ins John in advocating for the union cause. Speaking for herself as well as for the other mill-working women, B onnie composes maternal ballads that invoke motherhood as a social responsibility. Just as she steps up to the podium with her mothermillworker message, Bonnie is shot and killed leaving John to carry on the message of union solidarity. A Mill Writers Artistic Intervention Living most of her life in rural South where the cotton mill industry had firmly established itself since the 1880s, Lumpkin witnessed the effects of long hours and low wages on the millworkers. Born in Georgia in 1892, Lumpkin was the ninth of eleven children in a family that clung to their religion and thei r southern Confederate ident ity. Although the Lumpkins were better off than most of their neighbors, they felt the economic impact of Reconstruction after the Civil War, and Lumpkins father moved the fami ly from Georgia to South Carolina in the hope of economic recovery. Lumpkin attended school with the children of sharecroppers, whose poverty was far below that of the Lumpkins. When her father died in 1910, the family was left destitute and Lumpkin borrowed mo ney to attend college. She completed a two-year certification

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67 program in one year and began her teaching ca reer in Georgia and later, South Carolina. Historically, Lumpkins college e xperience reflects a time in the early 1920s when progressive reformists focused on adult education as a mean s of societal reform (Heller 214). In running a school that offered evening adult education for th e farming families of Southern Appalachia and working for the federal government as a home demonstrator, Lumpkin co mbined her belief in adult education with her social consciousness and actively sought solutions for the rural poor. Sylvia Cook notes that Lumpkin spent summers in the mountains of North Carolina staying with families who worked in the cotton mills (52).T he relationship between Lumpkin as the mill writer and the mountain families as millworkers is one of historical experience and a socially conscious sense of shared identity born of economic struggle. Lumpkins political consciousness also led her to work for a year for the YWCA in France with an organization for French working girls. After Lumpkin retu rned to the family home, she worked for the YWCA in South Carolina. During th is time she realized that the workers could only better their lives by means of unions (qtd in Sowinska x). Following the death of her mother, Lumpkin pursued her career in New York City in 1925 writing for a pacifist and mildly socialist publication, The World Tomorrow The sparks of Lumpkin s proletarian conversion were ignited when she covered the first Commun ist-led strike in Passaic, New Jersey, in 1926. While in Passaic, Lumpkin first met the man wh o would become her lover and husband, Michael Intrator, who was a member of the Communist Party during this period. During the picket sponsored by the Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee in 1927, Lumpkin was arrested with other members of the party. By the late 1920s Lumpkin was an ardently committed Communist scoundrel and joined the writing staff of The New Masses. Lumpkin was sent South by the party to investigate

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68 lynchings, help organize the African American sharecroppers, and partic ipate in the Communistled resistance in the Piedmont region of the Southern Appalachian Mountains at Gastonia. Lumpkin was instrumental in bringing race relations and the need for interracial solidarity to the forefront of the Communist Part ys agenda. (Sowinska xi-xxi). To Make My Bread emerged from Lumpkins leftist loyalties winning the praises of the Comm unist Party as well as the 1932 Gorky Prize as best labor nove l of the year (Salmond 188). Although Lumpkins experience with the Communi st Party inspires a story of maternal solidarity, her break with the party reveals a nother maternal-based story in which Lumpkin aborts the pregnancy that resulted from her rela tionship with Michael Intrator and sinks into a life of rural isolation. Although th e leftist ideology had inspir ed her prize-winning novel, her conservative southern religious upbringing, which she portrays as the moral conscience in her novel, imposed its own death sentence upon Lumpki ns creativity as a revolutionary writer. In New York Lumpkin and Intrator scandali zed their neighbors by sharing an apartment with Esther Shemitz and Whitaker Chambers. The de fections of Intrator and Chambers from the Communist Party created animosity among Lumpkins friends, who chose to separate themselves from the factionalist politics of the party. By the late 1930s, feeling abandoned by her friends, Lumpkin sought an abortion and le ft Intrator. No one can gue ss whether Lumpkins defection from the Communist Party was prompted by he r own sense of shame brought on by her abortion, the defections of Intrator and Chambers, or the pressure of the Chambers-Hiss espionage and perjury trials. Lumpkin reconstruc ted various versions of her i nvolvement with the party during her testimony before the House Committee on Un-A merican Activities. Despite the conflicting evidence, history records Lumpkin s intellectual and political struggl es as a catalyst to her most creative period as a writer, or what Lumpkin he rself refers to as her Communist Phase

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69 (Sowinska xviii-xx). Lumpkins novel stands as testimony to a womans life when love, pregnancy, and an intellectual str uggle for a shared sense of id entity inspire a working-class social consciousness. Armed with first-hand experi ence of the plight of the southern rural poor, liberal Leftist philosophies, and her own maternal experien ce, Lumpkin not only reported womens historical place on the pi cket lines, but she also cros sed the boundary lines of gender and race to tell a story of a matern al-based working-class solidarity. Mountain Myth and Material Reality Lumpkin devotes the first half of To Make My Bread to establishing the interrelationship of a mother and daughter, Emma and Bonnie McCl ure, and how they function in a cooperative female community as a basis for survival in an environment where males are either absent or ineffectual. In the second half of the novel, Lumpkin maintains the c ooperative inte rrelationship of the mill families as a maternal extension of a communal class consciousness. For generations of pioneering farm families, worker solidarity, wa s understood as the shared labor of all family members who lived and worked on the family farm. Larger families were an advantage in that many hands shared in the planting and harvesting ; thus, the yearly pregnancy experienced by so many women was a source of pride in producing more hands for working the farm. southern rural women were also socialized to assume a se nse of social obligation to other women in their community by supporting each other during births a nd deaths. When families migrated from the mountains to the mills, their interdependent kin relationships then translated as multi-layered, deeply felt relationships of solid arity with other millworkers. Both the labor of mill work and the labor of domestic work were gendered and rooted in rural mountain tradition. The mills replicated a gendered division of labor assigning the more physical manual labor to males and the repetitive less physical labor to women and children. When women began working in the mills, they re plicated mountain tradi tion of their double duty

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70 of farm labor and domestic labor. Therefore, solidarity among women was also understood as family relationship where their labor of wage-earning extended into the social labor of the caretaking of their families as well as their fellow wage workers. As its title reveals, To Make My Bread is Lumpkins story about a Depression era struggle of su rvival represented through a socialized network of maternal laborers. The female millworkers not only labored in breadwinning, but they also labored in bread-baki ng, childbearing, child burying, and community bridge-building for creating and sustaining po litical activism among th e working-class. In the first chapter of To Make My Bread Lumpkin reveals the impact of economics and patriarchal oppression upon the maternal expe rience through metaphors of nature and gendered labor. Lumpkin locates the economic centers of the rural mountain community, Swains General Store and Barren She Mountain, as masculine space. In Swains, a small group of men sit around a potbellied stove smoking pipes and sharing gossip about Possum Hollo w. When the steers begin to bellow outside the store, Sam Wesley remembered that his woman must have meal for supper. As he departs the store, he cautions his friends, [s]omethings a-happening up yonder (9). The steers appear to sense the fury of th e impending blizzard, and their restlessness reminds their owner of the need to bring home cornmeal for bread baking. Steers are castrated bulls that are raised for beef as well as for farm work. These steers appear to symbolically bellow a warning of economic castration, which represen ts the impotency of the mountain economy. Lumpkin does not narrate any exchange of mone y for the cornmeal, implying that Wesley, like most mountain families, would be charging it to an account at Swains General Store. Using the unpredictability of weather as th e topic of male concern, Lumpkin foreshadows the economic devastation upon the mountain families as a threat to masculinity. Swain sells his store to a lumber company; the lumber compa ny will dupe the families and take their land. The

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71 government will also legally dismantle the la st remaining vestige of mountain economy, moonshine business up on Barren She Mountain. Ho wever, Lumpkin also foreshadows hope for the working-class with the reproductive labor an d birth of the McClure infant which is also happening up-yonder on a ridge a bove Possum Hollow. Although the father of the infant died of a fever, the birth of his heir, Emmas son, play s out in the novel as th e originating story of a revolutionary proletariat who will lead the working-class resistance. Not only does Emmas reproductive labor deliver hope for a working-cl ass revolution, but Lumpkin also posits the maternal body of the proletariats mother within the storm as a resisting force against economic oppression. In the public space of Swains General Store, Lumpkin also genders the labor of men who run the bootlegging business up on Barren She M ountain. Read metaphor ically, the feminized mountain that is both barren and a she repres ents an illicit space outsi de of the patriarchal law where an illegal alcoholic beverage is produ ced as well as a space which fails to produce legitimate heir from the seeds that are sown into its soil. The mountains barren soil and lack of marketable crops symbolize the impotency of th e southern farming economy. The betrayal of Barren She Mountain is further compounded by th e illegitimacy of m oonshine economy. Not only is the mountain reproductive ly barren, but any economic pr oduction from the mountain is also rendered illegitimate by patriarchal law within the capitalist system. As a trope of nature, the snowstorm that is st irring up in the mountains also represents the industrialization that will sweep th rough the mountain range. In r ecreating a contradictory nature as a nurturing pastoral replete with nave mountai n folk and as a destructive storm, Lumpkin also emphasizes the contradictory nature of her ma ternal characters where the bodies of mountain women represent both relational caretaking a nd organized resistance. Lumpkins snowstorm

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72 occurs on April 19, 1900, a date, which in the Appalachian region of the North Carolina, corresponds to the season of sp ring and a metaphorical rebirth. Yet Lumpkins storm permeates the public masculine space of the local store and reduces the men to a st ate of helplessness and inadequacy when they attempt to return home. In Swains General Store any danger of the storm coming up hard is dismissed by Jim Hawkins, who voices a symbolic rural navet of the danger of industrialization with, If it was winter, Id be making tracks for my cabin (7). The men resist returning home and continue puffing their pipes around a public stove. Their si lence is broken by the entrance of Young Sam McEachern, who is searching for Granpap Kirkland so he can get his help in the business they carried on (7-8). Granpaps absence from his usual community of men suggests that he, too, disregards the threat of the storm and tends to the business up on Barren She Mountain rather than making tracks for his cabin. The silence is again broken when one ma n is seen shivering against the cold and Sam McEachern asks, A ra bbit run over your grave? Sams superstitious question about a rabbit is rooted in rural folklore. It is both reproductive and destructive as a metaphor of an overly abundant reproductive ability and a fore shadowing of death. Moreover, Sams reference to the grave plays out in the novel as his denial of paternal responsibility in the pregnancy of an unmarried woman and his murder of his rival, Emmas son, Basil. Ultimately, Sam McEachern himself is murdered as the fictio nal recreation of the only deputy sheriff to be shot at Gastonia. Thus, the threat of a snowstorm in early spring and the symbolic fertility of the rabbit folklore contradict their associations with the sentimen tal pastoral nature and imply of a more threatening beast. Conversely, any sense of safety is implied throug h the domestic space of the cabin.

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73 Despite their dismissal of the early warnings of a snowstorm, Lumpkins nave males are forced to face the blizzard in order to rescue the farm animals that were not sheltered. Lumpkin does not narrate the storms impact on the men or on the livestock. Rather the impact of the storm literally rages violently and wreaks its fo rce upon maternal bodies. Lumpkin narrates the physical impact of the blizza rd through a nameless female community, Women stood outside the doors with snow stinging their faces like wasp s and called to their men, or crawled to meet them, trying to make their shrill voices hear d above the wind (10). Lumpkins maternal caretakers are concerned for the safety of th eir husbands and sons, who are blinded by the blizzard and unable to find their way back to their cabins. The women not only stand outside their cabins and bear the impact of the stinging violence of the st orm, but they also reduced to crawling into the direction of th e blizzard and guide their husbands and sons toward the safety of their cabins. The storm repeats its violence at the McCl ure cabin: Emma stood outside the door and screamed to them. She could not stand long agains t the strong wind. It blew her against the wall of the cabin with the force of a st rong mans fist (10). The storms rage is compared to an act of male violence against a female when the physical force of the storm throws Emmas pregnant body against the wall. Lumpkin pe rsonifies the storm as male: The wind slapped against the cabin and snarled down the chimney. Snow blew in under the north door and spread over the floor in a hurry and flurry like an unwelcome gues t who is trying to make himself at home (12). However, Emma rises in resistance and continue s to call to her father and sons, who seek a direction toward safety. When Em ma and her female community c onfront the blizzard, they are risking their own lives to protect the lives of their families. Although the impact of the storm threatens the lives of the male kin because they are exposed to the elem ents, the intensity of

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74 storms violence is actually less destructive. The impact upon Lumpkins male characters is illustrated with, They came crawling on hands and knees (10). Although a male reduced to crawling implies a humbling experien ce, the brutality of a mans fist represents a violent attempt at complete domination. In construc ting two parallel versions of th e brutality of the storm against the mountains female community, Lumpkin cons tructs a symbolic shared experience and emphasizes a need for unified resistance against the threatening elements of industrialization. The onset of Emmas birthing labor begi ns only after Emma has accomplished the caretaking labor for her father and sons. Emma is acutely aware that the storm is separating her from the female community who would assist her in her delivery. In spit e of her isolation she continues the care taking of her family as between the pain s she pours hot coffee to warm her father and relays instructions for cutting the umbilical cord. Emma di sregards the storm and focuses upon her delivery, wishing in herself there was a woman who would know what to do without telling (12). Lumpkin illustrates the is olation of Emma from her community of women in the absence of another woman to act as midw ife. Emma approaches parturition and seeks her bed in a corner of the cabin: Sitting up on bed she pressed down slowly with her hands over the great lump stirring inside. Others had done this for her before to help the child come. She found that she could not do this for herself. The hot pulling cramp forced her to lie back and scream again. A bear was gnawing at her belly, pulling at the mu scles with its strong teeth. She felt its fur on her face and beat at the fur with he r arms. It was Granpaps beard. (12) Lumpkin emphasizes Emmas wishing for th e presence of someone who knows how to assist in delivery by pressing on her abdomen. E mma has gained this knowledge from others through her experiences in childbirt h, but discovers that her pain prevents her from performing this procedure. The only adult pr esence within the cabin is Emma s father; in response to his daughters screams, he takes on the role of midwife.

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75 Theorist Joseph R. Urgo notes the violent im agery surrounding Emmas birthing scene and contends that her fathers d elivery of her dead husband s son underscores the complete domination of her body by males (72). Although Urgos argument confirms the literal male presence, the absence of Emmas dead husband also reflects the absence of male dominance within Emmas domestic sphere. Additionally, the male-personified storm does not defeat the maternal caretakers in their rescue of their male kin, nor does it intrude upon the cabin where Emma labors to deliver her infant. Additiona lly, Emmas father, Granpap Kirkland, a man scarred from a battle with a she-bear and a Civil War battle, actually resist s the role of dominator because he had known fear and dread in the last few moments since he knew that some time in the night he must deliver Emma of her child (11). Emmas birt h experience is an exclusively female experience where Granpap has no control outside of cutting the umbilical cord. Granpap further demonstrates his lack of power over th e birth experience when he fails to follow his daughters directions on how to cut the umbili cal cord at an appr opriate length. Lumpkin illustrates the reproductive authority of Emma and her community of women as exclusively female knowledge when Emmas son later reveals, The protruding navel . had something to do with his birth and the fact that Granpap ha d cut the cord instead of some woman who knew her business (53). Emmas fathers lack of skill is not only reflected through a permanent scar on a future proletariat, but the grandfather is also feminized through his grandsons comparison to a woman who would have had skill and knowledge that surpassed that of the elder patriarch. Granpap is not a fearless dominator b ecause the birth experience proves more overpowering than the bloody battle s between men and the battles with maternalized raging shebears. Lumpkin parallels Emmas female experien ce of birthing with her fathers performance in his hunting experiences; Emmas re sistance to male domination is evident in her courageous

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76 reproductive labor experiences. Lumpkins descri ption of Emmas labor pains resembles her fathers description of his she-bear as she feels a bear gnawing at her belly, pulling at the muscles with its strong teeth. When Emma realizes the fur of the bear is really her fathers beard as he bends close to tell her to keep c overed, she pushes him away because [i]t was not possible to bear the agon y of one hair touching her (11-12). Pushing her father away enacts a resistance to her fathers presence in her re productive experience, and Emma defeats the beast by bearing her child through her bodys ow n natural process of giving birth. Although Emma depends upon her fathers assist ance in the delivery of the infant, her response to his concern for Victoria n modesty can also be read as an act of resist ance to male domination. Isolation from her community of wo men, Emma faces her reproductive labor as a solitary act. Emma refuses domination and fo cuses upon her own mind and body: There was no Granpap and no children now. Nothing mattered but herself and the pain (11-13). Emma maintains the ownership of her body, her pain, he r space, and her birth process by effacing both her father and her family. After Emma delivers her son, her father separa tes himself from his imposed caretaking role and transfers the maternal responsibility to the only other female in the cabin, Bonnie. Granpap covers his daughter, who is lying on the exhaus ted on the dry side of the bed, and places his new grandson in the cradle with Bonnie to ke ep it warm until Emma would come to and let it suck (13). Bonnie is the only ot her female in the cabin and th e heat from her body serves in keeping a newborn infant warm. In sharing her cr adle, Emmas daughter is symbolically initiated into what contemporary theorist Nancy Chodorow refers to as the reproduction of mothering where the early mother-infant relationship creates both a foundati on for parenting in children of both genders and expectations that women will moth er (7). In her perception of her role as a

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77 maternal caretaker, Bonnies sense of a shared female reproductive consciousness is rooted in her social role as opposed to her biological role The cradle-sharing also foreshadows a symbolic maternal-based solidarity between Bonnie and her brother as well as between Bonnie and a gendered working-class. At chapters end the me taphorical snowstorm is replaced by two hungry infants who lie quietly awaiting the sleeping mate rnal breast. There is no resistance from the female child in the cradle and her shared role wi th her mother as an infant caretaker and nurturer marks the beginning of the cycle of maternal-b ased solidarity for Bonni e as a fictionalized heroine. Cradles, Kin, and Maternal Caretaking Bonnies cradle-sharing indoctr ination into mothering exte nds into the second chapter when six years later she rescue s her cradle mate from a rattl esnake. Again, Bonnies body bears the maternal burden of caretaking, which is remini scent of her mothers experience in rescuing her brothers and grandfather from the snow st orm: She caught the ba ck of Johns jeans and clumsily jerked him against her. The impact of his body on hers brought th em down on the slope together, and they rolled down hill until a rock stopped them (16). Bonnie not only pulls her brother down a hill to safety, but her body cushio ns his fall and results in Bonnie being bruised and bleeding, John escaping unscath ed, and their mother believing that Bonnie merely fell while playing. Bonnie and John do not reveal the deta ils of their snake expe rience to Emma; their secrecy implies their understanding of maternal authority and the consequences of their confession. Bonnies actions al so allude to a gender expectation th at as an older sister, she shares maternal responsibility for her younger brother and, even at age six, li fts some of Emmas maternal burdens. Along with the maternal care of her younger brother, Bonnie also learns about the gendered boundaries imposed upon women by a patria rchal cultural tradition. As Emmas sister-

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78 in-law, Ora, and cousin, Jennie Martin, are gathering around Emmas loom, Emmas first narrated conversation with her daughter reveals the reinforcement of traditional gender roles. Emma exposes Bonnies her gendere d transgressions as well as t hose of Oras daughter, Sally, by referring to them as boy-girls who Alw ays wanted to run around like boys instead of helping [their] Mas. The reprimand is immediat ely understood and articulated as a single shared thought between Emma and Bonnie. Emma first responds to Bonni es inquiry about the absence of Oras eldest daughter with, S allys got to stay home. B onnie concludes Emmas sentence with, To work for her Ma (24). Emmas got to not only implies that there are no other options for Sally, but also sugge sts that those carefree days of Bonnies and Sallys boyish freedom have now ended. The split identity of a boy-girl privileges the term boy by placing it first, thus subordinating the id entity of girl. In finishi ng her mothers sentence, Bonnie articulates her respect for the authority of her mother as well as her ow n understanding of her subordinate position as a female within a care taking community of the mothers and daughters who understand their domestic responsibilities. In contrast to Bonnies carefully mentored maternal training, Lu mpkin portrays a young woman whose lack of proper mothering results in the social death of Minnie Hawkins. Minnies mother, as well as the moral guardianship repres ented by a mother, is absent. Lumpkin describes Bonnies unsexed female body as little and sl im compared to the body of daughter of Jim Hawkins who is slightly older and plump. Minnies sexualized body attracts the pursuit of the local boys and results in Minnies social damna tion as a devalued, sexualized object who tempts the local boys toward the sin of fornication. When the rural women notice the boys and men are eyeing the prettiest girl around the valley, they are filled wi th a distrust which Lumpkin succinctly explains as, Then, they remembered her mother (42). The community of women

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79 must strain to remember the time when Minnies mother was present. There is no memory of any immoral action outside of her abandonmen t of her duties as wife and mother. Lumpkin further emphasizes the moral contrast between Bonnie and Minnie in the spiritual coming-of-age ritual of baptism down by the ri ver in Possum Hollow. The preacher immerses Bonnie and she is saved from mortal damna tion. However, when Minnie glances at Emmas son, she slips from the hands of the preacher as well as slips from baptismal saving grace. In the eyes of her community of onlookers Minnies lack of salvation leav es her with the stain of the original sins of her mother. The ill-timed presence of Emmas son riding a horse through the baptismal waters fails to evoke any community scorn. However, Minnies questionable baptism was the subject of many discussions for years af terward, especially when Minnie herself later became the chief subject of talk in the community (64). Lumpkin implies that Minnies lack of a maternal bond also indicates a lack of a mothers moral traini ng. Minnie reenacts her mothers fall from patriarchal religions grace when she, too, abandons her infant. Minnies lack of a mother also implies her lack of the social ability be a part of the maternal caretaking within her female community. However, Minnies lack of a maternal influe nce and her social alienation from her rural community serve as Emmas lesson to Bonnie in female solidarity when Minnie conceives a child of unknown paternal origin. As a social pariah bearing an illegitimate child, Minnie is cast out of her fathers home and left to fend for herself. Although rumor suggests several possibilities which include both of Emmas sons and Sam McEachern as possible fathers, Emma McClure believes that the possi bility of the child being a Mc Clure is enough to warrant her embracing Minnie as family. Emma takes Minnie into the alr eady overcrowded cabin where there is barely enough food available fo r the McClure family to survive.

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80 Surrounded and supported by the McClure women, Minnies reproductive labor is contrasted with Emmas birthing experiences. Emma describes her own labor by saying, Mine all came hard. Lumpkin announces Minnies labo r and delivery a sing le sentence: A few moments after Ora arrived Minnie gr oaned a little, and there was a baby (93). Minnies ease of labor suggests that the pains of childbirth appear to have very little to do with questions of morality or legitimacy. Emmas maternal embr ace of Minnie suggests th at acceptance by other women who share the knowledge and experience of childbirth can ease the burden and the pain for other women. The knowledge of the women who assisted in Minni es childbirth is the knowledge of shared female experience where women extend their nurturing and caretaking of children to the nurturing and caretaking of each other. Lumpkin also draws upon Minni es pregnancy and parturitio n to emphasize Bonnies rite of passage into womanhood as well as into a cultu rally-reproduced sense of maternal solidarity. The onset of Bonnies menstrual cycle and her surrogate motherhood of, and maternal separation from, Minnies infant symbolize the severe econo mic desperation that forces the rural families out of their homes and into the mills. The mens trual event is narrated through Emmas maternal reflections: Bonnie was getting older and it had come upon her. For herself, Emma could do with any rags that came along, but for Bonnie she want ed the soft cloth. If sh e went to the store, Hal Swain would probably give the cloth on credit (authors emphasis 109). Both Bonnie and Emma share the universal, yet unnamed, experien ce of it. Despite the secrecy, mother and daughter share an exclusive female experi ence through their mutual identification as reproductive menstruating bodies. In combining menstruation as both a shared fe male experience and an economic hardship, Lumpkin illustrates a sense of social consciousne ss that is understood as an exclusively female

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81 experience of economic desperation. Emmas hope for her daughters economic future is also revealed through their bodily f unctions where Emma wants to nur ture her daughter as a woman and provide a soft cloth to take care of a womans reproductive cycle. Where Emmas menstrual and childbirth cycles are marked by rags and agonizing labor symbo lizing poverty and pain, Emmas desire for a soft cloth implies her hope fo r a softer and easier life for her daughter. Yet the link between mother and daughter is overshadow ed by the need for more credit at the general store. Lumpkins representation of Bonnie s menarcheal event within the novel was revolutionary, implying the possibility of fema le bonding through the shared experience of a female coming-of-age ritual and the possibili ty of female solidarity through a shared understanding of how economic desp eration affects womens bodies. The economic desperation that fi nally forces the family to leave the mountain parallels Bonnies separation from her nurturing role as th e surrogate mother of Minnies infant. Shortly after her delivery, Minnie leaves the suppor tive community of the women in the McClure household, and Bonnie assumes the role of surro gate mother to Minnies abandoned infant. Lumpkin emphasizes a surrogate maternal nurturing: Bonnie couldnt be budged from the baby inside [the cabin]. She wanted to hold it conti nually (94). When Minnies father hears that the McClures are leaving the mountains to work at mills located in the valley, he comes to claim his grandson. Bonnies painful maternal separation is also parallel to the painful separation of the McClure family from their land. In the silence that follows the grandf athers request, Bonnie cries out, Hits mineI raised it. . B onnie cried all the way down the valley (139). Bonnie believes the baby belongs to her becau se she was responsible for the caretaking and nurturing of Minnies son. Similarly, the McClur es believed in their ownership of their inheritance because they, too, nurtured and cared for their la nd. The senselessness of the

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82 separation of an infant from a nurturing commun ity represents the sepa ration of the workingclass from their livelihood, and Lumpkin posits the need for a return to a maternal-based solidarity as a viable model of caretaking owners hip as well as activism for unifying a workingclass collective. Grinding Bones and Making Bread from Maternal Bodies Scarred by a maternal separati on and a lack of rags for her menstrual flow, Bonnies coming of age marks the turning po int in the novel that symbolizes the economic deterioration of an agrarian tradition. Out of desperation, the McClure family moves toward the industrialized modernity of a mill town. Trusting in promises of high wages, education for their children, and homes with electricity, the McCl ures journey to what Lumpkin refers to as the outside. However, the outside reneges on its promises, and Lumpkin symbolizes this harsh reality through a childs fairy tale in which an ogre consumes dreams as well as maternal bodies. Bonnie reads the grim fairy tale to the children, who are too young to attend school. What would appear to be a nurturing scene of maternal caret aking in reality foreshadows the fate of the millworkers: And the ogre said, Ill grind you r bones to make my bread (219). Since the millworkers struggle to make enough money to buy bread, the ogre embodies the monster of industrialization, which grinds their bones with low wage s and physical exhaustion. Lumpkin illustrates the ogr es grinding wrath through Emmas maternal body. In sacrificing the health of her physical body throug h hunger as well as hard physical labor, Emma develops pellagra and her maternal body become s the sacrificial bread for the capitalist ogres. While Emma works for wages to feed her children, protein for her is in short supply. She deprives herself of nutrition so that there is more food on the table for her children. Lumpkin illuminates how survival for the millworkers in the Depression era was a gendered hierarchical structure with the bodies of mothers and ch ildren bearing the brunt of the brutality.

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83 Lumpkin undoubtedly witnessed cases of pellagr a and noticed that it struck maternal bodies with great frequency. C ontemporary medical studies now show that while young children seem to be affected the hardest by pellagra, the bodies of female millworkers were ten times more likely to succumb to this vitamin deficiency than male workers. This statistic implies a hierarchical favoring of bodies when meat or dairy products were available (Hall, et al. 150). Lumpkin reveals a traditional agrarian life patter n where men were engaged in manual field labor and women worked in the home. Based on physic al needs, men required more sustenance to support their manual activity so the dinner tabl e reflected a nutritional pecking order. Additionally, most women favored their children over themselves in the division of nutrients. The agrarian tradition of male priv ilege and maternal privileging at the table carried over into the urban environment, and the bodies of the fe male millworkers bore the resulting pellagra. Lumpkin contrasts the deteri oration of Emmas body with the maturing of Bonnies body as well as with the development of Bonnies maternal-based working-class consciousness. Bonnie marries Jim Calhoun, who immediately depa rts for the war, leav ing a pregnant Bonnie behind to care for her invalid mother in addition to working long hours in the mill. Bonnies infant, Little Emma Calhoun, sile ntly appears in the same way Bonnie appeared in the first chapter, as a presence in the cradle. Bonni e was soon up and waiting on the baby and Emma together, and then back in the mills at her fr ames (283). Inspired by her hungry infant and her sense of justice, Bonnie confronts the mill boss and requests time off to nurse the baby. Bonnie was so sure that what she wanted was a good and natural thing, there was no thought in her of being denied. Bonnies maternal request is not a request for privilege. She expresses her willingness to lose the money while the machines are idle. Mr. Burnett responds, If I let you, . Id have to let every young woman who s got a young baby do the same. And there are

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84 plenty of babies in this v illage, Bonnie. Bonnies anger is sparked and she responds, And plenty of them dies. . It was the first time sh e had said such a thing to anyone in a long time, and the first time she had spoken that way to one of the higher-ups (283-284). Framed as maternal consciousness and fueled by a sense of social justice, the resistance of Lumpkins protagonist transgresses both th e boundaries of gender and the boundaries of class. Lumpkin dares a conscious literary expres sion of female resistance within a patriarchal culture as both a reproductive consciousness and a social consciousness. Bonnies role as the maternal breadwinner is challenged further after Emmas death when her caretaking extends to her husband who escapes injury in the war but loses his hand in a mill accident. Jims health deteriorates along with his ability to function in the role of husband and provider. Bonnie minimizes her husbands failure in his traditional role and states: He had become careless about everything, and uninterested. He had never been the best sort of husband, but Bonnie understood him and had learned early not to expect too much (315). Ironically, Bonnie reverses the expect ations of gender roles. When her husband fails to be a good provider, she compensates by having lower expectations and working harder as a maternal caretaker and breadwinner. In contrast to Bonnies maternal self-sacrif ice, Jim Calhoun subscribes to a separate standard for survival. He is also the child of a single woman who was abandoned by her husband and worked in the mills. The lack of a father al so represents a lack of a model of paternal responsibility, and Jim reproduces his fathers behavior pattern by abandoning Bonnie. Bonnies forgiveness and compassion for her husband are illustrated through the language of a maternal reproductive body: Loving was as natural to her as the breath she took into herself without thought, so she had a child every year (315). Lumpkin illustrates how many rural women

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85 understood their reproductive destiny by equating sexual passion with loving and, inevitably, with childbirth. Bonnies percepti on of her reality is relational. Bearing the burden of a husband who has been emasculated and crippled by both the war and the mill demonstrates her love as much as bearing an infant y early demonstrates her love. After Jim Calhoun abandons his family, Bonnie demonstrates her resistance to cultural traditions which closely parallels the historical resistance of the real-life Ella May Wiggins and her subsequent death: Bonnies outward defiance of the southern traditi on of race segregation and her union activism ultimately lead to her death. At first, Bonnies choice to live in Stumptown, a predominantly African American ne ighborhood, is a pragmatic choice rather than an act of defiance. In her position as a single mother, Bonnie no longer qualifies for mill housing so she makes an economic choice to move into a cabin that had been lived in by colored people. Living outside of mill housing. Bonnie is further away from any community support and again makes an economic choice where [d]uring the day, she left the children at home with five-year old Emma (317). Like her mother and her grandmother, little Emma is culturally indoctrinated into the reproduction of mothering and a sense of separation. Lumpkin illustrates the shared responsibility between mother a nd daughter: Each morning [Emma] rose at four, made her own breakfast, and left coffee and a pot of hominy w ith flour gravy on the st ove where little Emma could reach them when the child ren awoke (317). Yet in spite of the little Emmas caretaking, her infant brother dies. On the day Bonnie buries he r child, she realizes that little Emma is still a child herself. Bonnie makes another pragmatic c hoice and embraces the friendship of a colored co-worker, Mary Allen. Mary sends her fifteen-y ear-old daughter, Savanna h, to help Bonnie with child care. Bonnies relationship with Mary Alle n and Savannah emerges as a climactic point in

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86 Lumpkins novel where Bonnie faces her own racial prejudice with shame and recognizes that she, Mary, and Savannah share a maternal-based bond. Lumpkin illustrates a mutual maternal understanding that crosse s the boundaries of race: Bonnies terror about the other children left alone had been made so much greater by the death of one. And Savannahs pr esence during that week made her anxiety less. It was her need to have that anxiety lightened when the new grave had just been covered up that Mary Allen understood. (321) Regardless of racial difference, Bonnie is supported by Mary Allen and Savannah because Mary not only understood the loss of the child in the grave but also und erstood the terror and the burden of maternal guilt for leaving the remaining children unattended. The Allen women also understand that thei r own maternal roles are caretaking roles without race or class. The s upport of the Allen women suggests the possibilities for a maternal solidarity that can extend into a cooperative ma ternal-based activism where Bonnies goals as a union organizer also benefit Mary Allen and he r family. Lumpkin argues for racial equality through Bonnie: The colored people work alongside of us, . I cant see why they shouldnt fight alongside us, and we by them (350). At a time in the Jim Crow South, when African American families were one step lower than poor white trash, the family relationship that existed among the workers at the mill was racial ly determined according to southern tradition. Yet Lumpkin draws the millworkers together in maternal solidarity for the union cause. The fight is for something as basic as the human need to survive. Until the death of her own infant, Bonnie does not understand that her relationship to an African Amer ican woman is an instinctive bond of survival. The death of a child draws them both into a shared maternal experience where a human act of charity crosses cultural barriers and illuminates a maternal-based activism. By entering Bonnies home and offering service, Mary Allens actions are not outside of any racial boundaries because her act of char ity originates from a position of servitude in

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87 southern tradition. However, through Bonnies a cceptance of Mary and the African American community of millworkers and her physical pres ence within the African American neighborhood where she and her neighbors share in a struggle to survive, Lu mpkin reveals the revolutionary possibility of racial integration. When Mary Allen becomes a part of the mills reduction of workers and is given her time, Bonnie attends her first union meeting. By the following week, Bonnie also receives her notice of termination and she begins union organizing among the female millworkers. Like her historical counterpart, Bonnie not only transgresses racial bou ndaries by making her home in Stumptown, but she also transg resses gendered boundaries by r ecruiting as union members her African American community of neighbors who al so need a livable wage Lumpkin represents Bonnies union appeal to her Afri can American co-workers as a ne ed for bread as well as a need for maternal-based solidarity. B onnie relates the shared bond of survival: She felt a sympathy for them, since, like her, they were poor and only wanted to make their bread (359). For Bonnie the cry for bread is also a cry for worker solidarity across racial barriers. Bonnies cry for bread no longer mimics the te acher in the mill school who reads tales to children about ogres; she fights the ogre of i ndustrial exploitation w ho devours the bodies of herself and her children and join s the workers on strike at Went worth Mill. Bonnie believes the strike will defeat the ogre, and she listens atte ntively to the promises of the union organizer who had a message that was founded in the facts of her everyday life. The organizers promise enough food and better education for the children. The strike organizers advise, Be true to yourself and your own, and you cant go far wr ong (340). Following th e advice of the union organizers to be true to hersel f, Bonnie writes her mill mothers ballad: How it grieves the heart of a mother/You everyone must know./But we can t buy for our children/Our wagers are too

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88 low./It is for our little children/That seem to us so dear./But for us nor them, dear workers/The bosses do not care (345-346). Bonnie s ballad reveals the truth fo r her and for her own children. Bonnies song inspires a mass walkout leaving th e Wentworth Mill almost empty of workers (348). Lumpkins millworkers identify with the work ing-class solidarity that is born in the heart of a grieving mother whos e everyday life is rooted in maternal care taking. Bonnies next ascent to a union platform as a maternal activist revise s historical reality when Lumpkins fictional Wiggins dies on the uni on platform rather than on the back of a truck. In locating Bonnie on the union platform, she is located in a subject position and her death reflects the silencing of a mothe rs lament as well as the silenc ing of a reproductive body. As a political agent, Bonnie delivers a message of re volutionary consciousness as she would deliver an infant, as a labor of love. Although Bonnie dies, her message of maternal solidarity lives on through the lyrics of her ballad. Inspired by B onnies message and martyrdom, the strikers descend upon the fictional Wentworth Mill just as they did upon the Loray Mill in Gastonia. Although the first shot of the working-class re volution was fired upon a maternal body standing on a union platform, Bonnies deat h reflects the martyrdom associat ed with death in childbirth. Bonnie died giving birth of a re productive social consciousness. As a fictionalized representation of E lla May Wiggins, Lumpkins Bonnie McClureCalhoun demonstrates a model of ma ternal solidarity as she gives birth to social consciousness and dies as the lyrics of a maternal ballad and the dream of working-clas s revolution live on. At the end of the novel, Lumpkin implies the possib ility of a working-class revolution by claiming, [t]his is just the beginning (384). Despite the tragic ending, Lumpkin sugge sts that the story of Ella May Wiggins is a story of beginnings. While Lumpkin was in her Communist Phase, she planted the seeds of revolution, through the milita ncy of the martyred maternal body of Ella May

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89 Wiggins as well through the stories of the fema le southern millworkers in North Carolina. Lumpkin depicted a maternal-based model work ing-class protest that inspired a social consciousness across class distinctio ns. As historical testimony of female agency and subjectivity during the Depression era, the life and the ballads of Ella May Wiggins reflect more than just a sentimentalized Mill Mothers Lament. Grac e Lumpkin invokes Wiggins militant lyrics as a millworkers maternal cry for br ead for hungry children, and creates To Make My Bread as a mill writers cry for a working-class symp athy and a maternal-based solidarity.

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90 CHAPTER 4 DOROTHY MYRA PAGE: WEARING THE RADICAL RED SHOES OF MATERNAL SOLIDARITY IN GATHERING STORM: A STORY OF THE BLACK BELT Maternal Memorial Early in 1993, Dorothy Myra Page, a radical 1930s novelist, essayist, feminist, and communist, was asked by her biographer how she wanted to be remembered. Page chose her traditional gender identities over her political activi st identities and said that she wanted to be remembered as a good mother and a good wife (qt d. in Baker xxiii). Christina Looper Bakers biography, In a Generous Spirit: A First Person Biography of Myra Page includes extensive interviews with Myra Page, who shares her mate rnal experiences as well as her professional experiences as a writer. Pages dedication to her children was also balanced by her dedication to her career. Page told Christina Looper Baker the woman who works is a much better mother for her children. She is more a part of the real world theyre growing up in if she takes her job seriously (Baker 174). Because she shared a si xty-six year marriage with John Markey and raised two children, as well as livin g the tenets of her socialist ideo logy, it is clear that Page took her all of her jobs seriously. Yet, Pages focu s on the importance of her own maternal identity offers a valuable insight into the characterizations in her wr iting. In 1932 Page privileged the maternal identity of another working mother when she fictionalized the life and murder of Ella May Wiggins in her novel, Gathering Storm: A Story of the Black Belt. Page recreates the maternal body of Wiggins as well as the matern al bodies of the women who worked at Loray Mill as political bodies invoking a tr aditional gendered role as a m odel of maternal activism that would create a better world for work ing-class women and their children. This chapter briefly addresses how Pages pe rsonal and political e xperiences both resist and embrace tradition and inform her revolutionary writing. The balance of the chapter focuses on Pages fictional portrayal of the psychological and physiological experiences that shape the

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91 lives of the female millworkers through her prot agonist, Marge Crenshaw and a fictionalized Ella May Wiggins. In recreating the lives of worki ng-class women in a fictional Gastonia, Page presents a viable model of maternal activism th at inspires working-cl ass sympathy and female solidarity. Page, like many other female writers of the 1930s, relied upon her own experiences as a woman to write about the expe riences of other working-cl ass women. Although the workingclass feminine rhetoric of the early 1930s focu sed heavily on motherhood as debilitating, Page and the other female Gastonia novelists view ed the maternal body as a political body. The maternal body invokes the power of a traditional ge nder role as a womans means of challenging the social injustices of her real world. In Red Feminism Kate Weigand uses the term maternalist style of activism to refer to the recreation of traditional gender roles as activist roles (5). In telling the stor y of Ella May Wiggins, Page relied upon the maternal body to represent and reveal a model of model activism that not only inspired the resistance of the working-class, but also inspired the sympat hies of her readers for motives behind the millworkers strike. The real-life Ella May Wiggins was a mother, mo tivated by her concern for the survival of her children, who actively worked for the uni onization of the millworkers and their protest against substandard wages and working condition s. Wiggins, inspired working-class solidarity among the southern millworkers and evoked the sympathies of an upper class by invoking her traditional maternal role in her ballad, Mill Mothers Lament. She urged workers to fight for higher wages because it is for our dear childr en (Page 336). Wiggins was a single mother who, after she was abandoned by her husband, reclaime d her maiden name of May and fought for better wages and working conditions. Wiggins lo st her life on the wa y to a union rally in

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92 Gastonia where she had hoped to inspire matern al-based solidarity among the workers who would strike for their dear chil dren. Her death inspired a wave of strikes across the Carolinas. Although the strike at Gastonia failed, the Labor Defender dedicated its October 29, 1929, edition as a memorial to Ella May Wiggins who would be remembered as a woman who died for the cause of labor and became a martyr for an organized South (Salmond 156). Six years after Wiggins death, Page, pregnant w ith her first child, wrote an article for the Labor Defender reminding her readers of the promise made in their 1929 edition, Well not forget you, Ella May (qtd. in Baker 144). On April 21, 1935, the same day that Page was writing her memorial article to a maternal mart yr, she became a mother, giving birth to her daughter, May Markey (Baker 144) While Bakers biography atte sts to Pages success as a mother and wife, it also accurately attests to Pages success as a radical voice of the 1930s who dared to write about Ella May Wiggins as a good mother and a good unionist. Page also remembered Wiggins six years later as a mother who gave her life for maternal activism as well as for union solidarity. Shield of Southern Tradition Bakers biography also reveals Pages priv ate journey toward her radical social consciousness as a young woman, Dorothy Gary whose goals went beyond marriage and motherhood. Dorothy Garys goals were so far outsid e of her familys southe rn tradition that she adopted the pseudonym of Dorothy Myra Page to shield them from embarrassment and from knowing about her affiliation with the Communist Party. Page asserts that throughout her life she was a woman who was held up by tradition and held by tradition (qtd. in Baker xxiii, author emphasis). Nonetheless, she transgressed t hose boundaries of tradit ion by challenging the southern traditions of her upbringing in New port News, Virginia, and embracing the new and revolutionary ideas of the Amer ican Left through her membersh ip in the Communist Party.

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93 Pages exposure to the real wo rld of the working-class and sout hern tradition came early in her life. As a child, she accompanied her father Dr. Gary, a physician in Newport News, on his house calls where he tended both white and bl ack patients. Pages mother, Willie Alberta Barham Gary, devoted herself to the traditiona l obligations of white southern womanhood (Rosenfelt 248). Despite her more liberal upbri nging, which permitted cross-class friendships with the children of the dock workers, Page quick ly learned that her family had more traditional expectations for her. Her brother was expected to carry on her fathers medical practice and she was expected to follow her mothers example: marry, oversee the house, and produce children. She resisted the familys expect ation of marriage, br oke her first engagement, and left Newport News to attend West Hampton College, the wome ns branch of the Univ ersity of Richmond. Discouraged from pursuing a medical degree, Pa ge majored in English as an undergraduate student, but her college e xperiences led her toward a doctorate in sociology as well as toward leftist ideologies. As an English major, Page st ruggled with her writing and was advised to write about the things she knew. However, what Pa ge knew and experienced in growing up in the South made her angry. Page she told her biographe r, I knew I wanted to write, but I wasnt ready to write about the Sout h (Baker 38). Although Page c ould not understand how some people in the South were held back from equality through gender discrimination, class distinction, and racial segregati on, she had no solutions to the soci al ills that plagued the South, only resentment of the inequities. Instead of writing, Page took a teaching posit ion in Newport News for a year and then entered Columbia University in pursuit of her masters degree. In 1919, while studying at Columbia, Page was introduced to working-class consciousness and the Leftist movement at the Rand School in New York. There she attended le ctures by Scott Neari ng, who later befriended

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94 Page and her future husband through their shared interest in the Communi st Party. Page also attended lectures by Anna Louis Strong, who pr esented her personal account of the political changes occurring in Soviet Union. Page also met the radical labo r reporter, Mary Heaton Vorse, at the Rand School. At Columbia, Page was inspired to join the Social St udies Club, which led to her political involvement in the strikes of 1919 as well as reaffirming her beliefs in leftist ideology (Baker 45). After finishing her masters degree, Page worked briefly as the YWCAs industrial secretary at a silk plant in Norf olk, but she was forced to resign because of her outside political activities. Page contends that preaching unioni sm and socialism offended the Board of the YWCA as well as the lawyers wife and other women [who] ca me from protected backgrounds . none [of which] had ever worked out side the home or had a ny real idea of what the world was like (Baker 52). Page was acutely aware that she, too, came from a privileged background and had been protected from the real world. Despite her familys protestations, Page moved north to work in the factories in Philade lphia and New York because she believed that [s]tarting at the bottom in a f actory would help [her] to study the working people as one of them (Baker 54). Despite her efforts in menial sweatshop positions, Page discovered that she could not transcend her privileged position. Un like the workers at the bottom, Page did not depend upon her salary for subsistence, and she could not communicate with her fellow workers who were foreign-born girls who spoke little English (qtd. in Baker 56). Attempts to strike failed because the workers had no other m eans of financial support and lacked the communication skills to make their needs know n. Page learned how the experiences of the working-class were dramatically different from the experiences of the privileged class, and the

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95 recognition of the growing dispar ities between the classes project ed her toward her goal of education for workers. Page received a fellowship for doctoral study in sociology at the University of Minnesota. In 1925, while in graduate school, she met and married John Markey. Page kept her maiden name, Dorothy Gary, after her marriage. By 1927, both Page and Markey had joined the Communist Party. Although Page ad mits to being more radical than her husband, she kept her affiliation with the party hidden from her friends and family who were unaware of her work as Dorothy Myra Page (Lane 158). It was shortly afte r their marriage in April that Page left her husband in Minnesota to conduct her doctoral res earch among the female textile workers in North Carolina. Pages sociologi cal study on the behavior patterns of southern textile workers was directed toward the attitudes of female millworkers about children and work. Page returned to Gastonia in the summer of 1926 to continue her research, sharing a room in a boarding house with a millworking mother and her young daughter Living on the hill in mill housing and teaching night school, Page was accepted by the worker s; she gained better insight into the lives of working-class women and the need for union or ganizers to accomplish worker solidarity in order to improve working and livi ng conditions for their families. Radical Red Shoes Although Page earned her doctorate in June 1928 with a double minor in economics and psychology, the Great Depression and sexism thwarted her career opportunities at the university level (Baker 92). She then directed her writing toward reporting on labor i ssues and the struggles of textile workers, sharecroppers, and miners. Page s writing, like most reportage of the era, was polemical and militant. Page believed that the Co mmunist Party of the inte rwar era offered what seemed to be a viable solution to the social and political ills th at plagued the United States, and her leftist views permeated her work. In re porting how the Soviet Socialist Republic was

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96 designing a classless society, Pa ge believed that she possessed a voice of advocacy through her writing. In addition to her visit in 1928, Page lived in the S oviet Socialist Republic for a period of two years where she worked as a full-time correspondent writing for the Daily Worker the Southern Worker Working Woman and the Moscow News (Baker 121). In Russia, Page witnessed a system of social ized medicine that guaranteed sick pay and granted women workers a four-month paid maternity leave, and she envisioned such a system in the United States. Her faith in her vision was not only fostered by the Party, but it was also inspired by the revolutionary cha nges she was witnessing in the liv es of women who appeared to be benefiting from the political and economic cha nges within the Soviet Socialist Republic. With the changes in health care, Mo scows infant mortality rate had dropped 50 percent; under the collectivist system, every family was guaranteed at least one room per person in apartment housing that also provided child care and laundries (Baker 121-128). Only in retrospect did Page discover that most of the Russian population did not enj oy the benefits of th e socialist visionary radical reform. Like so many other disillusi oned leftists, she saw only what the Russian government wanted her to see. Yet, under her pseudonym of Dorothy Myra Page, she presented what she believed to be the truth as well as a viable solution for social injustice. Page also believed that the political ideal of a classless soci ety that embraced gender, race, and class as part of a collective identity was still in its infancy; and with maternal caret aking, the political dream could become a reality in the United States. Page returned to the United States in 1934, ready to inspire soci al radical reform by attacking the racism and sexism of the South that were so much a part of her own internalized resentment. Page wrote about he r own childhood discovery of raci al segregation in Beyond the Color Line which was published in Crisis (Baker 110). Page opene d her story with the

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97 forbidden friendship of a little African American boy named Tom, who just wanted to play with a child who was white; and the story of Belle the familys cleaning woman who could not support her family on three dollars a week. Page e nded the story with Ethel, who graduated with honors from Columbia but could no t get a job. Tom, Belle, and Ethe l were all African American; and the anger and shame of southern tradition poured into her writing (L ane 160). The story of Toms forbidden friendship plays out again in Gathering Storm as the forbidden friendship of Charlie and Myrtle Morgan and Billy and Sam Crenshaw. Page also published Southern Cotton Mills and Labor as a non-academic version of her dissert ation in the hope of appealing to a working-class audience. Southern Cotton Mills and Labor became the foundation for Gathering Storm: A Story of the Black Belt and the underpinning of Pages polit ical vision of racial, gender, and class equality. Page was the most educated of all the Gastonia novelists, and her dissertation study focused on the working mothers and their childr en, a topic that not on ly professionally and intellectually stimulated her but one that had evolved from years of researching working mothers and their children. In spite of its l iterary flaws and bl atant didactics, Gathering Storm expressed Pages vision of a collective and classless soci ety. Her first novel accomplished precisely what she had intended as a scholar, a t eacher, an organizer, and a mother the presentation of a model of maternal activism that would inspire workers to join in this revolutionary vision. Of the few reviews that Gathering Storm received in 1932, most criticized the novel as too propagandistic or political and agitational; ye t, one reviewer praised the Pa ges theoretical base as an understanding of one who has studied Ma rxism and Leninism (qtd. in Urgo 74). Gathering Storm did not garner literary favor with contem porary critics Sylvia Jenkins Cook and Laura Hapke. Both concurred with the early reviewer s and faulted the novel as extreme propaganda.

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98 However, Page did not wish to be among the par tisans who pushed politics ahead of art (Baker 116). Pages novel is an artistic expression of historical events evolving from her life experiences as researcher, woman, wife, and mother. On the other hand, Barbara Foley countered the accusations of her contemporaries by recognizing some merit in Pages depi ctions of Gastonia. Foley equated Gathering Storm with Clara Weatherwaxs Marching! Marching as offer[ing] more ency clopedic summaries of the party program than do any othe r novels of the decade (242). Gathering Storm clearly emerged as Pages encyclopedic contribution to the Partys Black Belt re solution of 1928 in her recreation of the atrocities committed against her fictionalized African American family. Gathering Storm also emerged as Pages testimony to th e gender inequities in the Depression era South in the 1930s and her belief that solidarit y would help create a better world for children, regardless of race or gender. Foley also attested th at [u]nless we cynically refuse to take [Page and Weatherwaxs politically-based] testimonies at face value, we should acknowledge most Depression-era leftists fervent belief that a ltered relations between men and women would be one of the most valued benefits of the better world for whic h they were fighting (245). The female authors of the Left were not nave, but ra ther fighting with what Foley refers to as the Communist Partys visionary cons cience (246). Like so many other leftists of the 1930s, Page was living the tenets of her ideol ogy, and her vision of a better wo rld was rooted in the socialist ideals professed by the Communist Party. Page sincerely believed that the Communist Party offered a cure for the economically-based race and gender oppr ession, and she wrote Gathering Storm: A Story of the Black Belt as an artistic model of a bett er world made possible through maternal activism.

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99 In Gathering Storm Pages protagonists, Tom and Marge Crenshaw, are the two oldest of ten children and already entrenched in the l ong hours for low wages at the Corey Mill in Riverton Before he is sixteen, an angry and frus trated Tom leaves to find work in the North. In New Jersey, he discovers that his African Ameri can neighbor, Fred, has also escaped the Back Row. After some painful lessons about racial equality, Tom and Fred develop their workingclass consciousness, join the Communist Part y, and become union organizers. At Marges desperate request for help in forming a union, Tom, returns to North Carolina to help organize the millworkers of the Corey mills. Conversely, the social conscience of Pages female protagonist, Marg e, develops in the southern textile mill towns as she shifts from m ill to mill in her attempt to find better wages and better working conditions. By the time young Marg e reaches Riverton, North Carolina, she has lost her grandmother, her mother two children, and her husband to disease and lack of nutrition. Marge is inspired and supported by her co-wor ker and fellow union organizer, Ella May, who has also lost children and str uggles to provide a healthy lif e for the ones remaining. Marge Crenshaw and Ella May are drawn together in ma ternal solidarity by their desperate desire for a living wage that would support them and thei r children and a union that would guarantee equality for all regardless of race, gender, or class. Although the character of Ella May does not a ppear until later in the novel, the story of Marges personal and political deve lopment parallels the story of the real-lif e Ella May Wiggins and characterizes most of the female textile workers whose lives are circumscribed by their yearly reproduction of another m outh to feed and the most meager level of subsistence. By the time Ella May steps onto the union platform, Marge is at her side as a fellow union organizer and another maternal voice of solidarity. When May is shot, Marge cradles the head of her dying

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100 comrade. Although Marge becomes the primary caret aker of Mays children, the novel returns to the actual historical events, and the state removes the childr en from Marges custody. Shortly after the death of Ella May, Page again alters th e historical facts and Marge, along with the male union organizers, is arrested for the murder of th e real-life police chief in Gastonia, Orville Frank Aderholt. Released on the grounds of a mistrial Marge departs with her brother for a union conference in the North where she meets other ma ternal activists who ar e seeking a better world for their children. Educated as a union organi zer and affirmed by her socialist vision, Marge Crenshaw emerges as a union organizer for th e Communist Party and a voice of maternal solidarity (374). Maternal Legacy of a Fightin Spirit In Gathering Storm Page introduces maternal activism through an oral history narrated by Ole Marge Marlow, the grandmother for whom th e protagonist, Marge Crenshaw, is named. At her fourteen year-old granddaughters prompting, Ole Marge begins her st ory at the point when, as a young mother concerned for the health and we lfare of her children, she tricks her husband into leaving the mountains for the cotton mills. While Ole Marges narrat ive relies upon maternal concern for the future of children as justificati on for female activism, Page also positions the grandmother as a model of maternal activism for young Marge. Living in rural privation, Ole Marge listens attentively to the recruiter from the cotton mills who contends that some of the city folks heerd how bad off the hill folks was since the war, n they be studyin a way to helpen you, n themselves at the same time. So theys buildin the mills, n helping everybody all around (15). The recruiter implies that the growth of the textile industries in the South is a result of the mill owners concern for families rather than a concern for profit. He lures the mountain families with a call for help that reflects a co llective social responsibility for resolving the economic ills that affect everybody. As a mother, Ole Marge is drawn into th e recruiters rhetoric

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101 because she knows that the family farm is no l onger sustaining their meager survival and her children are hungry. The recruiter promises that the mill will provide an education for the Marlow children, a two-room house with electric ity, and an outdoor wa ter pump close by. His message not only draws upon a moth ers concern for her childrens education and comfort, but also promises relief from the drudge ry of a mothers domestic labor. However, Ole Marges husband, Henry, is skep tical of the strangers promises and openly resists leaving the mountain. Henry invokes the authority of patriarchal tradition by saying, My pappy n my gran-pappy lived right here is this cabin. Marge questions patriarchal tradition and justifies her challenge with maternal logic, Your folks and mine live and die ignorant n down-trodden. You want our chillen should be the same? Down in the valley thats schools, so the stranger says, what our chillen can get some la rnin, n a chanct to live decent, not like pigs in a trough (15). Pages heavy use of dialect, replete with grammatical errors, not only emphasizes the generational impact of their ru ral privation, but also emphasizes how the continued neglect of education perpetuates their poverty through each generation. When Ole Marge confesses her radical act of rebellion, watering an alrea dy dying potato patch at high noon and scorching the plants to death, she also justifies her acti ons as the most effective way of confronting entrenched patriarchal ideol ogy. She endorses maternal activism by posing a rhetorical question to her grandda ughter, N what kin you do, wh en a mans so stubborn? Hed never let men the chillens go down alone (17). Young Marge sa w no other alternative for her grandmother. Ole Marges maternal concern for a better life for her children leads her to sabotage her husbands potato crop and forces the familys migration to the mills for the greater good of the family.

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102 At the close of the first chapter, Page parall els the grandmothers victory with the story of young Marges mother, Sal, as the m odel of defeat for those who allo w their fighting spirit to be beaten back by rural ignorance. As a child, Sal be gs to stay in the mountains; she runs away and hides on the day of departure. Although Ole Marge quickly finds her, she recalls the last day in the mountains as the beginning of the emotional death of her daughter, Seems like the life went plum outa her, like a wild squirrel or a song bi rd put in a cage (18). Ole Marge had hoped that education would help to fire the spirit of her child, but the recruiter defaulted on his promise and Sal was caught in a cage as a millworker who no longer has the fighting spirit to resist. The story about Sals loss of fighting spirit also symbolizes the conflict between religion and resistance. Young Marge is pul led by two opposing maternal forces: her Granny, who is held up by a tradition of resistance, and her mother, who is held back by a tradition of religious restraint. Young Marges mother te lls her that Parson Brown saws we gotta bear our cross in patience, n re-sign ourselves to Gods myst erious Plan (37). Young Marge associates the suffering of her family and other working-class families with the symbolic suffering of Jesus Christ. In Parson Browns analogy, the suffering of the millworkers is inconsequential compared to Messianic martyrdom, yet, Sals advice to her daughter is immedi ately contradicted by Granny who argues: I doan know how come they kin make it out G ods plan, the way these mills is run. Seems like we done left God back up in them mountai ns . Now, thars a text, for instance, suffer the lil chillen to come unto Me! Fer sech is the Kingdom of Heaven. But does that mean fer the mill to suck in our babiesdoes it? (37) Sal is shocked at her mothers blasphemy a nd predicts damnation for Ole Marge Marlow, but Ole Marges wisdom is grounded by her expe riences and her observations. Granny Marlow asserts her life experience as she says, I cant help seein n thinkin things these forty year (37). In drawing her self-portr ait of experience, Granny Marl ow marks her life experience

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103 beginning in adult life with her marriage to Henry Marlow when her observations are directly related to her adult roles as a mother and as a wi fe. She invokes a fighting spirit that fueled every conflict faced by her kin from the survival instinct of the earlies t settlers on the mountain to feuds with neighboring families to male kinfolk going to war to her own personal war with a patriarchal tradition of organized reli gion that dictated her gendered role. The conflict between her mother and grandm other ferments in the mind of young Marge and reasserts itself that evening through a metaphorical dream wher e Ma was calling, Stop fightin n pray, and Granny hi ssed, Fight em, chile, fight em (48). This generational debate and the metaphorical dream represent the in ternal conflict for many of the millworkers of the Southern Piedmont, who were torn between th eir religious tradition of passive obedience and their rural tradition of what Gr anny Marlow identifies as a figh tin spirit. Thr ough the religious debate between Ole Marge and her daughter, Page articulates her own sense of frustration in confronting the workers passivity and resistance to unions as well as the passivity of the female workers who accepted their subordination to a pa triarchal system. Page believed that their religion was a handicap and the be st approach needed to be one or two appropriate stories and jokes to reinterpret some of their religion to the people (qtd. in Baker 80). Through Sals insistence on religious tradition and Grannys re sistance to religious tradition, Page challenges the emotional manipulation of the church pastor s who were paid by the mills to deliver the entrenched patriarchal ideology of passive submission. Ironically, as young Marge observes, God hadnt wrecked His punishment on [Granny], a ny more than on believin mill hands (48). Consequently, young Marge maintains her figh tin spirit and disregards Parson Browns sacrificial message of messianic martyrdom.

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104 Page also confronts the id ealization of the pastoral mountains through Ole Marges historical narrative as Granny assures young Marge that life in the mountains is no better than life in the mill village. Desp ite the resistance of her husba nd and daughter, Granny cautions young Marge that escaping to the mountains or pa ssively accepting injust ice would not resolve their harsh reality any more than escaping thr ough religion would. Granny insists upon education as the path toward liberation when she says Thard never be schools or nothin in the mountains. What we had to do was make the mill do what theyd a promised, n take the chillen outa the milln put em in school, n larn em ho w to readn write (22). Ole Marge confronts the idealism of her daughter and husband with the ha rsh reality of mountain life, which offers no viable future. Through Ole Marg es maternal activism and an appeal for the education of children, Page destabil izes the trite associations of ignorant, rural mountain folk. Page documents a history of maternal activism and an organized protes t against child labor through Ole Marges narratives of the textile strikes in th e 1890s. Ole Marge tells her granddaughter how she rallied her fellow millworkers and walked out of the mill telling the boss men, We warnt gona spin nor weave no mo so long as babies was at the mill stead of at school, n we wanted mo pay (24). Ole Marges l eadership results in a raise in pay and an age requirement of ten years or older for childre n working the mill. The victory, as Ole Marge cautions young Marge, meant privation for many, but it also resulted in Uncle Rem and Aunt Mary being able to read nfigger, though your Ma never got to go, nor Jackie, nuther (24). Although Ole Marges commentary re presents a small victory in providing education for her two youngest children, the impact of the mill on Marge s two older children reveals a sadder fact about privation. A familys economic survival depended upon their children entering the mill

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105 after completing an elementary sc hool education. With the lack of an education or a union, the textile mills controlled their labor force. Through a comparison of adolescent experiences Page concludes Ole Marges didactic, maternal narratives with a fina l lesson in maintaining a fighting spirit. Granny draws a portrait of class disparity that contrasts th e hard life of her granddaughter w ith the privileged life of the adolescent daughter of the mill owner, Rebecca Haines: She rides around the city in a big car, wears fine clothes, goes to parties, n never doe s a lick of no-kind of work. . Soon, the Haines galll go off to school somewhar, but she ain t nigh so smart n pretty as you. . If they warnt so rich, wed not be so poor (authors emphasis 29). Ole Marge emphasizes that Rebecca does not work in her fathers mill and that, un like young Marge, Rebecca will receive a college education. In the hope of inspiring her gr anddaughter toward working-cl ass consciousness, Ole Marge emphasizes how young Marges life can be change d through education. Page makes a maternal appeal for union activism through the physical a nd intellectual hunger of children as Granny says to Marge, What we gotta do is fight for our righ ts. Like we done that ti me in Georgy. For more vittles n more larnin for our young uns (30). Young Marges talk with granny suggests unlimited possibilities for Marge as a young woman if she is willing to fight for her rights Grannys advice also diverges from the set of nor ms for the children of millworkers and suggests that a nutritional diet and edu cation are part of their birthr ight. As Ole Marges narrative ends,she elicits a promise from young Marge: You aint gona lose that fi ghtin spirit, be you? . .Itll not be easy. But mebbe the wayll op en up. Its your on ly chance (30). Page portrays Grannys final days as an ec onomic choice and maternal activism, rather than a passive acceptance of aging and death. Marg es mother loses her job at the mill because

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106 her vision is failing; the youngest daughter, Ruth, qu its school and begins to work at the mill. Granny relinquishes her position in the home: [t]he truth was, now that Sal had been turned out of the mill, Ole Marge felt in the way. It was high time she was off their hands. A family could hardly afford two [unemployed women] round th e house now, could they? (92). Ole Marges deterioration is marked only by a disappearing figure, implying that the body of Granny takes on less nourishment so there will be more food for the children. However, Ole Marge Marlow does not lose her fightin spirit; rather she fights with a maternal vengeance by choosing to relinquish her turn when the food is passed at the family table so her daughter and her daughters children have a better chance at survival. Ye t, Granny demands more of young Marge than subsistence survival. She calls her namesake to her deathbed, Marge, . you promised (100). As Ole Marge dies, young Marge remembers her pr omise and understands that it is now her turn to carry on her Grandmothers maternal legacy of a fightin spirit. Maternal Challenge of Racial Bigotry in the Black Belt Early in the novel, Pages plot shifts two hundr ed yards from the Crenshaw family in Mill Row to the Morgan family in the Back Row where the clash between southern tradition and racial equality reveals how the s outhern tradition of racial bigotr y held back the fightin spirit of its African American inhabi tants. Through her maternal char acterizations, Pa ge reveals the attitude of superiority among th e poor whites over their African American neighbors while at the same time characterizing an African American mother who fights to her death to defend her children. Page replicates a stor y that she first published in Crisis about a childs first lesson in racism. Then she reveals how racial bigotry insinuates itself into th e brutal murders of an entire family. While their mothers are working in the mill, Billy and Sam Crenshaw cross the color boundaries of the field to play in the creek that divides mill housing racially and embark upon a

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107 forbidden friendship with Charlie and Myrtle Morgan. Later, as the Baptist Sunday school teacher, Miss Houghton, explains how the mill owne rs and workers were really one big family, of elder and younger brothers, Billy Crenshaw as ks, Is black and white folks brothers too? (70) Marges mother, Sal, is immediately inform ed of her childrens tr ansgression; the children receive a good thrashing from Uncle Mat and never return to the creek. Concerned over the absence of their friends, Charlie and Myrtle come to the Cren shaw door to inquire if the Crenshaw boys are dead. In defense of her racial privilege, Sal ch ases the children away with her broom. Sals broom is a feminine symbol of dome stic labor as well as a symbol of maternal power reinforcing a tradition of wh ite privilege. Sals broom strikes the first blow against Charlie and Myrtle, who will later be br utally murdered by a lynch mob. In contrast, Page confronts Sals racism w ith her protagonists r ecognition of a shared humanity among races. Working a spinner in the m ill, Marge barely notices Charlie and Myrtles mother, Ma Morgan, who is sweeping the floor around her. One day, Ma Morgan does not come to work in the mill. Instead, her older daughter, Martha, arrives at the m ill to explain that her mother is ill and plans to return the next day. Pa ge narrates a silent meeting of Marge and Martha who looked one another full in th e eye and it was the first time that Marge had ever beheld a colored person (74). Marge reveals her recogni tion of the humanity of her counterpart through her thoughts: This colored girl must be near her own age; did she ha ve thoughts and feelings like hers? However, Marge also realizes how their racial differ ence also affects their material reality as she thinks, her lots worsern mine (7 4). Page narrates the sh ift in her protagonists social consciousness as counteri ng a tradition that reduces the Af rican American population to a subhuman level. Although Marges recognition of Marthas lot foreshadows the fate of the young African American woman, who will not live long enough to marry or even work at the

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108 mill, it also foreshadows Marges realization of the lot of her female African American coworkers, who struggle to feed their children on wages that are lower than her own wages. Pages story of racial hatr ed extends beyond denying a friend ship between two children of different races to denying Martha and her family their existen ce as human beings. Martha is raped and murdered by the millowners son, and the events subsequently lead to the massacre of the entire Morgan family and mass exodus of th e families who live in the Back Row. According to Barbara Foley, Marthas brutal rape and the mu rder of the Morgan fam ily illustrate the close alignment of Jim Crow terrorism with class rule (369). A closer look at the maternal images in Pages Lynch Terror reveals a portrayal of class rule throug h an upper-class, white mother who colludes in a violent act of white suprem acy. Standing near Martha s dead body, Marthas fianc, Jim, discovers a gold-handle d pen knife with the inscription, To Elbert Haines, From Mother, Xmas, 1915 (authors emphasis 128). The tragic irony of the pocket knife lies in the fact that Haines uses a gift from his mother to brutally rape and murd er Martha, his mothers. The gift provides the incriminating evidence agains t Elbert Haines. Marthas fianc goes to the country club and fires three shots into Hainess body. The scene of the second murder was foreshadowed by Hainess mother, who locates herself and her son in a social space of ostentatious, white privile ge where she claims she cant afford to appear twice in succession in the sa me dress (68). Page emphasizes Mrs. Hainess racial and economic privilege th rough the luxuries afforded by her husbands profits where she has the ability to purchase a new evening gown fo r her appearance at the club as well as an engraved gold penknife for her son. Page also re presents white privilege as both gender and class by locating Martha in a slave-lik e position in Mrs. Hainess hous ehold. In an earlier chapter, Martha describes her summer duties in tending to the comfort of southern white womanhood:

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109 Miz Haines n her gals, they la ys in bed till afternoon, drinkin le monade n readin, and havin us help to fan em; so the heat doan worry em mu ch (53). Page uses this depiction of Marthas slavery to dramatize the power of Mrs. Haines and Elbert over Martha Morgan. Pages depiction of the maternal power represents how a southe rn tradition of white s upremacy is a weapon of racial bigotry based on gender and class. In contrast to the complicity of the white mo ther, Page characterizes resistance through an African American mother. As Jim is exacting his revenge at the country club, Ma and Pa Morgan are burying the body of their daughter under the ch icken coop. When the angry mob arrives at the Back Row in search of Jim, Ma Morgan is the first to step out and confront the crowd, Meebe you come to see what that Haines bastard did to my gal ? (authors emphasis 133). Bent upon revenge for the murder of a privileged white man, the mob does not respond to Ma Morgans accusation. As twelve men attack Pa Morgan, Ma Morgan leaps to his defense, followed by Myrtle and Charlie. All of the Morg ans are shot and the mob ties the body of Pa Morgan to the back of a Packard and drags it through the countryside (133 ). Page identifies the lynch mob as both the privileged business s ection of Greenville and the legally empowered mill and county sheriffs (133). Despite their economic and legal power, when the lynch mob finds Jims hiding place in the woods, they robbed the mob of their prey and Jim shoots himself in the head (134). Jims suicide is his final act of race and cla ss resistance because the mob will not have the power to demonstrate its white supremacy through another ritual lynching. Although the Morgans have also lost their lives Ma Morgan faced death defending the honor of her daughter and the lives of her family. Despite the stereotypical charac terizations and the brevity of a single chapter, the brutality of Lynch Terror illustrates the harsh reality of the atrocities committed in the Depression era

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110 south against African Americans. Pages didact ic narrative, however, not only furthers the development of her protagonists social consciousness, it also articulates the Communist Party rhetoric of the Third Period from 1928 to 1934 wh en the party aggressively campaigned in the South against lynchings and for worker solida rity across racial boundaries (Weigand 18). Page achieves her political goal of ar ticulating the Communist Partys rh etoric as well as illuminating how southern tradition fostered racial bigotry. Suzanne Sowinska asserts that in daring a narrative representation of The Negro Question, Page and other radical female novelists of the Depression era affirm that discussions of di fference and alliances between and among women of various race, class, gender, and ethnic positionalitie s were very much an important part of previous radical movements and constitute a signif icant history and tradition (140). Page draws upon the history and tradition of the South and challenges the supremacy through maternal bodies. Maternal and Material Contradictions Following the deaths of Ole Marge and the Mo rgans, Page focuses her narrative on the development of her maternal protagonist. She be gins with sexual initiat ion and continues through the experiences of abortion, pregnancy, childbirth, childcare, and the ever-present working-class struggle for subsistence survival. As a workingclass woman, Marge resists her reproductive role and swears never be like her mother Never! Better be ridiculed as an old maid, than that. Life was bad enough without a string of lituns comi ng along as regular as the seasons, weighing you down and sucking your spirit (101). Page not only draws upon the cultural pressure on women to marry, but also emphasizes how marriage is paralleled with a repr oductive destiny that coincides with a womans physical, emotional, and economic condition. As an old maid, Marge is perceived as sterile and unsexed; yet, as a married woman, Marge foresees a yearly production of infants that represent an economic as well as a physical burden.

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111 Page deftly demonstrates the relationship among th e string of infants, economics, and the millworkers investment in life insurance when the odds of infant survival were at their lowest: According to custom, each baby had been in sured for one hundred dollars soon after its first squawking appearance on the hill. The ten cents a week payment proved a shrewd ghastly foresight, for the death rate kept pace with the high birth rate among mill operatives and their sandy-haired offspring. (175) Although purchasing life insurance for a newborn with little chance of survival appears callous, it nonetheless produces an example of a shrewd investment reaping an equivalent of three to four months salary. Pa ges commentary posits infants as a capitalist gain: if the infant does not survive long enough to work in the mill, the infant still reflects an economic value. The shock value of Pages revelation of insurance profits was no doubt, intended to promote birth control and abortion as class issues However, Page also echoes the liberal sentiments revealed in the Communist Partys Working Woman which advocated free, safe and legal birth control, including abortion, for all wo men (Rabinowitz 46-47). Without knowledge of any birth control met hods, Marges perception of marital sexual relations and maternity are form ed from her childhood observations of her mother and fathers relationship, which is grounded in sexual subm ission and burdensome biological reproduction. Sharing a bedroom with her parents, Marge is awakened by the sounds of a struggle and Ma crying, Doan, Pa, doan, Im a scairt, . Ma ha d gotten out of bed and r un into the far corner (102). At age seventeen when she is beginning to experience an interest in young men, Marge recalls the incident from a more mature perspective. She assert s that, [t]hen she hadnt fully understood, but now she did. Sexa forbidden, evil th ing that got you in the corner, and cursed you with extra mouths to feed (102). As a young woman who is starting to experience sexual desire, Marge is also cognizant of the reproduc tive consequences and finally recognizes her mothers response as a fear of pregnancy. The f orbidden, for Marge, implies that the pleasure

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112 of human sexual desire can be legitimized only through the religious boundaries of marriage and will inevitably be punished as a sin for the daughters of Eve through pregnancy and childbirth. At the same time, the cornering evil implies male privilege of immediate sexual gratification without the conseque nces of paternal responsibilit y or the wrath of God. Grannys earlier criticism of Marges fath er also confirms that maternal responsibility appears to be a gendered concern for the welfare of children as well as an exclusive concern for women. Page illustrates the economic burden of children as solely a maternal responsibility in Grannys claim that Herb Crenshaw kept comin back n jest stay long enough to leave Sal with another mouth to feed, n hed be off agin (28). Therefore, Marges interpretation of marriage is predicated upon her observations of a gendered experience where wo men not only bear the infant, they also bear the burdens of economic and caretaking responsib ilities of raising the child. Marges father seems to have the privilege of appearing long enough to invoke his patr iarchal conjugal rights over his wifes body and departing at his leisur e, offering no positive paternal influence or economic contribution to the familys survival. Conversely, Marge also observes that maternal responsibility for the survival of an infant begi ns as a consequence of a sinful desire. Without any form of birth control, a woman is cornered between a choice of becoming an old maid or a mother. Although Marge first refuses to marry and fall in to the reproductive pattern of her mother, she meets and falls in love with Bob Gregory and risks the consequences of her sexual desire. At age seventeen, Bob, like Marges brother Tom, longs for escape from the drudgery of the mill, but his desire for freedom is thwarted by his desi re for Marge Crenshaw, who continues to resist his sexual advances. Marge is doubly trapped by her position at the mill, which fulfils her obligatory contribution toward her familys ec onomic survival, and by her own sexual desire

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113 which, according to her observations of the wo rking-class women around her, inevitably results in a yearly pregnancy. As Bob begs in a passi onate frenzy, [W]oan you marry me, I cant go on this way any longer? Bobs sexual de sire is curbed by the rural trad ition that dictates intercourse as a marital privilege and a sacred maternal condition. Marge understands her responsibility in mainta ining the religious boundaries and resisting the risk of pregnancy. Her desire is oversh adowed by the memory of her mothers doubly negative utterance, doandoan. Like her mother Marge understands that submission to her sexual desire is a procreative act equated with ma rriage. At seventeen, Marge is torn between her sexual desire and the consequences of Bobs propos al: Maybe the parson wa s right after all, it was a sin to see and think such thingsSex an evil thing only marriage and children can justify it (162). However, Marge challenges birth cont rol as class privilege when she wonders, Why wasnt thar a way for poor folks not to ha ve so many children? The rich didnt have them? (163). Page also illuminates a class disp arity in access to birth control information as Marge observes that despite their sexual desire, married women of the upper classes appear to escape the burdens of motherhood. Page portrays the maternal and the material, for workingclass women, as colluding adversaries of oppr ession, trapping reproductive bodies into a physically, emotionally, and economi cally deteriorating condition. Pages heroine consents to marriage only af ter Bob announces, Ive signed up. . Woan you, afore I go across? (163) Pleading as a soldier who is about to depart for war, Bob Gregory uses emotional manipulation to effect Marge s sexual submission. At seventeen Marge avoids the social stigma of becoming an old maid and marries Bob. Throughout the wedding ceremony Page frames Marges fears of fecundity with parallels of marriage and maternity: Dearly Beloved.. . Why did Bob have to go? . Would she be lucky, or would she get caught right off

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114 and have a kid? (162-163). Marge is tra pped by both her maternal body and by her rural ignorance, both dictated by a re ligious, patriarchal ideology. The next day her husband departs for active duty and Marge returns to the mill; so on, Marge is heavy with child and drugged with labor (171). Chapter VIII, Marge Questions opens in the mill with a broken machine belt, allowing some time for the female spinners to discu ss the effects of the economy upon their wages. However, Page reveals the underlying issue as maternal concerns, which prompts Marge to question the economics effects of her pregnancy as well as the racial boundaries of women of color who also share similar mate rial and maternal concerns. Her co-worker, Miz Jones, laments [t]he cost of vittels n coals gone plum outta sight . but our pay envelopes aint swelled any. Marge responds, N look what goods cost now . its scandalous. An nie, the Negro woman sweeper, joins the conversation wi th [w]inter is here n my younguns aint shoes or coats to covern em (172-173). Although some of the white women ignore Annies comment, Marge responds, Yah, Annie, its hard goins now (174) Pages protagonist unde rstands that Annies concerns are no different than th e concerns of Miz Jones or hers elf, all of which correspond to their maternal and material conditions. As the wo men return to work, Marge rises from her seat to join them and feels faint. She silently reminds herself that she must continue to work for two more months to cover the doctors bills and othe r needs. Page illustrates the economic price of motherhood through Marges pregnancy when she fe lt the childs kick against her side, a fierce resentment of this added burde n went through her (174). The physicality of these experiences serves as a sharp reminder that Marge will need to leave her spindles for two weeks without pay during parturition and recovery.

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115 When there is no word from her husband for weeks, Marge fears her loss of economic security and she attempts to abort. Marge ha s no idea how to accomplish an abortion, but she hears the gossip about Miz Briggs using a long shaved carrot; sh e attempts the same procedure but her only results were loss of blood and a fever (175). Her unsuc cessful attempt leaves her with an ever present remi nder of her working-class repro ductive body producing yet another generation of millhands. In her depiction of Ma rges desperation, Page reveals class disparity through a maternal body where [e]verybody knew how the rich city women kept from having kids. And if it came to the worst, there were doc tors whod operated, if you were influential and had money. But for those on the hill, there wa s nobody (176). As a working-class woman, Marge lacks any control over her mate rnal or her material conditions. Marges life mirrors her mothe rs life and the lives of the other female millworkers, and she delivers a premature baby girl Her lack of nutrients for brea st milk and her inability to schedule her work on a night shift lead to the de ath of her daughter, Robert a. Marge is stricken with guilt as well as grief as she laments that she could produce neither milk for Roberta nor time off from her work to care for the sick infant. Robertas premature deat h bears testimony to the deaths of so many other infants as well as to the deaths of other fema le bodies. Shortly after Robertas death, the war ends a nd Bob returns home as an invalid suffering the effects of poisonous gas. At the same time, the mills cut back production as well as profit, and millworkers salaries drop further. Believing that the National Union is behind them, Marge and the other millworkers from across the Carolinas go on strike. However, without the backing of the union, the workers, who were not beaten into submission with evictions and lack of credit at the company store, were replaced with more familie s from the hills. Page ju stifies the return of

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116 the workers as a maternal-based concern because they cant stand their kids cryin for vittles any more (226). Marge and her husband both lose their positions at the mill, Marge for her union activism, and Bob for his inability to perf orm even the most menial tasks. Forced to seek another position in another town, Marge departs with maternal words of encouragement, advising the other millworkers not to give up the idea of uni on organization because a good uniond be diffrent. We gotta keep on. Page parallels the need for a union as a maternal-based concern, [Marge] pointed toward a group of mill children sitting around the pump. Their one-piece garments hung limp against thin, warped frames, their large ey es staring up at their elders out of solemn, pinched faces (227). Although the bodies of the children are descri bed as emaciated and warped by the lack of nutri ents, Page also portrays the ch ildren as looking up toward the adults, emphasizing their plea fo r maternal caretaking. Although he r co-workers feel betrayed by the union, Marge views the idea of solidarity as the only hope for the children. In her fictionalization of the first atte mpts at unionization, Page histor ically chronicles the initial failures of the AFLs United Textile Workers Uni on in the South as the failure of the union to understand the needs of working-class fa milies and achieve worker solidarity. When Marge and her family relocate to North Carolina, Marge finds work at another mill, becomes pregnant, and delivers a son while Bob c ontracts tuberculosis. Again, there is no money for doctors or for nutritious food that will allow his body to heal or Marges son to thrive. Soon after Bobs death, Marges little Bobby falls victim to pellagr a and also dies. Although the death of her husband and child catapult Marge toward maternal activism, their deaths also free her from the constraints of marital and maternal responsibility. As Marge moves among the workers, meeting in kitchens in the evenings after work, promoting a union, the workers resist

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117 complaining that [m]ill-hands doan never stick toge ther! and [t]he union idea is all right . but the way its run, its worsn nothin (255). Page positions Ma rge as a maternal intercessor who sends a letter requesting the help of her brother, who by this time has become a union organizer for the Communist Pa rty. Where Tom returns as the epitome of the educational opportunity and party leadership, Marge symbolizes working-class experience of the southern millworker ready for revolution. Together, the Cr enshaws represent Pages vision of social reform through a maternal-based solidarity. Maternal Solidarity: Marge Cr enshaw and Ella May Wiggins Beginning with Tom Crenshaws repatriation in a fictionalized Gastonia, Page incorporates many of the actual events leadi ng up to the death of Ella Ma y Wiggins. Page portrays Marge Crenshaw as friend and confidant to May, and together their matern al roles meld into a model of maternal activism that inspires union solidarity across boundaries of race and gender. As Lane points out, Marges role appears to be diminished when Tom arrives, but their unified efforts at union organization clearly illustrate the need for the solidarity among both male and female workers (176). Once Marge speaks to the workers as a voice of female experience, she defers her place on the platform to Ella May, whose ballad s reflect the experiences of all maternal millworkers. The concerns of Tom and the ot her union organizers are based in wages and working conditions. Marge and Ella May, however, re present the inseparability of the material and the maternal as working-class concerns. Marg es role, however, is no t diminished so much as it evolves into a force of maternal-based soli darity that transcends the boundaries of race and gender. Page casts Marge into the role of a matern al activist on April 1, 1929, the day of the actual historical strike at the Loray Mill in Gastonia. Tom, posing as a millworker, is discovered by the mill owners and fired, and the men are the first to walk out of the mill shouting, All hands out.

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118 Against the stretch-out! . Co me on, women, were walkin out for more food for our chillen (280). As the workers gather at the union hall Tom draws Marge up to platform stating, We ought to hear from the women ( 283). Despite the protests of the male workers, Marge addresses her audience through both gendered and racial identities: Mill hands, white n colored, weve slaved long enough for Mr. Jenkins. Women-folks gotta do their full share to helpen win (283). In order for women to do their full share, Ma rge understands that union solidarity must cross the boundaries of race and gender. At the chapters end, she recognizes that as a woman she also has an active part in ach ieving the union solidarity, and she feel s a new life rising in her (285). The new life is the return of what Marges grandmother referred to as the fighting spirit. Marge further demonstrates a maternal-based solidarity when she steps back from the white contingency in the picket line and joins Nancy, an Afri can American woman who tells Marge that her weekly salary is a mere four dollars compared to Marges seven dollars. Marge understands the economic burden as well as the raci al divisions and responds, Yah, were all in the same boat, only not many see it thataway yet. Bu t this here strikell learn us somethin (289). Beginning with the lessons she learns in befr iending Nancy, Marge also discovers that the lessons from the strike come from the sharing of female experience. While her brother continues to act as the primary leader of the strike, Marge continues her maternal caretaking role by working with Carrie Hapman, Pages fictionized Vera Weisboard, in the relief store, stretching meager supplies among two-thousand families and organizing adult education classes. Marge also forms a close frie ndship with Ella May which Page describes as the beginning of a matern al-based friendship: Ever since [Marge] had heard Ella May sing, How it hurts th e heart of a Mother, and other ballads about the union, Marge had felt drawn to this woman. One of those quick deep going friendships that natures like th eirs sometimes form had sprung up between them. Ella Mays four young-uns sprawled around them. (303)

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119 Ella Mays ballads recreate an experience where both women share grief in losing their children to hunger and disease because they could not afford medical care. Page refers to the parallel natures of Marge and Ella May that draw them into a deeper friendship, implying the nature of a maternal bond through the positioning of Ella Mays children at their feet. The bond between the women is illustrated further duri ng the union rallies when Marge tends to the children while Ella May sings the ballad of th e mill mothers, who know, it is for our dear children/That seem to us so dear (336). When the crowd calls for more ballads, Ella May tells her audience to stick to the Union, then defe rs to her comrade and friend, Marge Crenshaw. Marge ascends to the platform with her militant message, Whats happened to me is the same as whats happen to us allThe mill takes all, n gives nothin It took my youth, it took my babies. It took my man. One thing it cant takethats my fightin spirit (336). The voices of Ella May and Marge Crenshaw are melded into one maternal voice of solidarity. In fictionalizing the life of E lla May Wiggins, Page positions Marge as witness to the first real-life threat upon the li ves of May and her children and rev eals a part of Gastonias story that that was not known to the ge neral public. Communist orga nizer Vera Buch Weisboard remembers the threat in her bi ography, [t]here had been an attempt to poison Mrs.Wiggins water supply. She lived with her chil dren in a little shack at the outskirts of town, getting water from a nearby spring. That morning the water lo oked blue and had a chemical smell (218). Weisboard states that none of Wiggins family had drunk the water; however in Pages version, the family drinks the water and is rescued by Marge. When Ella May misses a union meeting, Marge walks three miles to discover all five huddled together in one bed with Ella May revealing, The low-downs pizened us! The di alogue is interrupted by Pages narration of Marges thoughts, The compny stop at nothin nuthin, Even murder (338). Page confirms

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120 the poisoning: [w]hen the sample of the water was tested it proved to be strongly polluted with a poisonous acid (339). Although th ere does not appear to be any mention of the poisoning incident in any other historical reports or in the correspondence of those were in Gastonia at the time of the strike, there is little reason to doubt Weisbords later account of the incident. Pages fictional representation, however bears testimony to the actual persecution of a poor white southern woman whose maternal activism challenged the boundaries of class, gender, and race. Page also recreates the raid on the supply store and the murd er of Gastonias police chief prior to the murder of Ella May. Marge, along wi th her brother and other strikers, are charged with the murder of the police chief. When public outcry demands the release of the women from jail out of southern chivalry, Marge responds, I know their chivalry! . Ive been visited with moren seventeen years of it, eleven hour s a daysouthern chivalry! Look what it does for colored women! (358). Marges gendered respons e encompasses her years of working at the mill under a paternalistic system that claims a gallant and courtly treatment of women. In addition to voicing her own resentment, Marge at tacks the years of sout hern tradition that sustained racial bigotry against her African American sisters. Marge is released from prison in time to join Ella May on the fateful journey to the union rally in Charlotte. Page alters historical fact by placing Wiggins children in the truck under the shared care of Marge and their mother. When th e truck stops, an unknown assailant fires into the crowd of women and children, and Ella May is shot. Page draws upon the gendered identity of the dying woman as a maternal martyr with the pr esence of her grieving child. Page writes, As she fell, baby Ike ran to her, crying, Mamas hur ted. Mamas hurted. Locating baby Ike at the center of the violence emphasizes Mays maternal motives as well as her maternal martyrdom. Marges presence is also dramatically reveal ed as one maternal body cradling the martyred

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121 maternal body: Marge held her friends head in her lap while the men struggled to right the truck (360). Although Marge and tw o other witnesses identify the mu rderer, the similarity of the fictionalized and the real even ts in real Gastonia leaves the case un-pros ecuted. Pages protagonist promises the Wiggins children that sh e will try to raise [them] the way Ella Mayd want, but the children are quickly removed by the state. The matron of the orphans home states, Well not allow those Bolsheviks n fr ee lovers to keep you. Despite the attack on Marges morality, Page affirms Marges matern al rights with the union lawyers assurances: Youve no legal claim to the chil dren, though every moral one (361). With the death of Ella May and the removal of Mays children, Marge is again, thrust back into the role of maternal activist. The strike e nds and Marge joins her brother for a convention in the North. Although some critics believe that in removing her protagonist from Gastonia, Page abandons the union cause, Marges journey north suggests the mirrori ng the educational opportunity that was provided for her brother, To m. Like her brother, with adequate training, Marge can return as a maternal activist and union organizer. Page hints at this return when Tom introduces his wife and Fred Morgan and tells Ma rge, When we go back theyll head with us South (368). In Cleveland, Page reinforces Marges li nk to working-class women through maternal solidarity. Marge listens to the testimonials of social injusti ce on a larger scale from other maternal voices. When she arrives, she sees a ch ild fumbling for its mothers breast and hears the mother whisper to her infant in some la nguage Marge couldnt under stand (377). Marge makes note of the infants fragil ity and the willingness of the moth er to make the journey for the sake of her childs future. She holds the baby of a miners wife from Pennsylvania and hears the mothers sad story of the neglec t of her children with no shoes, nothing. She hears that [t]he

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122 miners and their women are making ready to ma rch again (371). The mothers march in union solidarity because they believe that the union bri ngs gender equality along with fair wages and working conditions. Toms wife tells Marge that in Russia, working women get two months vacation with pay before n two months after child-birth, free care at the hospital and Marge imagines that someday life on Riverton hill w ould be like thatFolks like her running the factories, folks like her making the laws (372). Pa ge posits the tenets of her socialist ideology and her vision of a better world in the mind of protagonist with a wo rking-class identity of folks like her. Despite its literary flaws, Gathering Storm: A Story of the Black Belt is a story of the experiences of people like Ella May, Marge Cr enshaw, Martha Morgan, and countless other working-class women. Pages story extends beyond the geographical boundaries of the events in North Carolina to a world of revolutionary events that drew attention to issues of gender, race, and class. Page believed that she created Gathering Storm from her experiences of life (Baker 116). As a mother, a wife, and a loyal member of the Communist Pa rty, she took her jobs seriously and delivered the tenets of her soci alist ideology in the fo rm of a novel depicting maternal activism as a viable model for social change. Marge mirrors Pages belief in the Communist Party and prep ares to participate actively in a collective society that places no boundaries on race, gender, or class. At the end of Gathering Storm Page implies that Marge, inspired by her maternal activism, will return to the South. Together with her brother, they will fight for radical reform with a le gacy of maternal activism that was inspired years before by their grandmothers, and perhaps Pages grandmothers, fightin spirit. Page affirms her vision of a leadership role for women in th e final paragraph of the novel wher e Marges return as a maternal

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123 activist is implied as she activ ely rides the gale! Not swept along, but deliberately, joyously a fore-runner, a marshaller of the gathering storm (374).

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124 CHAPTER 5 OLIVE TILFORD DARGAN: A VI VID RED MATERNAL VISION IN CALL HOME THE HEART Envisioning Vivid Red Sixty-six year old Kentucky-bor n, playwright and poet, Oliv e Tilford Dargan, chose the male pen name of Fielding Burke and emerged from the North Carolina hills to create her 1932 version of Ella May Wiggins as a working-class maternal heroine in Call Home the Heart In Call Home the Heart the maternal body of Ella May Wiggins represents and reveals the material reality of the working-class poor of the Appalachian South where th e social practices associated with mothering are critical for understanding how the social consci ousness of a single individual inspires collective activism. Dargans characterization of Wiggins invokes and revises maternal tradition as the shared care taking experience of women to engage her readers in a communal sense of working-class consciousness. Dargans fictional Wiggins, married and visibly pregnant, leaves her husband and son to seek some thing beyond work and dirt and younguns (49). Although Ishma Waycaster evolves as a political activist in Gastonia, Dargan returns her to the mountains armed with a new sense of community id entity and a maternal vision for the future. Dargan also left her rural southern roots for the educational and career opportunities in New York and London, but by age thirty-five, Dargan s heart was also called home to the hills of North Carolina. Similar to her protagonists quest for self-fulfillment, Dargan also takes a hiatus from her husband as she journeys toward her id entity as a writer and as an activist. Throughout her novel, Dargans political voice emerges as a voice of experiential knowledge where she not only wrote about Wiggins, but she also chose to li ve with and write about the rural working-class community in the Appalachian Mountains. This ch apter briefly traces the life experiences that inform Dargans writing and follow her toward he r fictional creation of Ella May Wiggins. The

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125 balance of the chapter will focus upon the rural and urban experiences of Dargans protagonist, Ishma Waycaster, and her journey toward an em ancipatory vision of ma ternal solidarity which led her to return to her home in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Born in rural Kentucky to abolitionist parent s in 1869, Dargan and her three siblings were raised with a sense of political consciousness and self-sufficiency. In the republication of Call Home the Heart, by Feminist Press, Anna W. Shannons Biographica l Afterword points toward an early incident in Dargans childhood where sh e begins to express her sense of a maternalbased social consciousness. When she read of a ba by being born in a state prison in St. Louis, the eleven year old, feeling that her pleas for social justice fell upon her father s deaf ears, composed a suffrage-based song as an attempt to convince her father of his power to intercede for a helpless child whose fate was so closely linked to her mothers (434). Dargans early sense of social justice matured and devel oped. In addition to the feminist views revealed in her poetry, plays, and fiction, Dargan was also a prolific letter writer who corresponded with many other political radicals who shared he r radical perceptions. However, out of fear for political persecution, biographers report that Dargan ha d ordered the destruc tion of most of her correspondence. In her biographical study, Anna Sh annon notes that the gaps and inconsistencies in Dargans biographical record may be attributed to Dargan, herself, who may have conspired in the destruction of the eviden ce of her political activit ies and contacts during two of the periods of political repression through which she lived (433). Although much of her personal correspondence was destroyed in fires occurring in 1919 and in 1924 as well as during the Red Scare of the 1950s, the papers that were treasured and saved offer striking evidence of Dargans feminist activism. Dargans feminist corresponden ce reveals her relationships with other feminist voices. Shannon describes these s upportive relationships as, a network of women providing one

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126 another with their primary sour ce of identity and energy (434). The voices of Dargans supportive network included feminist s like: Rose Pastor Stokes, a fellow socialist and one of the founding members of the American Communist Party, Alice Stone Blackwell, daughter of womens rights pioneer, Lucy Stone, and Anne Whitney, a lesb ian sculptor. Although fear of political persecution led Dargan to destroy most of the evidence of her feminist and leftist leanings, it appears that the correspondence from a network of women that was protected and preserved as a connection to a community of women who understood and shared the same political consciousness. In Call Home the Heart Dargan voices her heartf elt feminist and leftist politics through her protagonist, Is hma Waycaster, who resists polit ical repression. Ishmas voice is not a singular voice, but rather she repr esents the solidarity among women, like Dargans community of women, who understood the urgent need for social reform. Dargans feminist consciousness was also a prod uct of maternal influence. At age eleven, when her mothers health deteriorated to the point of debilitation, Da rgan was thrust into maturity and took her mothers place at her fa thers academy. By age fourteen, she was teaching independently at a neighboring sc hool. Stepping into her mothers professional responsibilities affected Dargans sense of identity as a woman and years later, Dargans correspondence reveals her empathy for her mother as a woman who suffered a broken, unfin ished life (qtd. in Shannon, Biographical 434). Dargan later earned her teaching certificat ion at Peabody Normal School in Nashville and then earned the mone y to attend Radcliffe College by working in various teaching positions in Miss ouri and Texas. Dargan was in her late twenties and attending Radcliffe when she met and married a Harvard graduate, Pegram Dargan. When her husbands health began to deteriorate, Dargans success as a playwright enabled her to return to purchase a farm in North Carolina in 1906. Shortly after leaving New York, Darg an discovered she was

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127 pregnant. Close to age forty and fearing comp lications, she left her husband behind in the Carolina Hills and spent the summer in Caritas Is land off the coast of Stamford, Connecticut in the home of a friend from her days at Radcli ffe, Rose Pastor Stoke s. Dargans unplanned pregnancy resulted in the birth of a premature infant daughter, who only survived for two hours, in May of 1907. Shannons biographical study reveals that her Dargans summer with Stokes not only helped her to heal physica lly, but it also strongly influenced Dargans Socialist politics (Biographical 437). Dargan returned to the farm in North Caro lina in the fall of 1907 and remained with her husband until 1911 when she made her solo trip to England to write and produce another play and a book of poetry. While in England, Dargans le tters to Alice Stone Blackwell, editor of the Womans Journal, reported the violence erupting from the British womens suffrage movement. Dargan also recounted the fate of the hundreds children who we re dying in the slums of London and their striking working-clas s mothers who claim they preferred starvation to bringing up children to be slaves like themselves (Sha nnon, Introduction x-xvi). With Britain entering WWI, Dargan returned to New York in 1914. Following the death of her husband in 1915, Dargan returned permanently to the South Caroli na mountains. By the time Dargan had returned home, WWI had sparked a textile boom in the Pi edmont region, but the boom ended with the end of the war. The decrease in wages and working c onditions sparked a wave of industrial strife that shattered the lives of the worki ng-class for the next decade. Livi ng in the heart of the Southern Piedmont, Dargan experienced both the boom and the bust of the textile industry. For Dargan, the mountains were not only a place to call home, but also a place beset by exploitive industrialization and in n eed of radical social change. In a letter to her friend, Dargan implied that leftist ideology insp ired her vision of social change. Dargan claimed she was "perusing the

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128 Daily Worker regularly and assiduously" and that she was "still vivid red" (Shannon, Biographical 440). Although Dargan never officially joined the Communist Party, her home in Asheville was frequently a site of clandestin e meetings (Lane 96). As a woman of leftist leanings, Dargans sense of class consciousness was part of a coll ective identity that extended to the caretaking of her family, her friends, and her community. By 1929, Dargans vivid red social consciousne ss drew her to the strike in Gastonia because she felt a kinship with female strikers wh o left the mountain to find self-sufficiency in the mills and instead, found exploitation and de privation. The women from rural Appalachia were very similar to the women Dargan met in London; both were desp erately struggling for economic survival and fearing that they were reproducing children w ho were destined to a life of virtual slavery. Dargan not only recognized the problem, but she also witnessed how workers could be drawn into solidarity and how most women, whether or not they were mothers, felt committed to what Dargan refers to as, the right of every child to be born with a chance (qtd. in Shannon, Introduction xix). In Gastonia, Dargan witnessed the same passionate concern for the children of the textile workers. Dargans version of Gastonia is a vivid red version of working-class solidarity where th e maternal body of Dargans fi ctionalized Ella May Wiggins evolves as a political body who creates a model of social reform that would not only benefit the mothers, but would also benefit the children who represented the future of the working-class. In Call Home the Heart Dargan calls for an alternative vi sion of working-class solidarity as well as an alternative version of the events at Gastonia. Rather than punishing her protagonist for her abandonment of her marital obligation or for her involvement w ith the Communist Party by killing her for her immoral tran sgressions, Dargans alternative version restores the fictional Ella May Wiggins to the maternal embrace of the mountain. In the mountains, both Ishma and

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129 her collective vision are reborn as the revolutionary solidari ty of both the women of the mountains and the women of the mills. Dargan, like the other Gastonia authors, could not tell the story of mill at Gastonia without telling the stor y of the mountain. Nor could she tell the story of the mountain without telling the story of the women whose shared nascent desire for selfsufficiency that not only drives them into the mills, but also drives them toward the collective maternal vision of giving their children a chance at a better life. In Darg ans vision of maternal solidarity, her fictional Ella May Wiggins is not murdered in Gastonia. Ra ther, the fictionalized Wiggins, Ishma Waycaster, survives and experien ces a metaphorical rebirth which allows her to return to the mountains with a maternal-bas ed model of working-class consciousness and feminist social reform. An Inheritance of Maternal Resistance In Call Home the Heart Ishma Waycasters early i ndoctrination into maternal responsibility bears testimony to the ever constant struggle fo r basic survival among the women within the Depression era Appalachian South. The maternal role of women, as defined by Dargans protagonist, reflects the material reality of women in the rural m ountains as work and dirt and younguns (49). Ishmas resi stance to work and children is rooted in her material reality. In the mountains of Southern Appalachia, neither the dirt, nor the work, produced even the most basic needs for human survival and the children st arved. The material reality within the textile mills was not far removed from that of the mountains; no matter how hard women worked, their hard work reaped no more benefit than it did in the mountains and ag ain, the children still starved. Although the women of the mountains and of the mills were trapped in their reproductive roles, they still be lieved that if they worked long enough and hard enough, they could save their offspring as well as themselves from becoming slaves to the same system. A

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130 maternal desire for a better life legitimizes fe male participation in working-class resistance to capitalist oppression. Dargan introduces her fictional Ella May Wi ggins as someone with working-class burdens: Before she was seven, Ishma, the youngest child of Marshall and Laviny Waycaster, had joined the class of burden-bearers (1). Although Dargans class can be read as working-class, it also metaphorically represents Ishmas gendered role as a class of women who bear a dual labor that is both productive and reproductive. As a female child, Ishma is a family possession, giving herself so effectually that no one suspected sh e was giving (1). As part of a traditional patriarchal family, Ishma is owned by her family until she is passed to another family through marriage. As a family possession, she is expected to labor in the fields as well as in the home. Dargan establishes Ishma as a hard worker whose gendered tasks bear a direct relationship to the maternal responsibility of taking care of the fa mily. Dargan contrasts Ishmas competency in caretaking with her sister, Bainie who, at the op ening of the novel is desc ribed as the wearily incompetent mother of four children (11). As Ba inie adds to her brood with a yearly pregnancy, Ishmas burdens increase in both food production and in the maternal care taking an ever expanding family. Unlike the children she tends, Ishmas role in the family subordinates her educational development and she gleans intellectual enrich ment through her matern al task of helping children with their homework and reading the textbooks that her ch arges cast aside. By the time Ishma is twelve, the school ma ster confronts her mother, Lavi ny, demanding to know why Ishma is not attending school. Laviny explains that Ishma took keer o Baines younguns sence shes five year old (11). Lavinys boast of Ishmas co mpetency reflects the pride that her mother feels with her daughters sense of shared maternal responsibil ity as well revealing as the

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131 developmental cost of Ishmas gendered labor. The sympathetic school master l eaves a parting gift of a subscription to a magazine, Women at Home With Ishmas intellectual development subordinated to the maternal work of caring for her sisters children and the farm work, Dargan posits a sense of maternal commitment as the f oundation of revolutionary political development. Ishma does not resist bearing the physical burdens of communal cooperation because she identifies with generations of rural women who e ffectively give of themselves in order for their families to survive. The futility of her labor and her lack of intellectual stimulation fuels Ishmas resentment and anger. Dargan depicts rural subsistence survival as more difficult for a mountain womans because yearly child bearing adds to her burdens Yet, as each year adds one more hungry mouth to feed at a time when there is not enough corn meal for the ex isting children, women lament the lack of bread, not the presence of children. Ishma s sense of responsibilit y toward childcare and the resistance to childbearing are survival skills learned from her maternal grandmother, Sara Starkweather. Although Dargan reveals Sarah Star kweathers death in the first chapter of the novel, her frequent appearances throughout the nove l occur as a legacy of oral history and maternal wisdom narrated through Ishmas soci al consciousness. Darg an describes Granny Starkweathers skills at both mate rnal nurturance and maternal resistance as a preference for ready-mades, and [a] long escape from matern ity (4). In this de scription of Granny Starkweather, Dargan attempts to reconcile th e contradiction between a rural tradition where fecundity was a source of pride as well as a mate rial reality where the ye arly production of an infant contributed to the increase of poverty. Grannys role both embraces the burden of mate rnal caretaking and resists the reproductive imperative of maternity. Along with the care of her great grandchildren and her grandchildren,

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132 Granny nurtured her own brood that consisted of a total of seventeen step children which resulted from two marriages to two widowers and the deat hs of two women worn from pioneering and child birthing (4). Sarah Starkweathers preferen ce for stepchildren reinforces the rural tradition of large families, but also implies a conscious resistance to the same imposed biological maternity that took the life of her predecessors Sarahs escape from her reproductive destiny is not absolute and at age forty-one, Sarah bear s one male child, John, who dies at age 19 after fathering Ishmas mother, Laviny. With the birth of only one son to maintain the Starkweather family lineage, Sarah Starkweat hers long life span of one hundred and seven years can be attributed to her resistance of the physical burden of yearly childbirth. Dargan implies a maternal bond between Granny Starkweather and Ishma in, Granny detected in the last little girl a strong resemblance to herself and Ishma had the j oy of knowing she pleased her grandmother (6). Ishmas pleasing resemblance to Granny plays out in the novel as maternal solidarity, in tending mothers and children and confronting the issue of birth control, and in Ishmas socially conscious vocational aspiration of nurturing ready made children in a communal farm. After Grannys death, Dargan maintains the ge nerational bond between the spirit of Sarah Starkweather and her great granddaughter thr ough Grannys handmade quilt. Grannys quilt represents a connection between Ishma, her gr andmother, and her female community. Ishma wraps herself within her grandmothers quilt at times when she needs support or when she requires a cloak of female resistance. In her contemporary study of regional writing, Cecelia Conway asserts that the images of quilts in female-authored fiction represent a womens view of community as parts of the whole working togeth er (138). Dargans fictional quilt signifies a recorded history where knowledge and traditions are passed down through generations of women who work together in a community of women. Sa rah Starkweather bestows her best handmade

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133 quilt upon Ishma for the childs tenth birthday. The hand-made quilt is a female symbol of the productive labor of women as well as representing reproductive labor in creating the fabric of the family. With all of Grannys other worldly possess ions passed on to her st ep children, the quilt is Grannys final remaining treasure and cements Ishm as sense of identity as an extension of her grandmothers identity. Granny predicts that Ishm a will keep that quilt sw eet and that [i]tll last her fer weddinbed (3). However, after Grannys death, Ishma resist s Grannys domestic ideal and rather than storing the quilt away in a hope chest as part of her dowry, Ishma chooses to use the quilt to cover the bed that offers a happy alternative to sleeping with three of he r sisters younguns (3). While Ishma basks in the memory of her grandm other and in the collec tive labor that supports the production of the quilt from singul ar patches of fabric, the quilt also supports a brief respite for Ishmas care taking role for Bainies children. Ishma also resists in sharing the quilt and her bed with a husband. Dargan illustrates Ishmas fi rst act of resistance as a project of building a separate bed for herself apart from the family burdens and apart from marital burdens. As a nurturing symbol of the spiritua l bond between Granny and Ishma, the quilt represents a bond of female community as well as an act of gendered re sistance that will play out in the novel as vision of maternal solidar ity and self-sufficiency. Marital Resistance and Material Reality Ishmas dream of emancipation is subverted by her material reality and her sense of obligation as primary care taker of her family. Dargan describes Ishmas collective sense of duty as, [t]he girl was almost single-handed in her struggle to make the farm keep them all decently alive (13). Clearly, Ishma is the sole support of the family farm. Her mothers greatest fear for the familys survival is expressed by Laviny in, "If Ishma left the mountain, how could the family go on without her? Nine to eat from one meal barrel, and only Ishma to fill it!" (46).

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134 Laviny recognizes that Ishma is the only one in the family whose hard work and determination will guarantee their survival. Yet, the paternal trad itions of Southern Appalachia affect Ishmas position and her perception of se lf worth within the family. Although Jim Wishart mirrors his wife, Bainies incompetency, Laviny still esta blishes his paternal pr ivilege over the family. When Jim sells Ishmas cow without her permi ssion, Laviny reminds Ishma of her traditional female role, You know Jim. An you know you ka int do a pinched-off speck about anything he does (46). Rural tradition dict ates that Jims position as the patriarchal authority cannot be challenged. Ishma clearly bears the burden of the familys survival, yet bears no acknowledgment from the family who de pends upon the value of her labor. By age eighteen, Ishma is of traditional marri ageable age and Dargan provides two suitors, both of which Ishma chooses to initially reject because she knows that again, she will be a possession whose burdens will increased further with yearly reproduction. When Britt Hensley proposes marriage, Ishma responds, You think Im going into that [marriage] with Bainie and her kids right before my eyes ? (37). When Rad Bailey propos es, Ishma replies, Why does everybody think a girls got to marry? Im going to have something else. . It ought'nt to be all work and dirt and younguns. When Bailey presse s for an answer as to what the something else may be, Ishma can only reply, I dont kno w (48-49). Having never been outside the Southern Appalachians, Ishma has no concept of life beyond her reproductive destiny and her rural privation. Her only view of the life beyond the mountain comes from glimpses of Woman at Home that opened gates to a way of livingth at it seemed nothing short of celestial to Ishma (11). Ishmas desire for emancipation is, however, overshadowed by patriarchal tradition. Ishmas choice of a husband hinges on her matern al desire and taking care of her family. When Britt Henley gallantly returns the cow that brother-in-law Jim had sold without Ishmas

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135 permission and seamlessly fills in for Jims lack of skill at the plow on the Waycaster farm, he emerges as the best choice for Ishma. Although Da rgan creates a true lo ve for her protagonist, she does not omit the harsh poverty of rural existe nce and she foreshadows the effect of poverty upon the tradition of marriage. Dargan describes the relationship between Ishma and Britt as laughing and loving each other as if poverty had no grip on their happiness (64). However, before long, Ishma and Britt discover that poverty does indeed have a grip on their happiness. The population of the small two-ro om cabin grows to twelve peopl e and the profit from the crops cannot not match the debt at the local store, let alone allow the newlyweds to build their own cabin. Although Dargan appears to foreground the l ove relationship, poverty establishes its grip of the newlyweds by silencing their laughter and overshadowing their happiness by trapping them into a daily struggle for survival. Within the year, Ishmas pregnancy adds another burden to her burden of taking care of the younguns and the dirt of the Waycaster farm. Through Ishmas experiences of parturition and birth, Dargan illustrates how, in the Southern Appalachian mountains, a womans life is circumscribed by her reproductive destiny as well as subordinated to her material reality. As the time for Ishmas pa rturition approaches, the cramped quarters of the small cabin crush Ishma s spirit as well as her body. Ishmas maternal labor and birth process, however, is inconse quential and illustrated through the matriarchal spatial position held by her mother. Rather than receiving maternal caretaking from her mother, Ishma receives a stark reminder of her position with in a female class whose lived experience of childbirth was daily routine. Ishma wanted Laviny to give up her bed in the middle room and let her be sick there, but her mother said there was no use beginning to humor her, shed have to get used to things like any married woman (78). As a married woman who had also born children in yearly cycles, Ishmas mother demonstrates a cl ear understanding of the cy clic reproductive fate

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136 of her daughter. The everyday routine things th at Ishma will have to get used to include seven of her sisters children r unning around a two-room cabin while she labors to give birth to yet another child who will also occupy the same space. Ishmas labor and delivery are silenced by he r mothers decree, and the event of Ishmas labor and delivery is effaced by the daily activit ies of her entire extended family. The children are sent outside to play, but Bain ie argues that she kaint sent them back [with] the air hangin with ice. So, the children return and play noisily in the kitchen. At the same time, her husband is enraged by the fact that he is powerless in any at tempt to comfort his wife, so Britt went up to the barn where he could swear unimpeded (78). The appearance of her infant son immediately follows the spatial dislocations of the family members and Laviny admitting, Ned was the finest baby that had ever come into the family (78). Although the birth occurs without any narration of Ishmas labor or delivery, the pr esence of the family within the over crowded cabin represents a long and difficult birth process. Ishma does not express any maternal joy at having one more mouth to feed or more diapers to wash. Ishmas emotional state is aligne d with the repression of her birthing event as a sense of en trapment where, Life, the future, her plans, were not so clear as they had been. She felt mentally clamped down, in the way that she had felt physically cramped the night Ned was born (78). Dargan illustrates how her protagonist is not only restricted by her reproductive body, but she is also restricted by the physical and emotional constraints of her material reality. Despite Ishmas protestations against producing yet another ch ild, within two years after delivering her son, she births twins. Ishmas tw ins die before they are a year old in a flu epidemic. After the death of the twins, Ishmas reproductive desti ny strikes another blow to her body. As drought, fire, sickness, and pestilence continue to smite th e farm, the debts continue to

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137 rise and Ishmas memories of her previous birt hing events in the cramped quarters of the cabin fuels her resentment. Dargan personifies the cabi n, in fact, as a demanding child in, It began to oppress her with its own claims to dirt and disord erShe couldnt be sick in that room again (147). The yearly pregnancies represent an econo mic illness which gestates within the maternal body of Ishma and births a working-cla ss rage against her rural privation. Ishmas brother Steve thwarts he r first attempt to leave the mountain. In contrast to his sister, Steve successfully escap es Cloudy Knob early in the no vel returning only long enough to articulate the rhetoric of re ligious rural tradition and the pa triarchal ideology of female subjection. Ishma, two years younger than Steve, be gs, "I've got to get off of this mountain." Steve reminds Ishma she is constrained by the burden of her reproductive destiny. He warns, Nobody wants a woman in your fix, IshA wo man's a woman. She's bound to carry the baggage in this lifeGod, or Nature, or something we kain't buck against, has fixed it that way" (149). However, Ishma does not believe that he r destiny is "fixed" by her pregnancy or by a patriarchal God. Granny Starkweat her had cautioned Ishma long ago that the contradictions in the Bible were a result of patriarchal design, set down by men. . Sometimes they didnt know no better (66). Dargan risks a critique of patriarchal religious tr adition by allowing her protagonist to resist her brothe rs arguments of repr oductive biology and spiritual morality when faced with an opportunity for escape. Dargan represents the opportuni ty for escape as an economic vision in the middle of night when Rad Bailey stood before Ishma and held up his bank-book to prove he had four-hundred dollars and was leaving Cloudy Knob to a place where "men must see clearly" (153). Ishma decides that the poverty of mountains has also clouded her vision and, like Rad, the urban mill town offered hope of something celestial that she saw in her magazine. Although Ishma still

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138 has no answer to Rads question of what more c ould a woman want besides marriage, her desire for something else clearly extends be yond the mountains boundaries. All Ishma has experienced thus far has been the burdens of poverty and procreation. Her search for something else, however, is still predicated upon an e xperiential knowledge steeped in the patriarchal tradition of marriage where a female is subordi nated by her reproductive body and her economic dependency upon a male provider. Conversely, Rad views his bank-book as the ev idence of his position as a provider of economic security in the face of Ishmas rural poverty. Although Ishma had rejected his first formal proposal of marriage, Rad believes that his promise of economic security guarantees Ishmas acceptance of his second proposal. Despite the impending birth of another mans child, Rad embraces Ishmas reproductive body as part of his own paternal ideal of possessing a wife and family and fulfilling the traditional role of provider. Rad does not view Ishmas pregnancy as being in a fix. Rather, Ishmas obvious fecundity confirms future heirs affirming his own sense of paternal tradition. Rad promises, Ill be good to youan the baby thats comin (156). Rads position of provider allows him to defeat Britt as his rival and reclaim the woman who refused his first proposal of marriage. However, Ishma views Rads offer as the on ly means of escaping her material reality rather than a marital commitment. Dargan illust rates how Rads body ceases to exist as a desired lover and becomes an instrument of escape. Darg an illustrates Ishmas emancipatory vision with, [t]he wall has a gate. Here was a way to open it. At that moment Rad is not a human being, but an economic force that will guarantee her survival until she can work to earn her own cash. Burke continues with, He was a friendly force who would help her turn the lock and let her pass

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139 out (155). As a way to open the gate to her freed om, Rad represents an economic force that is spatially outside of the rural privation which oppresses Ishma. Ishmas escape with Rad requires bartering w ith the only commodity that she possesses, her body. Ishmas body is both sexualized as a fe male body and desexualized as a maternal body. The pregnancy of Dargans protagonist dism isses any sexualized motive for leaving the mountain. Ishmas sexual di slocation is illustrated in, She had forgotten her own body; and if she could have remembered it, she would have held insignificant anything that could be done to it (155-56). Ishma subordinates her sexual desire to her intellectual desire. Although Dargan deflects the criticism of Ishma' s morality with a symbolic ma ternal condition, her material condition contradicts the patriarc hal maternal ideal and implies that Ishma is only trading one form of prostitution for another. Dargan reveals her protagonists acute awareness of her body as a valuable possession that can be bartered and implies that the price of freedom is only an exchange of commodities: Whatever its value, she knew it could not be worth the price she had paid; the price which she neve r would get through paying (179). Although Ishmas body is commodified and rural religious tradition will exact a price on morality, her second attempt to escape her rural constraints succeeds. Maternal Solidarity in a Celestial Dystopia Dargan introduces her fictional Gastonia as a chapter heading, The Big Happy World, but despite its literal promise of happiness, pa triarchal tradition and poverty cast their shadows over Ishmas celestial vision. Although Rad Bail ey keeps his promise as a provider and his bankbook provides a comfortable security in Winbur y, Ishmas individual desire for something better leads her toward the development of a comm unal desire to better the lives of the women and children of Winbury. Just as Rads bankbook ra ises Ishmas standard of living, a maternal body bears the burden of blame when the standard of living is lowered for the family whose

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140 house on the verge of foreclosure. The dispossessed family of Pace Unthank rents a room from Rad and Ishma and the income provided from the rent pays for Ishma and Rads living expenses. Along with providing a home for two families, this familiar communal living arrangement with the Unthank family bears a strong resemblan ce to the shared cabin in Cloudy Knob where patriarchal privilege reigns and Ishm a becomes the maternal caretaker. Like any married couple from the hill countr y, Rad now assumes the role as head of the household and manages the household accounts while Ishma tends the domestic space. Unlike the houses surrounding it, Rad takes exceptional pr ide in the house he acquired from Genie and Pace Unthank because it possessed such luxuries as water, lights and sewerage, to which Rad, with pride and frequency, called to Ishmas a ttention (178). Rads pr ideful and frequent reminders reinforce Ishmas indebtedness as well as imply her sexual subordination to Rad. In addition to patriarchal privilege, big happy wo rld of Winbury also shares another striking similarity to Cloudy Knob; matern al bodies also bear the same burden of blame for the economic privation in the mill village as they do in the rural mountains where babies appear in yearly cycles: Pace Unthank was a good workman badly handica pped by a sick wife. Her invalidism was due to rapid child-bearing, and the husband, ge nerous enough to admit his responsibility, put up complaisantly with slovenly cooking a nd a brazenly untidy house. Ishma silently busied herself with setting the place in order, and after a few days the two families were taking their meals together. (179) The world of Winbury is no happier than th e world of Cloudy Knob because babies are still produced yearly, still contribute to the deterior ation of the family economy, and still result in the physical deterioration of the maternal body. Ho wever, in Winbury, the maternal body is also a working-class wage-earning body. The economic instability of Pace Unthanks family is attributed to Genies deteriorati ng health, rather than to Paces wage earning work as a provider. Paces wifes inability to work, whether work is defined as outside or as inside the home, is

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141 caused by frequent childbirth. Dargan illustrates the impact of pregnancy upon the female body through the body of Paces wife and the deterior ation of the female domestic space. The generous understanding of Pace Unthank underscore s his admittance of male responsibility for her post-partum complications while emphasi zing the gendered division of labor where pregnancy and childbirth and the caretaking of the home are traditionally assigned as feminine duties. Again, Ishma gives herself effectually and demonstrates that generous understanding is an act maternal solidarity. Maternal solidarity lies in the hands of Ishma, who in her pregnant condition, immediately begins caring for Genie Unthank and setting the shared domestic space in order and taking command of the kitchen. Ishmas empathetic act of maternal solidarity in Genies post partum care, is reciprocated with another act of maternal solidarity, the shar ing of birth control info rmation. Dargan confronts patriarchal tradition by asserti ng a radically progressive topi c when in most states, any information about any method of birth control wa s considered illegal. Is hmas introduction to this life-saving knowledge is acquired through eaves dropping on a conversation about birth control between the radical physician, Derry Un thank, and Pace and Ge nie Unthank. While in the kitchen, Ishma hears the doctors threatening pr ediction that if Paces wi fe is afflicted with another pregnancy, Genie will be dead in six m onths, or in Morganton (181). Ishma is shocked because she understands that pregnancy as inevita ble and believes that the doctor is indecent for even broaching the topic. Ishma is also aw are that Morganton is a hospital for the insane. After the birth of her infant daughter, Vennie, Ishma reconsiders her in itial self-righteous indignation and seeks an ally in Ge nie. With her nursing infant at he r breast and tears in her eyes, Ishma presses for clarification of the knowledge th at can only be whispered and asks Genie, I want to ask you something, Genie, and dont you get mad at me, because it may mean whether

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142 Im going to live or die. Genies response and Ishmas acceptance is narrated succinctly with, She told. Ishma kept silent ( 194). Both women understand the gr avity of the question of birth control as a matter of life or death affecting both the physical and emotional health of the maternal body and they share a sense of solidarit y in challenging their biological imperatives. Dargans heroine is no older than twenty-five an d she listens silently and intently because the birth of Vennie mirrors her experien ce of birthing three children in four years in the mountains of Cloudy Knob. Through their conscious concern for each other, Ishma and Genie are united in maternal solidarity and risk speaking the unspeakable. Ishma and Genie press the boundari es of patriarchal dominion ev en further and conspire in a plan to encourage Genies to pass birth c ontrol information on to Rad. The conversation between the two men, like the conve rsation between the two women, is outside of the narrative. However, the need for the conversation is written as a challenge to patriarchal privilege. Dargan confronts male privilege when Rad asks Pace what Dr. Unthank meant: Whad he mean? Im on probation? . .A mans got to have his rights (196). Dargans feminist condemnation of Rads implied sexual privilege is answered by Pace Unth anks retort: Yes, I had my rights, and see what happened. I lost my house, I nearly lost my wife, and if you hadnt come along with a little cash my family would have been in the street. If thats where having your rights brings you, Id rather do without em (196). Dargan suggests a revolutionary social transformation that challenges the patriarchal structure and the sexu alized rights of a husband over his wife by equating the emotional loss with the economic loss. At the same time, through female solidarity, Dargan implies a victory for womens ri ghts over their reproductive destinies. Again, Dargan locates Ishma and Genie, in a feminine space of domain, the kitchen. The secret knowledge is again a silent implication, bu t affirmed by the women who now have control

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143 their reproductive destinies in, They knew what Pace had to say to Rad (196). Ishmas first lesson in the big happy world is a lesson in how to control the repr oductive destiny that circumscribes her world. Sylvia Cook argues that this moment w ithin the novel allowed [Ishmas] intellect a clear triumph over her instin ct (449). At the same time, Dargan illustrates how a womans life is circumscribed by her repro ductive capability. In providing her protagonist with the knowledge that allows her to separate her sexual desire from her reproductive destiny, Dargan also implies that birth control has a direct link to the economic destinies of both women and men and needs to be a viable part of revolutionary social reform. Along with his radical knowledge of birth control as revolu tionary ideology, many critics argue that Dargans physician, Dr. Unthank, acts as a mentor character for Ishmas political development by providing the right kind of books and a look in on Karl Marx" (203). Although Unthank shares his leftist ideology, he does not share the knowledge of birth control with Ishma. Rather, Ishma acquires the secret from another maternal body who shares the lived experience as well as the knowledge. While Un thank may possess the privileged theories, Ishmas maternal experience reflects revoluti onary praxis. Contemporary historian, Barbara Foley contends that as a mentor, Unthank play s an influential role in Ishmas political development. Foley argues that although Unth ank chides Ishma for her backward ideas and steadily pushes her leftward, he al so gains insight from Ishma and the proletarian pupil ends up teaching the middleclass mentor (Foley 334). Wh ile Dr. Derry Unthank influences Ishmas leftist leanings through his Marxist literature Dargan suggests his distance from political activism in Derry didnt go often to Winburyit used him up (189). Dr. Unthanks sporadic appearances in the novel illustrate that when the physician was not available, the women of

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144 Winbury return to their lived expe rience in the mountains, unite in maternal solidarity, and take over the care of those struggling for life. Ishmas skill at maternal caretaking and her sense of collective identity are drawn more closely from her affiliation with Dr. Unthanks bi rthing assistant, Grandma Huff rather than Dr. Unthank. With the onset of Is hmas labor, Dr. Unthank sends for the midwife, Grandma Huffmore, because He and Grandma Huff were old accomplices (188). Clearly, the frequency of Grandma Huffs presence at births with Dr. Un thank attests to the value of her experience as a midwife by aligning her with a medically traine d physician. Like Ishmas Granny Starkweather, Grandma Huff tends to the birthing of ready ma des and assists Ishmas birth. When Grandma Huff falls ill, Ishma responds by taking care of Gr andma Huff as well as taking care of Grandma Huffs community of working-class women whose babies rarely survived and whose reproductive bodies always fell furthe r into invalidism or insanity. Mountain Utopia of a Maternal Collective Ishmas role in the community is defined by the care she brings to Grandma Huffs community of women and her community is define d by the maladies that strike the reproductive bodies Ishma tends. Dr. Unthank recognizes th at Ishmas skilled nursing provides a more effective cure than the drugs or the leftist philosophy he prescr ibes. Dr. Unthanks observations extend beyond the realm of nursing a nd he refers to Ishma as the great earth mother (295). As the great earth mother who believes she is taki ng care of the needs of the women within her community, Ishma begins looking in on Annie Weaver. Grandma Huff describes Annie as having birthed twins that died, an got so to re up she kaint have any more (200). Ishmas next patient, Mame Wallace, was a wo man who started working in the mills at age eleven and was in the final stages of pellagra, a niacin deficiency that leads to dementia. Mame had she spent most of life givi ng her children what little milk she could afford while denying

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145 herself this life-saving nutrient Kansie, had six children and one on due any day and her fervent hope was to have her eldest daughter, May, finish high school Ishma works tirelessly tending her patients and maintaining perfection in te nding to Rad and the house. Dargan describes her protagonist, she thrived on difficulties and wanted no rest (204). The community of women who so desperately need Ishmas maternal care provide the sense of personal fulfillment that Ishma so desperately desires. Ma ternal caretaking, for Ishma is a choice rather than an imposed burden. So, with her daughter at her side, the grea t earth mother tends the ever increasing rates of births, injuries, flu, deaths, and dementia caused by pellagra. Unlike the other Gastonia authors, Dargan lo cates her maternal protagonist inside the homes of the millworkers, rather than in the mill. By locating Ishma outside of the textile mills, Dargan provides a greater freedom for her prot agonist in establishing a sense of a communal caretaking identity. Thus, the perception of a ma ternal-based solidarity is built upon a sense of trust and belonging to a family group who not only shares similar goals an d aspirations, but also helps to nurture the body, as we ll as the political spirit. Ishmas visits among the women of Spindle Hill evolve into a cove rt method of union recruitment fo r The National, Dargans red vision of the Communist-led Nati onal Textile Workers Union. Wh en Ishma receives a message to call upon the home of Ella Ramsey, she expects E llas daughter, Nancy, is ill. However, Ella Ramsey does not expect help for her daughter, sh e expects Ishma to be the best recruiter in Spindle Hill to pass unnoticed by the mill s management and hand out union cards. Ishmas reticence in taking on th is task of union recruiting is not predicated upon her fear of the textile mills management or her belief th at such a position will interfere with her care of her own daughter, Vennie. Rather, Ishma believes that she is not qualified to speak for the millworkers because she has never worked in th e mill. Ella argues: You can learn might fast.

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146 Its like Ive been tellin you, we need somebody they aint afraid of an will believe in (223). Ella believes that the millworkers will trust Ishm a because Ishma has established her credibility through her genuine concern for the mothers and children within her community. Convinced that she can learn quickly, the great earth mother envisi ons her new sense of self-identity as part of a revolutionary community. Ishmas moment of epiphany is revealed within her maternal affirmation, Of all things, what she wanted most wa s to count, to be a part of something real, as everlasting, at least, as humanity (227). For Ishm a, something real is rooted within the female community of Winbury where she has shared the intimate live d experiences of other women through her maternal caretaking. Ishma knows their most desperate desires for something better for their children and for themselves. Ishma now recognizes her power to make something count for humanity, by affecting the social body, caring for and about the working-class women and children. Ironically Ishma's vocational desire and maternal activism emerge with the tragic death of her daughter. Dargan foreshadows the fate of Vennie within Ishmas epiphany of selfactualization. Ishma recognizes herself as a chil d of the mountains where The breast offered her was thin and unbounteous, but it served (232 ). Dargan posits her protagonists selfsufficiency as a product of her maternal mountains that served her own maternal development where she laments the helplessness of the people who had only their jobs inside of the mill and Outside of that, what did they do? Ishma iden tifies her maternal experience as something she learned from her own experience in the mountains and as something real that she could do for her community. Dargan reveals the value of maternal knowledge as communal caretaking: Every man, at some time or other, ought to know what it was to dig a grave for a fellow-man and lay him in it. Every woman ought to know how to tenderly handle the dead, and care for a

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147 new born child (232). Dargan contrasts the care taking rituals with thos e of modernity where such services are for hire. The soft purr of an oncoming chauffer-dri ven automobile interrupts the maternal epiphany of Dargans protagonist with a symbo lic crash of class and gender. Although Ishma leaps in front of the car to sa ve her child, Vennie dies as a re sult of the impact. Joseph Urgo argues that Ishmas sickly female child sym bolizes the burden of childbearing and Vennies death is emancipatory and provides Ishma with the freedom to pursue pol itical involvement (78). While the car accident clearly repr esents an emancipatory event that lifts the burden of childcare, it also leads Ishma toward yet another pos ition of surrogate motherhood. During her own convalescence from the accident, the daughter of th e limousine owner routinely seeks out visits with Ishma that will provide an urban child with stories of the rural life in the mountains. Janet Lane asserts that Ishmas storie s serve the dual purpose of oral hi story as well as the political education of the bourgeoisie daughter, Billie Joe, who may in the future, become an enlightened ally to the working-class cause (101). From a maternal lens, the alliance between classes is rooted in the maternal knowledge of caretaking. The identity of Dargans protagonist is based upon Ishmas self-knowledge as a woman and as a mother who was nurtured at the thin and unbounteous breast of a maternal mountain. Ishm a passes on her caretaking experience as knowledge to another generation of women thr ough Billy Joe with the hope of maternal solidarity. A charismatic "comrade from the North" achi eves Ishma's ultimate conversion to maternalbased political activism by reaching Ishma s core identity with the promise: Communism is not a beast waiting in the dark to devour us and our ch ildren. It is a great mother calling us to peace and plenty . . We shall not cease asking and taking and fighting so long as there is one child in the world whimperi ng vainly for bread; one child shivering sleepless in the winters cold; one child lifting its eyes fo r true knowledge and

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148 receiving a lie. We shall clear this jungle; we shall cleanse these shambles; and leave for our children a land of peace and fa ir meadows. To die in such a cause, as some of us must, is to die triumphant. (291) The comrade from the North is preaching a matern al revelation that focu ses on the children of the working-class as future revolutionaries. Amos Freer, Dargans fi ctionalized Communist Leader, Fred Beal, confirms both the Partys vi sion of a future working-class revolution and Ishmas vision of maternal solidarity by assigning Ishma to the task of Visiting the homes and looking specially after th e children. Dargan then aligns Ishm a Waycaster with a female mentor, the fictionalized version of Gast onias strike organizer, Vera Bu ch Weisbord, Eva Blaine. Blaine and Ishma began training and Within three days Ishma could have supplied any demanded report concerning the children whose welfare was involved in the strike (311). However, Dargan thrusts her protagonists idealism into Gast onias fires of historical realities and as the Committee of One Hundred ransacks the co mpany store, the mothers tell their children, Theyll be nothing to eat today (316). Hungry children inspire maternal solidarity and the maternal strikers went to jail for protesting the lack of legal intervention in the de struction of the store. Dargan assesses maternal value in the novel by reporting th at it took over a hundred dollars of unions funds to release the nursing mother of a 2-month old baby. Anna Jenki ns, was restored to her four children, ages 2 months to 5 years, after spe nding twenty-four hours in jail. While mothers sang songs of solidarity sick women and children were evic ted from their company houses and the women protested because the law, w ho had the blind eye on the comm ittee, had intervened in the evictions. Although there are no fatalities from bayone ts or gunshots, the fatalities of Dargans strike at Winbury were those who were le ft homeless, sick, hungry, and demented. The harshest dose of reality that tests the modern reader is Dargans depiction her protagonists blatant racism near the end of the novel. Although c ontemporary critics debate the

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149 reasons for Ishmas inability to cross the barrier of race and evolve as an ideal member of the Communist Party, they agree that Dargan clearly articulates the di visive racism within the South through her protagonist. Although Dargans prota gonist evolves as an individual throughout the novel, nonetheless, Ishma is clearly an unedu cated rural Appalachian southern woman who responds to the realistic events w ithin the narrative as stigmatizing to her identity as maternal body. During her confrontation with the lynch mob, one man refers to Ishma as, A bitch runnin round with niggers! (378). Although Ishma antic ipates the possibility of being physically brutalized by the men, she fears the social stigma more: A flogging, though it should leave her broken for life, could be covered up by the police and condoned by the best people. An associ ate of niggers! Behind their screens of respectability, social, legal, churchly, they would smile at the lashes on her flesh. She could see Virginia Grants delicate eyeb rows going up. And we thought of her as a companion for my innocent child. (378) Dargan explicitly asserts the reality of a po lice cover-up and the overt racial slurs that prevailed in the real life Gastonia. However, the height of the insults occu r at the end of Ishmas reflections when she reveals her fear of a middle class womans criticism striking at her maternal identity as a childs companion. Without any more self-reflection, Ishma courageously enacts her rescue of Butch Wells, her African American union brother. When Butchs wife, Gaffie embraces Ishma, she is repulsed, slaps Gaffie, flees from the house, and catches the first train to Asheville. While it is difficult to speculate why Dargan s depiction of racism in the South is perpetuated through her protagonist, reading the r acially charged events through a maternal lens, reveals an accurate and realisti c portrayal of southern racism. Ishmas rescue crosses southern social boundaries or what Dargan refers to as screens of respectab ility(378). Moreover, Ishmas actions also crossed the boundary of southern womanhood where her position among the white community posits her as the maternal gua rdian of morality would also be jeopardized.

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150 Viewing the racial prejudice within the novel th rough an idealized image of a maternal body, the transgressing of the boundaries of race was equally as serious in the rural South as the transgressing boundaries of sexual immorality. In her contemporary study, Ackerman also de fends Dargans treatment of this racial incident as a reflection of the Dargans social conditioning or as the authorial intent where Dargan portrays her character as a student of the revolution with many lessons yet to learn or as an element of realism (authors emphasi s Ackerman xvi). Clearly, Ishmas late night transgressions will ultimately result in her be ing ostracized from the community that she struggles so desperately to buil d, so the defection of Dargans protagonist may indeed, represent a pragmatic compromise that maintains the integrity of her southern woman, but also realistically illustrates the need for social change w ith regard to racism in the South. There is little doubt that by the time Dargan wrote Call Home the Heart she had gained an acute political awareness and understood that of publication in the 1930s hinged upon writing Ishma as a repentant maternal body who must be "called home" to her husband and son. Yet, contrary to contemporary criticis m, Ishma Waycasters return to the mountains also reflects a party loyalty and sense of collect ive responsibility. Ishma leaves the proletarian revolution in the fictionalized Gastonia in the cap able hands of Amos Freer and his Northern comrades and she follows her heart as well as the command of the fictionalized version of Fred Beal who states, Youll go where you are sent (311). Ishma, as a ma ternal heroine, takes charge of the strikers children and pleas for their welfare, There are over forty children that ou ght to be sent to the country somewhereon the farms, or up in the mountains (313). Ishm as revolutionary red vision is a maternal vision of turning Cloudy Knob into a summer retreat, patterned after the

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151 dream of Mr. Beasleys farm collective, where other mothers could help provide a healthier environment for their children as we ll as the children of other women. Along with a romanticized ending of returni ng the protagonist to her husbands embrace and the newly established economic stability of the Waycaster farm, Ishma voices her maternal desire as concern for the families of her union collective: I was thinking about a lot of little kids that Id like to bring them up here in the summer every summer. Id like to give them plenty to eat and turn them loose on the mountain to get strong. . It will take a lot of milk and eggs. . If I can do that for the kids, Britt, Id not feel as if Id run away just to get fat and lazy and old up here. (430) Ishmas call home to the mountains is more than a nostalgic call fo r a return to the past; it is a maternal activists call to provide for the future generations. Ishmas dream of a retreat reflects Dargans own maternal desire to provide a bette r life for needy children. In a letter to her friend, Isabel Barrows, Dargan wrote: [I]f I ever have a home in which little ones can be happy I can easily fill it. The mere productive function is th e least part of huma n motherhood, and no woman should call herself childless so long as there is on e child in the world (qtd. in Ackerman 8). Dargan's feminist message is a collective ma ternal message that embraces motherhood as a militant act of resistance, not a roman ticized retreat to a pastoral ideal. Dargan also returns her pr otagonist to Cloudy Knob with control over her reproductive destiny. Ishma Waycaster returns wi th knowledge that prevents her from living like an old cow. Fodder in winder and grass in summer, and a calf every year (393) Dargans liberating messages attest to a womans need for an individual fulfillment as well as vocational fulfillment outside of her reproductive capabilities. In Call Home the Heart Dargan invokes the glorification of domesticity and motherhood as an emancipatory radical red vision of maternal activism and working-class solidarity to cr eate a space for a womans political voice.

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152 CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION Maternal Militancy The stories of Gastonia as depicted by Ma ry Heaton Vorse, Grace Lumpkin, Myra Page, and Olive Dargan are distinctiv e to critical analysis and hist ory because they reflect the participation of women as a m ilitant collective in a seminal event in unionism. These 1930s Leftist writers propose an operati ve model of maternal-based so lidarity where maternal nurturing and the caretaking of a woman's family provide the motivation to create and sustain a workingclass struggle for economic and political reform As Zandy insists class knowledge comes from experience and story, history and memory and from the urgency of witnessing. Class solidarity is born from perceptions of common struggles and common enemies (8 ). The strike at Loray Mill and the death of Ella May Wiggins sparked a wave of working-class resistance across the Southern Piedmont Region. The unquestionable r eality of female experience brought by Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan reveals the lived hist ory of working-class women in the Depression era South, who despite their long hours work ing within the mill and their domestic responsibilities and child care, still mustered both the time and the energy to resist the paternalistic system that circumscribed their pers onal as well as their professional lives. These authors depict class solidarity th rough the maternal representation of Ella May Wiggins to reflect a specific time and place when urgency not only drew female millworkers together in their common struggle for subsistence su rvival, but also drew progressive women together in their common struggle for social justice. The class knowledge of Vorse, Lumpkin, Page and Dargan originates within their own lived histories and urgency to articulate a gender ed knowledge as a basis for political unity. All four authors were products of a feminist vision fostered through the political milieu of a literary

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153 Leftist era where writing ones li fe was also reflecting ones polit ics. In the 1930s, perceptions of gender in Leftist politics closely mirrored the traditional perceptions of womanhood and followed the conventional patterns of a gendered division of labor. These female authors rely upon the cultural acceptance of sentimentalized tradi tions to temper their feminist politics. The maternal representations of Ella May Wiggins not only reflect a unify ing identity of the collective, but they also appeal to a fe male readership as common experience. Vorse, Lumpkin, Page and Dargan had estab lished their literary reputations and were earning their living by writing for newspapers, magazines, and book sellers. Moreover, they wrote for a very specific audi ence, women and men who recognized social injustice and sought political solutions. Moreover, th e female-authored Gastonia novels drew a large contingency of liberal females within their readership. The au thors not only produced a political narrative, but they also produced what they hoped would be ma rketable. The authors appealed to the social consciousness of their female readership through the sentimentalized plot that was familiar to their readers. In addition to Strike! and other labor-related ficti on, Vorse produced love stories for popular magazines that provided her with a source of quick funding. She referred to these particular stories as lollipops, but at the core of the fictionali zed sweetness is a subversive act of resistance. For example, one story reflect s a protagonist who was a tomboylike heroine whose direct approach wrests the prized male from the simpering belle (Garrison, Mary 31). Although Vorses protagonist seek s a traditional union of marriag e, she is not passive or submissive, but rather actively pursues her goal. In addition to entertainment, the narrative reveals the physical and emotional strength of a woman which also suggests radical possibilities of a similar rebellion to a socially-conscious reader.

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154 Lumpkin and Page also penned stories for Working Woman, the Communist Partys magazine directed toward female readers and the Masses but their narratives of resistance were more direct than Vorses lollipops. Dargan had also already established her reputation as a feminist playwright and poet prior to writing Call Home the Heart. These four authors not only embraced their political environment, but they also challenged the patriarchal ideologies and encouraged other women to challenge their trad itional roles through sentimentalized feminine narratives laced with a subversive resistance. The maternal repres entation of Ella May Wiggins contributes to enhancing a more feminine heroine with whom the readers coul d identify through the common experiences of cooking, cleaning, and childcare. At the same time, by linking common experiences, the authors also link th e common enemy of gender oppression. Both the domestic angel and the maternal rebel resonated with their female readership. Although the Gastonia authors crea tively contested their cultura lly prescribed roles with feminist subversion, they were also setting political precedents for the Communist Party. It was not until the mid-1930s that the Communist Party even began to address the issues of gender (Weigand 20). At the time when Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan were writing their narratives of Gastonia, the Partys concepts of ethnic, race, and gender solidar ity were still in their embryonic stages. Thus, the literary contri butions of these authors, in ma ny ways, illustrate their feminist attempt to shape a radical political agenda for co llective activism with special attention to the common struggles of working-class females. Thr ough their depictions of Ella May Wiggins at Gastonia, these female authors were articulati ng a model of collective activism that embraced gender and race as well as class. Although Vorse resisted any affiliation with the Communist Party, her biography reveals her leftist political leanings and a history of feminist resistance and union activism that informed

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155 her writing. Vorses resistance to marriage and her desire for a career in writing resulted in her mother disinheriting her because her politics were in di rect conflict to her mothers traditional goals for her daughter. Despite her mothers disapprova l, Vorse lived the life of a labor journalist and fiction writer, as well a si ngle mother stricken with guilt over the neglect of her children. Vorses female-focused writing conducts a precarious negotiati on between a womans conflicting roles as mother and as writer. At the same time Vorses narrative also suggests that the alienation between Vorse and he r own mother may have contribu ted to her internalized guilt and fostered her desire to articu late a model of maternal-based solidarity as the desire for unity among women. Vorses desire for female unity can also be linked to her membership in Heterodoxy. According to Judith Schwartz, Heterodoxy was a luncheon club of unorthodox women, formed in Greenwich Village in 1912 during the Progr essive era by a group of women who were ardently pro-women supporters who knew the vital n ecessity of strong female friendships as well as the importance of sharing information with other women outside of the narrow confines of friendship circles (2). The bi-weekly lunche ons provided valuable networks for women to discuss a wide range of issues affecting their lives ranging from suffrage to child rearing. Along with attracting Vorse into their intellectual circle, the Heterodites also attracted women like, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Susan Glaspell, Elizab eth Gurley Flynn, Rose Pastor Stokes, Crystal Eastman, Helen Hull, Mable Dodge Luhan, as well as other unorthodox women. In her history of Heterodoxy, Schwartz contends these Village suffrag ists saw feminism as the value system that would accompany the new socialist order (35). Much of Vorses writing reflects many of the sa me concerns and politic al goals that were voiced through the writing of the Heterodites and other Progre ssive women of the early part of

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156 the century and were, no doubt, included as to pics of conversations during their luncheon meetings. By the time Vorse was writing Strike! women had already been granted franchise, yet Vorse was still witnessing the ways that many women were still disenfranchised. Strike! reflects a proto-feminism that embraces both class and gender equality and seeks solutions for social injustice. Vorses protagonist symbolizes a sh ared identity and a unifying experience that represents a maternal-value system. Mamie Le wes, as a fictionalized Wiggins represents a gendered struggle for unity among women in their common struggle for their equal rights. Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan were drawn to Co mmunism in the 1920s when the Party first severed its ties with a moderate Socialist Party and much of the Partys early idealistic vision is reflected in their writing. In writing their lived histories of Gastonia, these authors articulated what they believed reflected the goals of the Party for resolving social injustice. The idealized vision of these writers inspired them to integr ate political models of solidarity into their narratives as their proposed solutions to the so cial ills that plagued the country. Although the Party, in the mid-1920s, was struggling for its own direction, it began prom oting ethnic solidarity as a collective strategy for accomplishing soci al change. By 1928, the Party was embracing a resolution known as the Black Belt theory that called for a multi-racial solidarity (Weigand 16). Within their narratives, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan reconstruct their idealized collective visions with a model of maternal -based solidarity that would tr anscend the rest rictive boundaries class, gender, and race. Pages Gathering Storm aggressively assaults racism as one of the most divisive issues in the South. Page confronts racism through her gra phic descriptions of a white doctors lack of response to childbirth complications and the br utal rape and murder of a black woman. In Gathering Storm, Page draws a portrait of an African American woman in agonizing labor

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157 attempting to birth a breech infant, but both moth er and infant die because a white doctor would not come to the mill housing in the Back Row to assist in the birth. Page follows the death of the mother and infant with the brutal rape and murder of another young black woman who looks forward to leaving her job, ma rrying a black sharecropper, a nd raising babies. The young black woman is a servant in the mill owners home and on her way home one evening, she is raped and murdered by the mill owners son. While these act s of violence have been analyzed by Urgo and others as depictions of capita list oppression against the working-class, the presence of these maternal images also implies a representation of gender oppression. In To Make My Bread Lumpkin addresses racism through her protagonists perceptions of her co-workers as sharing a common identity as well as a common enemy, the paternalistic mill system. Also, Lumpkins protagonist, Bonnie Mc Clure, forms a relationship of mutual support with her black neighbors when Bonnies infant di es while she is at work in the mill. Drawn together by the death of a child, Mrs. Allen and her daughter, Savannah, come to Bonnies aid with emotional support and a prac tical solution for childcare. Lu mpkin, like the other Gastonia novelists relies upon a female unity rooted in ma ternal caretaking to i llustrate her collective politics of maternal-based so lidarity as transcending race. While Dargan never officially join the Communi st Party, her claim to be vivid red and her revolutionary writing imply her sentiments to ward radical politics and feminist solutions for social injustice. Although in Call Home the Heart Dargans southern pr otagonist wrestles with her own racism, the larger focus of her narrativ e relies upon feminist solutions for class issues. Dargan alters the story of Ella May Wiggins as the wife who was abandoned by her husband. Instead, Dargans protagonist, Ishma Hensley, abandons both husband and son in the mountains to search for personal fulfillment in the mill town in the valley. Ishma is pregnant when she

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158 leaves the mountain, but the child dies in an automobile accident and Ishma emerges as a union organizer. The tragic car accident that cause s the death of her young da ughter suggests another example of capitalist oppression upon female bodies. At the same time, the death of her child strategically frees Ishma from the burdens of ma ternal responsibility a nd provides her with an opportunity to become politically involved in union organization. Along with lifting the burdens of maternit y in strategic moments to permit their protagonists to pursue their po litical aspirations, the female Gastonia authors also focused on pregnancy as economically and physically draining a nd proposed a radical idea of birth control. At a time when most states were still enforci ng the Comstock Law, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan confronted the issues of birt h control and abortion as met hods of controlling pregnancy. Lumpkin and Page drew upon graphic images of a bortion attempts to illustrate the desperation women face when caught with another mouth to feed. The perception of pregnancy as gender inequity that informs the writing of these author s was also part of the Communist Partys goals during the Popular Front and the Party advocat ed womens access to fr ee birth control and abortion (Weigand 23). Within thei r discourse of class solidarity, the female Gastonia authors embedded their feminist philosophies. The narratives of the female-authored Gastoni a reflect the urgency of women during the Depression era who became the scapegoats for the countrys economic ills and were accused of taking jobs from able-bodied men. Their depictions of maternal privation legitimized the motives of the female mill workers at Gastonia. As long as mothers were working to guarantee the survival of their children, then their labor outsi de of the home was justified. Alice Kessler-Harris notes that Depression era was divisive for women because of the class emphasis on the legitimacy of women wage earners and women were urged to have the courage to refuse work

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159 for gain (qtd. in Kessler-Harris 258). In order to appeal to No rthern readers who were being forced out of their jobs, the narratives of Ga stonia reflected the desperation of the female Southern millworkers and the need of their wages as subsistence survival. All four Gastonia authors portray male characters in their novels as either absent or ineffectual as breadwinners. This strategy highlights the legitimacy of wage work positioning the female wage earner as the sole source of family income sustai ning the survival of her children. Maternal Solidarity as a Feminist Vision The novels of Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan defy most attempts to locate them in a single category of proletar ian literature. In locating the Gastonia novels within the 1930s era of social protest, Barbara Foley de fines various other components of proletarian literature, such as the social novel, fictional autobiography, colle ctive novel, and bildungsro man. This dissertation study focuses upon these works as social novels wh ere the authors underlying motives are to move their readers toward a re volutionary sympathy through their identification with maternal representations. Mate rnal representations suggest unifying experiences between the protagonist, reader, and author that transcend the boundari es of class and embrace multiple identities. Rabinowitz contends that the focus of female re volutionary writers within the political milieu of the 1930s was that of depicting class relations. Th e inscriptions of female desire as Rabinowitz explains, create a possibility for theorizing the multiplicity of differencesracial, class, gender, ethnic, sexualin a more complex way that simp ly repeating a litany of Otherness(181). By foregrounding maternal identity as class solida rity, Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan posit a relational model that is born of common struggle with a comm on enemy. At a time when most proletarian fiction depicted women as the victim s of capitalist exploitation, the authors of a female-authored Gastonia portrays an alternate image that emphasizes the power of collective resistance where the disparity in class relati ons is the common enemy. Foregrounding class as

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160 inclusive as well as collective diffuses th e politics of difference by emphasizing common experiences. Collective resistance, in these Gast onia narratives, is depicted as maternal experience and the desire to provide the most basic of human needs for all children. The strike at Gastonia was over eighty years ago and until the past couple of years, it has remained the subject of few short articles in jour nals and a line or two or perhaps, a chapter in book that examines the narratives of the work ing class. More scholars are discovering the possibility for theorizing the Gastonia novels as multiple representations of cultural and political identity. The 2004 dissertation studies of Janet E. Lane and Wes Mantooth and have been released as books in the summer of 2006 by Routledge. Lanes study examines the Gastonia novels as pseudo-documentaries th at reveal a politically-infor med language of conflict and aggression that was ultimately responsible for the silencing of the Gast onia novelists as female writers (518). Mantooth examines how the ball ads and the folk culture of North Carolina are integrated into the po litics of the Gastonia na rratives. Mantooth defines his study as an examination of the Gastonia novels as Marxist-inf ormed narratives that re veal the each authors stance towards the dialectic rela tionship of culture, ideology, a nd action (926). These studies, along with other unheralded dissertation studies, confirm that the narratives of the strike Gastonia are commanding a closer examinati on by scholars of their literary merits. This study of the politics of Depression era mate rnal activism in the feminine portrayals of Gastonia also contributes to a neglected area of proletarian fiction by asserting that the representation of the reproductive body in the fe male-authored novels of Gastonia represents a collective maternal identity that inspires solidarity and union activism. Opportunities for rethinking representation of class in the Gastonia novels include a study of Sherwood Andersons Beyond Desire and William F. Rollins The Shadow Before. Rollins Gastonia novel

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161 has been recently reissued in 2005 inviting the application of new theo retical perspectives.A theoretical pairing of these two male authors may offer some insight into their sexualized depictions of female millworkers at Gastonia. Mary Heaton Vorses affiliation with Heterodox y in Greenwich Village in the early 1900s also suggests other areas of inquiry into th e womens narratives that spanned from the Progressive era into World War II. The majority of the Heterodites appear to be prolific writers and Schwartz suggests feminist inquiry on the long -neglected works of th e Heterodites, as well as other neglected foresisters (116). Schwartz provides an extensive bibliography of books and articles published by Heterodoxy Members. Working-class studies offers the most salient field of inquiry to e xpand the study of class identity and its representations in literature. As the Gastonia novels rev eal, the category of class creates a unifying element that can be used to bridge the differences other marginalized groups. The novels of Gastonia are only a small representa tion of the literary antecedents of female working class narrative. In he r definition of working class narrative, Zandy claims that working-class literature comes from material ex istence rather than canon ized literature (11). Whether the female narratives are reflected through historical events like th e strike at Gastonia or the fire at the Triangle Shirtwai st Company, material existence is at the core of the event and capitalist oppression is at its f oundation. Working-class l iterature reflects both a struggle and a culture that historically resona tes through decades of fiction that extend from seminal events in union organizing into the working-cla ss experiences of the present. This inquiry has sought to illuminate the novels of Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan as a feminist body of working-class fiction that draws a portrait of a Depression era southern millworker whose murder was an act of class hatred. The real Ella May Wiggins is more than a

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162 maternal martyr who died for the union cause; sh e represents the lived history of the female millworkers at the Loray Mill. Through her death, she brought a deeper meaning to the strike in Gastonia that inspired a maternal-based solidarity. In their narratives, Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan revive the memory of Wiggins and se nd a prophetic and pertin ent message to their readers through their fi ctional portrayal of a revolutio nary reproductive body who posits maternal activism as a collective solution for the social injustice that can change the world for the future of all children.

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163 WORKS CITED Ackerman, Kathy Cantley. The Heart of Revolution: The Radical Life and Novels of Olive Dargan Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 2004. Baker, Christina Looper Baker. In a Generous Spirit: A Firs t-Person Biography of Myra Page Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1996. Burke, Fielding (Olive Tilford Dargan). Call Home the Heart 1932. New York: Feminist, 1983. Chodorow, Nancy. The Reproduction of Mothering: Ps ychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender Berkeley, U of California P, 1978. Coiner, Constance. Better Red: The Writing and Resist ance of Tillie Olsen and Meridel Le Sueur New York: Oxford UP, 1995. Conway, Cecelia. Slashing the Homemade Quilt in Denise Giardina's Storming Heaven. National Womens Studies Association Journal 11.3 (Fall 1999): 138143. Cook, Sylvia J. Critical Afterword. Call Home the Heart By Fielding Burke. New York: Feminist, 1983. ---. Gastonia: The Literary Reverberations of the Strike. The Southern Literary Journal 7.1 (1974): 49-66. ---. Grace Lumpkin. American Women Writers: From Co lonial Times to the Present Ed. Lina Mainiero. Vol. 3. New York: Ungar, 1981. 52-53. Denning, Michael. The Cultural Front: The Labori ng of American Culture in the Twentieth Century New York: Verso, 1997. Fitzpatrick, Tara. Greenwich Village. Encyclopedia of the American Left Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle, Dan Georgakas, Eds. New York: Garland, 1990. 280-282. Foley, Barbara. Radical Representations: Politics and Form in U.S. Proletarian Fiction, 1929-1941 Durham: Duke UP, 1993. Garrison, Dee. Introduction. Strike! By Mary Heaton Vorse. Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1991. vii-xxi. ---. Mary Heaton Vorse: Life of an American Insurgent Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1989. Hall, Jacquelyn, et al. Like a Family: Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1987.

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164 Hapke, Laura. Daughters of the Great Depression : Women, Work, and Fiction in the American 1930s. Athens: U of Georgia P., 1995. ---. Labors Text: The Worker in American Fiction New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2001. Heller, Rita. The Women of Summer: Th e Bryn Mawr Summer School for Women Workers, 1921-1938. Proc. of the Syracuse University Kellogg Project's First Visiting Scholar Conference in the Hi story of Adult E ducation, March 1989, Syracuse. Syracuse: Syracuse UP. 1990. 214-223. 11 Sept. 2004 Jones, Anne Goodwyn. Tomorrow is Another Day: The Woman Writer in the South 1859-1936 Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1981. Kessler-Harris, Alice. Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States New York: Oxford UP, 1982. Lane, Janet E. The Silenced Cry from the Factory Floor: Gastonias Female Strikers and Their Proletarian Authors. Diss. Indiana U of Pennsylvania, 2004. Lumpkin, Grace. To Make My Bread Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1995. Mantooth, Wes. You Factory Folks Who Si ng This Rhyme Will Surely Understand: Culture, Idealogy, and Action in the Ga stonia Novels of Myra Page, Grace Lumpkin, and Olive Dargan. Diss. Ge orge Washington U, 2004. DAI 65 (2004): 926. Nekola, Charlotte, and Paula Rabinowitz, eds. Writing Red: An Anthology of American Women Writers 1930-1940. New York: Feminist, 1987. Page, Myra (Dorothy Markey). Gathering Storm: A Story of the Black Belt. London: Martin Lawrence Ltd., 1932. Rabinowitz, Paula. Labor and Desire: Womens Revolutiona ry Fiction in Depression America Chapel Hill. U of North Carolina P., 1991. Rideout, Walter B. The Radical Novel in the United States 1900-1945: Some Interrelations of Literature and Society New York: Hill and Wang, 1956. Reilly, John M. Images of Gastonia: A Revol utionary Chapter in American Social Fiction. The Georgia Review 28 (1974): 498-517. Rosenfelt, Deborah S. Afterword. Daughter of the Hills: A Womans Part in the Coal Miners Struggle By Myra Page. 1950. New York: Feminist, 1986. 247-268.

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165 Rothman, Barbara Katz. Recreating Motherhood; Ideology and Technology in a Patriarchal Society New York: Norton, 1989. Ruddick, Sara. Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace Boston: Beacon, 1990. Salmond, John A. Gastonia 1929: The Story of the Loray Mill Strike Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1995. Schwarz, Judith. Radical Feminists of Heterodo xy: Greenwich Village 1912-1940 Norwich, New Victoria, 1986. Shannon. Anna W. Biographical Afterword. Call Home the Heart By Fielding Burke. New York: Feminist, 1983. ---. A Forgotten Revolutionary Voice: Wom ans Place and Race in Olive Dargans Call Home the Heart . The Female Tradition in Southern Literature. Ed. Carol S. Manning. Urbana: U. of Illinois P., 1993. 193-208. ---. Introduction. Highland Annals By Olive Tilford Dargan. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1925. My Highest Hill: Carolina Mountain Folks. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P., 1998. Scott, Joan Wallach. Gender and the Politics of History New York: Columbia UP, 1999. Sowinska, Suzanne. Introduction. To Make My Bread By Grace Lumpkin. 1932. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1995. vii-xliii. ---. Writing Across the Color Line: White Women Writers and the 'Negro Question' in the Gastonia Novels. Radical Revisions: Rereading 1930s Culture Eds. Bill Mullen and Sherry Linkon. Urba na: U of Illinois P, 1996. 120-43. Urgo, Joseph R. Proletarian Literature and Feminism: The Gastonia Novels and Feminist Protest. Minnesota Review 24 (Spring 1985): 64-84. Vorse, Mary Heaton. Strike! 1930. Chicago: U. of Illinois P., 1991. ---. Mary Heaton Vorse: Life of an American Insurgent Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1989. Wald, Alan M. Writing From the Left: New Essays on Radical Culture and Politics New York: Verso, 1994. Weigand, Kate. Red Feminism: American Communism and the Making of Womens Liberation Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2001. Weisbord, Vera Buch. A Radical Life Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1977. Zandy, Janet, ed. Calling Home: Working Class Womens Writings New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1993.

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166 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Patricia Rae Campbell was born on September 11, 1952 in Butler, Pennsylvania. The fifth of eight children, she spent most of her life in Western Pennsylvania, graduating from Butler High School in 1970. She completed her B.A. in English with a minor in womens studies and her M.A. in English from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania in 1997 and 1999, respectively. While completing her doctoral study at the Univ ersity of Florida, Patricia received the Calvin A. Vander Werf Teaching Award. She is cu rrently teaching in the English Department at Lake Sumter Community College in Florida. Up on the completion of her Ph.D. program, Patricia plans to continue to pursue her love of teaching, researching, and writing.


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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0017412/00001

Material Information

Title: Portraits of Gastonia: 1930s Maternal Activism and the Protest Novel
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0017412:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0017412/00001

Material Information

Title: Portraits of Gastonia: 1930s Maternal Activism and the Protest Novel
Physical Description: Mixed Material
Copyright Date: 2008

Record Information

Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
System ID: UFE0017412:00001


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PORTRAITS OF GASTONIA: 1930s MATERNAL ACTIVISM AND THE PROTEST NOVEL


By

PATRICIA R. CAMPBELL













A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2006
































Copyright 2006

by

Patricia R. Campbell





























To my mother, who died never knowing a world beyond childbearing and poverty.
To my children, Jarret and Cherish, who taught me about mothering and motivation.









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I thank the chair and members of my supervisory committee for their mentoring, the staff

at the University of Florida and Lake Sumter Community College libraries for their research

assistance, and the staff and faculty at the University of Florida' s Department of English who

offered their support. I also thank my partner Tracey, my family, and my friends whose love and

encouragement motivated me toward the completion of this dissertation.











TABLE OF CONTENTS


Page

ACKNOWLEDGMENT S .............. ...............4.....

T ABLE OF CONTENT S............... ...............5

AB S TRAC T ......_ ................. ............_........7

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION ................. ...............9.......... ......


Maternal Representation as Discursive Strategy .............. ...............9.....
Writers Go Left, Go South, Go Away ............... .... ........... ...............16....
"Proto"-Feminist Politics and the 1930s Protest Novels ................. .......... ................1 9
Theorizing a Visibility for the Undervalued............... ..............2
Protest Narratives and Matemnal Activism............... ...............28

2 MARY HEATON VORSE: UNCOVERING THE MATERNAL MILITANCY IN
STRIKE! ................. ...............37.......... .....


Labor Correspondence and Leftist Conversion .............. ...............37....
A Life of Contradiction: Militancy and Maternity .............. ...............42....
Socially Conscious Plot and Matemnal Plight .............. ...............45....
Maternal Veil of Ignorance ................. ...............50................
Maternal Ballads of Union Solidarity ................. ...............53........... ...
Maternal Muse of Militancy ................. ...............57.......... ....

3 GRACE LUMPKIN: LABORING WOMEN AND THE POLITICS OF LABOR IN TO
M~AKE MY BREAD ................. ...............64................

Mother Work and Mill Work ................. ...............64........... ...
A Mill Writer' s Artistic Intervention. ................ ................. ........ ......... ...._66
Mountain Myth and Material Reality .............. ...............69....
Cradles, Kin, and Maternal Caretaking .............. ....... ...............7
Grinding Bones and Making Bread from Matemnal Bodies............... ...............82.

4 DOROTHY MYRA PAGE: WEARING THE RADICAL RED SHOES OF
MATERNAL SOLIDARITY IN GA THERING STORM: A STORY OF THE BLACK
BELT................ ...............90.

M atemnal M memorial .............. ...............90....
Shield of Southern Tradition .............. ...............92....
Radical Red Shoes ................... .. .... ..............9
Maternal Legacy of a "Fightin' Spirit" ......................... ...............100....
Maternal Challenge of Racial Bigotry in the Black Belt ................. ...._ ................106












Maternal and Material Contradictions ................... .......... ... ...............110 ....
Maternal Solidarity: Marge Crenshaw and Ella May Wiggins ................. .....................117

5 OLIVE TILFORD DARGAN: A VIVID RED MATERNAL VISION INT CALL HOM~E
THE HEAR T ............ ..... .._ ...............124..


Envisioning Vivid Red .............. .. ...............124...
An Inheritance of Maternal Resistance. ....__ ......_____ .......__ ...........12
Marital Resistance and Material Reality............... ...............133
Maternal Solidarity in a Celestial Dystopia. ....__ ......_____ .......___ ..........13
Mountain Utopia of a Maternal Collective ....__ ......_____ .......___ ............4

6 CONCLUSION............... ...............15


Maternal Militancy .............. ..... ... ..............15
Maternal Solidarity as a Feminist Vision .............. ...............159....

W ORKS CITED .............. ...............163....


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............_...... .__ ...............166...









Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

PORTRAITS OF GASTONIA: 1930S MATERNAL ACTIVISM AND THE PROTEST
NOVEL


By

Patricia R. Campbell

December 2006


Chair: Stephanie Smith
Major Department: English

This dissertation examines how the novels of Mary Heaton Vorse, Grace Lumpkin,

Dorothy Myra Page, and Olive Tilford Dargan invoke and revise the glorification of domesticity

and motherhood to articulate an operative model of maternal activism. The works of these

authors are analyzed as proletarian social novels where the authors' underlying motives are to

move their readers toward a working-class sympathy through their identification with maternal

representations.

The four female-authored novels include: Mary Heaton Vorse's Strike! (1930), Grace

Lumpkin' s To Make M~y Bread (1932), Dorothy Myra Page' s The Gathering Storm: A Story of

the Black Belt (1932), Olive Tilford Dargan' s Call Home the Heart (1932). This body of

proletarian fiction illustrates how female authors relied upon the depiction of the maternal body

to represent and reveal a discursive strategy of female political activism and a lived history

within the material and political realities of the Depression era. Based on the 1929 strike at the

Loray Mill in Gastonia, North Carolina, each novelist depicts Gastonia as a seminal event in

unionism by revising the events surrounding the life and the death of Gastonia' s balladeer and

maternal martyr, Ella May Wiggins.










By examining how these authors' Eictional representations of a maternal figure, like

Wiggins, is a discursive strategy of realism, a fictional attempt to represent the actual events at

Gastonia, my argument hinges, in large measure, on Nancy Chodorow' s The Reproduction of

Mothering. Chodorow' s model offers a theoretical lens for understanding the maternal-based

female socialization among the southern millworkers living and working within the Southern

Piedmont region of the United States.

This study offers a valuable contribution to the body of literary research of Depression era

Section. The Gastonia novels epitomize how female authors manipulated an "acceptable"

maternal role, where a woman's primary motivation for resistance was rooted in securing the

survival of her children, in order to create a space for a woman's political voice.









CHAPTER 1
INTTRODUCTION

Maternal Representation as Discursive Strategy

Ella May Wiggins, a union activist, balladeer, and single mother, was shot and killed on

September 14, 1929, in Gastonia, North Carolina. She was traveling in the back of a truck with

twenty-three other union members on her way to a rally to protest the substandard wages and

conditions of the textile workers at the Loray Mill. While several arrests were made and motives

were debated as issues of communist infiltration, working-class revolution, or the race politics of

the "Jim Crow South," no one was legally prosecuted and the murder still remains unsolved

(Salmond 127-129). While the accounts of Wiggins' death, union activity, and personal life vary,

most reporters and historians identified Wiggins as a "mother of five," or as a "mother of nine"

to include her deceased children, or as a "maternal martyr," as well as the composer of the union

protest ballad, "Mill Mother' s Lament." Her ballad reflects both the material reality of her

situation as well as the motivation of the workers that led to "bloodiest strike" in history: "It

grieves the heart of a mother,/You everyone must know,/But we cannot buy for our children,/Our

wages are too low" (Salmond 133).

As the lyrics of her ballad show, Ella May Wiggins' sense of self was grounded by

poverty--her wages of nine dollars a week could not provide even the most basic needs for

herself and for her children. Her ballad not only illuminated the plight of the Southern

millworkers, but her lyrics also immortalized the historic resistance demonstrated by the

millworkers at the Loray Mill in Gastonia.

Gastonia historian John Salmond contends that the shooting of Ella May Wiggins "had

made her a martyr, a symbol of the deeper meaning of the Gastonia struggle" (131i). The search

for this deeper meaning begins with her lived historical experience. Despite the humility of her









heart-rending if somewhat sentimental ballad, biographical studies of Wiggins' life reveal a self-

sufficient, independent woman whose philosophy of union solidarity and racial equality were

considered, by the police and by her friends to be the primary motives for her murder.

According to Salmond, Ella May was bomn in Tennessee in 1900 and her early years

reflect the transient existence of the May family: she and her mother moved from logging camp

to logging camp earning money by doing laundry. She developed her talent for music, singing to

the loggers at night. While in her teens, she married John Wiggins and began working in the

textile mills. Little is known of John Wiggins outside of his inability to hold a job, leaving his

wife to be the primary breadwinner. The couple and their growing family moved from mill to

mill throughout the Southemn Piedmont until he finally abandoned her in Bessemer City shortly

after the birth of their eighth child. After his departure, she reclaimed her maiden name of May;

birthed her ninth child, that of her lover, "Cousin" Charlie Shope; and was pregnant with her

tenth child at the time she was murdered (Salmond 51-58, 166). Although Shope was listed as

the child' s father on the birth certificate of May's ninth child, there is no record of a formal

divorce between Ella May and John Wiggins. To date, most accounts of May's life include her

married name of Wiggins.

Vera Buch Weisbord, in her autobiography A Radical Life, remembers Ella May Wiggins

as a striker who lived in Stumptown among the African Americans and came to Gastonia for

union meetings. Weisbord had arrived in Gastonia as second in command with Communist

organizer Fred Beal. Weisbord remembers Wiggins' contributions to union organizing and

credits her as being instrumental in recruiting her black neighbors for the union. Wiggins advised

Weisbord, "I know the colored don't like us. .. But if they see you're poor and humble like

themselves, they'll listen to you" (208). Ella May Wiggins recognized her black neighbors as an









integral part of union solidarity and brought union cards to their homes. Weisbord also

remembers a threat on Wiggins' life about a month after the first walkout at the Loray Mill that

may have been racially motivated. One morning Wiggins discovered that the spring that she and

her family depended upon for their water supply "looked blue and had a chemical smell" (218).

After Wiggins was fatally shot, Weisbord confirmed, "I am certain it was as an organizer of the

Negroes that Mrs. Wiggins was killed" (260). While the poisoned water was one incident within

a wave of terror against the millworkers, aligning the incident with Wiggins' murder on

September 14 suggests the possibility of a specifically political vendetta against Wiggins dictated

by racism. Weisbord's memoir names Horace Wheeler, an employee at the Loray Mill, as

Wiggins' murderer. Despite the testimony of more than sixty witnesses to a murder occurring on

a public highway in broad daylight, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. Weisbord's

autobiography memorializes Wiggins' life as a [b]rave heart, songstress of millworkers, pioneer

organizer of the blacks" whose death earned "her [a] place among labor' s martyrs" (Weisbord

288-289).

The story of Ella May Wiggins and the events surrounding the strike at Gastonia inspired

six novels: Mary Heaton Vorse' s Strike! (1930), Grace Lumpkin' s To Make My Bread' (1932),

Dorothy Myra Page' s The Gathering Storm: A Story of the Black Belt (1932), Olive Tilford

Dargan' s (Fielding Burke) Call Home the Heart (1932), Sherwood Anderson' s BeyondDesire

(1932), and William Rollins' The .\hadw,~l Before (1934). Although each novel depicts a unique,

Eictional reconstruction of the strike at Gastonia, only those fictions written by women create a

version of"Ella May Wiggins" as a mother who could represent, as a fictional compound Eigure,

the collective experience of Southern female millworkers.










While most contemporary studies of Depression era Siction acknowledge the use of

maternity as a trope for representing female unity among women, only a few studies specifically

address the fiction of Gastonia written by women, and the representation of Wiggins as a union

activist, motivated in part by her motherhood. For example, in her examination of the Gastonia

novels, critic Laura Hapke argues that the representations of "feminine solidarity via the Ma

Joad model" diminish the effectiveness of the fictional representation of Ella May Wiggins by

creating a "female militant palatable to the dominate culture" (Daughters 172). Such a

compromise, in Hapke' s view, reinforces a patriarchal interpretation that regards Steinbeck's Ma

Joad's maternal role as a traditional nurturing and protective mother rather than as an active

umion activist.

What I intend to argue in this study is that although the Gastonia (women) novelists

represent motherhood as nurturing and protective, in order to unify a female collective, they also

rely upon presenting a Wiggins-like Eigure to suggest a more active more militant image of

motherhood could exist. In other words, I seek to reveal how a woman character, like Wiggins

herself, manipulated an "acceptable" maternal role, where a woman's primary motivation for

resistance was rooted in securing the survival of her children, in order to create a space for a

woman's political voice. Motherhood legitimized the women strikers' motives both for working

at a time when women were facing hostility for taking j obs from men and for protesting

substandard wages and working conditions at a time when most of the country's population was

facing a phenomenal rate of unemployment.

As these novels strive to demonstrate, women millworkers could recognize as Wiggins

did, that they were not alone and isolated in their oppression; this sense of unity motivates them

toward their active participation in collective, unionized resistance. My inquiry focuses on the









novels of Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan as a "proto"-feminist body of Depression era

Section that relies upon a figure like Ella May Wiggins to demonstrate why working women's

oppression specifically as mothers might give these women particular and crucially gendered

motives for striking. Although a Eigure like Wiggins appears complicit with her oppression in her

adoption of a traditional maternal role, she is in fact, using the ideology that oppresses her to

inspire union solidarity among the Southern millworkers.

The fictional representations of Ella May Wiggins in the Gastonia novels not only reflect

a unifying identity of a female collective, but they also offered a means by which a female

readership could identify with female workers in the seemingly safe domain of fiction. Readers

were offered a traditional and sentimentalized character with whom they could identify, yet also

be shown how a social consciousness might arise out of a specifically working-class experience.

In her introduction to her study of multi-ethnic labor stories, Labor 's Text: The Worker in

American Fiction, Laura Hapke emphasizes a need to examine the lived histories of working

people whose lives were shaped by their presence in a politicized time and place:

[W]hile there is no unitary working-class experience; there are observable lived histories of
workers, from seminal events of unionism to the everyday stories of the 'apolitical'
communities and work cultures shaping the outlooks of working people. .. My
assumption throughout is that labor novels and stories originate in a specific time, place,
and ideological milieu that shape their meaning. (7)

Hapke's claim is central to this study, insofar as the Gastonia (women) authors attempted

to reconstruct the everyday life of Wiggins as a working-class "character" whose life reflected

the lives of a community where women were not only oppressed by childbearing, but also

oppressed by their economic role of providing for the survival of their children. Historically, the

Loray Mill employed both men and women; but the demonstrations of resistance were

predominantly led by the female millworkers. The overwhelming presence of female strikers

shocked the community and as Cora Harris reported in the Charlotte Observer, "If Gastonia has









never realized that militant women were within its bounds, .. it certainly knows it now"

(Salmond 31).

As Hapke notes, there is no unitary working-class experience, but this study asks: what

unifying experiences could explain the collective resistance at Gastonia as a "seminal event" in

women's participation in unionism? Why would middle-class white women write about

working-class women? What kind of lens did the female authors of Gastonia use to reveal their

historical depiction of female working-class resistance? At a time when women' s wage work

could be justified only by their visible poverty, how did the female authors justify working-class

resistance? How were the material realities and the Leftist politics of Gastonia reflected in the

narratives as gender, class, and race? In sum, how do the female-authored depictions of Gastonia

articulate stories of a gendered, lived history of the working-class resistance in Depression era

south?

The primary goal of this dissertation is to illuminate how Vorse, Page, Lumpkin, and

Dargan' s use of motherhood as a trope helps to answer the above questions. By examining how

these authors' fictional representations of a maternal figure, like Wiggins, is a discursive strategy

of realism, a fictional attempt to represent the actual events at Gastonia, my argument hinges, in

large measure, on Nancy Chodorow's The Reproduction of2~othering. Chodorow' s paradigm is

a valuable tool for me, because she interprets the social bonds between women as an extended

pre-Oedipal experience, which, she explains, is a sociological bond that creates a sense of unity

among women. Chodorow contends that an exclusive feminine pre-Oedipal experience

establishes a relational continuity between mothers and daughters that results in women

producing daughters who also have a desire to mother. Chodorow also suggests that the lack of

differentiation in the pre-Oedipal experiences of females produces more flexible ego boundaries









among women in their adult lives; as a result, many women seek to triangulate their heterosexual

relationships with additional female relationships (Chodorow 92-100).

Although Chodorow's model of cultural replication is criticized for its ethnocentricity, it

provides a plausible explanation for understanding a maternal-based female socialization among

groups sharing a common identity. The continuity of the mother-daughter relationship into

adulthood and the integration of female friendships suggest both a psychological need and a

sociological expectation for a woman to create a maternal-based social bond with her female

community. Chodorow' s reproduction of an internalized cultural view of mothering also

highlights the cultural reproduction of a traditional division of labor where women are relegated

to a domestic sphere while men tend to a public sphere. Indoctrinated into a domestic tradition,

rural Southern Appalachian women formed bonds with their community through acts of

nurturing and caretaking through the rituals surrounding birth, illness, and death.

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, in Like a FamFFFFFFFF~~~~~~~~~ily: The Making of a .Sambal~ n Cotton M~ill World,

notes how women brought the tradition of female social bonding into the mill villages. Hall

contends that the women "performed rituals that reaffirmed the cohesiveness of the

neighborhood. When a child was born, women showered the mother with gifts and boxes of

second-hand clothes." Moreover, the maternal caretaking in the mill villages also extended to

childrearing where the millworkers believed that the childrenrn belonged to the community as

well as the family," and mill mothers shared in the care of infants and toddlers (Hall et. al.169-

170). These interdependent female relationships translated into a model of solidarity rooted in

motherhood among the workers within the mill. Hall also notes that the workers' sense of

solidarity was understood as a "multi-layered and deeply-felt" family relationship. The

millworkers' understanding of family was not describing "their dependence on a fatherly










employer so much as they were explaining their relationships with one another" (Hall et al.

xxiii). Hall's study of the southern millworkers not only illustrates how their feelings of

solidarity emanated from a sense of community, but it also reveals their feelings of solidarity

were fostered through a shared sense of motherhood.

By 1929 southern female workers constituted 60% of the total number of textile

millworkers at the Loray Mill in Gastonia (Salmond 30). Large portions of these women were

also mothers who were not only bearing a burden of dual labor, but also depending on their

wages for the survival of themselves and their families. The motivation for female militancy had

very little to do with the politics of the Communist Party. The political unity of the female

millworkers extended beyond their shared historic time and place to what they held in common,

their poverty and their experience of motherhood.

Writers Go Left, Go South, Go Away

In January 1929, Michael Gold, editor of the New M~asses, commanded young, emerging

proletarian writers to "Go Left, Young Writers" (Foley 222). In the May 1 issue, four weeks after

the April 1 walkout at the Loray Mill, Gold redirected the geographical course of his Leftist

writers. The Southern Piedmont region, according to Gold, was the site of a working-class

revolution where "[t]he battle in the tent colony in Gastonia symbolizes the advance of a new

contingent of the American Proletariat--the working class of the South; .. liberals who

continue to deplore the use of the term 'class-warfare' should go down to Gastonia and reality"

(qtd. in Cook 52). Michael Gold's 1929 directive points toward a global political communist

perception that counters the western perception of capitalism. In the 1930s, the politics of the

Left reflected an ideology that condemned the ownership of private property and advocated an

economic system of collective ownership. Hinging on the works of Karl Marx and the world' s

perception of the Bolshevik' s overthrow of provisional government as the political rise of the










working-class, in the Russian Revolution of 1917, I use the term "the Left" to span a broad range

of political identities within the United States in the early part of the twentieth century including:

socialism, anarchism, and communism, in the same way Gold used the term.

Gold, a socialist who later j oined the Communist Party, advocated for a working-class

revolution in the United States that mirrored the Russian Revolution. For Gold, as well as for

many other writers and artists who supported the propaganda coming out of the Communist

Party in Soviet Union, believed in party's vision of a working-class revolution. Interpretation of

revolutionary change, however, was as diverse as the political ideologies that claimed to be the

definitive cures for the economic malady brought on by the Great Depression.

Rabinowitz contends that female interpretations of working-class experience written

during the Depression era resist the boundaries of genre set by the 1930s identification as

"proletarian" because much of "women' s revolutionary writing" was fostered by rebelliousness

of the 1920s. In the 1920s writers "revolted" against gendered Victorian ideals, as well as from

the "muckraking naturalism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries" (3 8-39). The

novels of Vorse, Page, Lumpkin and Dargan clearly fit into Rabinowitz' s category of

"revolutionary" because these novelists were not working-class writers, but rather middle-class

women who were drawn to literary radicalism in the 1920s by a vision of a sexually liberating

culture and inspired by the revolutionary politics of the 1930s. Revolutionary fiction, for the

Gastonia novelists extends beyond the narrative of a masculine proletariat leading a working-

class revolt against capitalism. Vorse, Page, Lumpkin and Dargan use the protest of a working-

class mother and a female collective to reveal the social injustice of gender, race, and class

oppression.









Much of the literary legacy of Leftist novelists has been recovered and analyzed by

Daniel Aaron, David Madden, Ralph Bogardus, Fred Hobson, Alan Wald, and others, but critical

attention to female-authored proletarian literature, until the late 1980s and 1990s, has been

sparse. Critical attention to the female-authored Gastonia was fleeting. Bill Mullen and Sherry

Lee Linkon, in Radical Revisions, note the publication of Tillie Olsen' s Yonnondio as the first

step toward breaking the silence of the "unsung story of women of the depression and emergent

women' s voice of the 1970s feminist movement" (1). In 1983, Feminist Press responded to the

need for recovering women's writing and reissued Olive Tilford Dargan' s Call Home the Heart.

Four years later, Feminist Press released Charlotte Nekola and Paula Rabinowitz' s Writing Red:

An Anthology ofAmerican Women Writers, 1930-1940, which revived the poetry, fiction, and

reportage of thirty-six working-class female writers. As part of the series, The Radical Novel

Reconsidered, the University of Illinois Press reissued of Vorse' s Strike! in 1991 and followed

with Lumpkin' s To Make M~y Bread in 1 995. Page' s Gathering Storm: A Story of the Black Belt

is the only female-authored Gastonia novel still out of print. The literary recovery of these works

and the ongoing effort to recover even more of the work of marginalized writers provides the

impetus for a growing body of scholarship in proletarian literature focusing on the representation

of gender as well as the representations of race and ethnicity.

The recovery and critical analysis of women' s Depression era literature has sparked

multiple descriptive identities to discern authorial commitment or sympathies with left-wing

values and goals. Despite Michael Gold's mantras directing writers to "Go Left" or "Go South"

or "Write your life," he advocated for individual creativity. Michael Denning, in Cultural Front,

contends that Gold maintained the diverse interpretation of revolutionary fiction and claimed,

"proletarian literature is taking many forms. There is not a standard model which all writers must









imitate, or even a standard set of thoughts. There are no precedents. Each writer has to find his

own way. All that unites us, and all we have for a guide, is the revolutionary spirit" (qtd. in

Denning). Gold' s definitions for the genre of proletarian fiction open a broader area of

interpretation for working-class narratives. Vorse, Page, Lumpkin, and Dargan, like many other

writers, were guided by the political spirit of an era that inspired them to write the life of Ella

May Wiggins.

"Proto"-Feminist Politics and the 1930s Protest Novels

The recovery and critical reviews of the female-authored Depression era fiction by

feminist critics not only provides the impetus for critical analysis, but also implies a critical

historical link between Gold's revolutionary leftist politics and feminist politics. Vorse,

Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan were initially drawn into political activism because of their concern

for social justice. Yet, as their novels attest, the revolutionary spirit of these Gastonia novelists

was informed by the political culture of the early part of the twentieth century that embraced a

wide variety of political ideologies. Although their political choices evolved throughout their

adult lives within the leftist political milieu of the Depression era, their revolutionary spirit and

collective identity as progressive women who came of age in a period when female suffrage and

early feminism were at their peak, lies at the core of their social activism.

Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan were all born in the latter nineteenth century. By the

time they were writing their narratives of Gastonia, they were mature college-educated women

whose political foundations developed within the women's suffrage movement. Female

militancy, to these authors, extended beyond the pursuit of women' s franchise to encompass the

social concerns of a historical period. Many contemporary historians refer to this period of social

activism, in the United States, as the Progressive era when franchise served as a platform upon

which women could participate in social and political reform.










Nancy Cott states that many of the female reformers during this period were privileged

women seeking "cross-class alliances" whose activism "represented not simply victims to be

assisted but a vanguard to be emulated" (33). The model of social reform for this female

vanguard was grounded in women's roles as mothers and as moral guardians. l use the term of

maternal-based activism in my study of the Gastonia novelists, to represent an ideology of social

motherhood practiced by women who crossed class boundaries and provided nurturing and

caretaking as a model of activism for economic and political reform. Mary Heaton Vorse, for

example, dedicated her time and her writing skills to a female collective whose maternal

concerns led them to organize and implement a pure milk proj ect in New York which provided

milk for the infants of the immigrant textile workers. At the time, Vorse was a single mother

struggling to raise her own children. Vorse's apartment was not far from the Triangle Shirtwaist

Factory where young immigrant mothers worked long hours and could not return home to feed

their infants. Vorse' s dedication to this proj ect was motivated by her identification with the other

working women whose childcare needs were similar to her own.

In the examination of the early activist vanguards who fostered the activism of the female

authors of Gastonia, my study also acknowledges the historical roots of feminism as the core of

the women's suffrage movement within the United States. While the term feminism appears as a

broad, if not modern, term, the feminism that emerges out of the historical struggle for franchise

was grounded by the practices of female solidarity and activism. Feminism, as Nancy Cott

contends, was at its peak in the United States in the early part of the nineteenth century when the

term feminist articulated the unified goals of progressive women who moved from their domestic

sphere to advocate for "civic rights, social freedoms, higher education, remunerative

occupations, and the ballot" (3).









As Cott, Weigand, and other feminist theorists concur and the Gastonia novelists

confirm, the feminist activists did not disappear after the ratification of the nineteenth

amendment in 1920. Franchise was only the first step toward a political voice for women. The

goal of feminists in the early twentieth century was a "complete social revolution" (qtd. in Cott

15). Living within the historical moment when women's political activism was modeled through

a culturally prescribed role and at a time when women had gained political franchise, the

Gastonia novelists envisioned the possibility of a maj or ideological shift in society's social

consciousness that reflected a female working-class vision of social change.

In his 1985 article, "Proletarian Literature and Feminism: The Gastonia Novels and

Feminist Protest," Joseph Urgo was among the first to examine the Gastonia novels through a

feminist critical lens. Urgo contends that the female authors express a feminist protest and

expose patriarchal oppression by showing "female subjugation through the realities of

childbearing, sexism, dominating males, and a societal structure which assumes male primacy"

(83). Urgo's article focuses specifically on the female-authored Gastonia as a feminist portrayal

of gendered experiences of survival and resistance. However, Urgo resists addressing the

representations of motherhood in the female-authored Gastonia noting that the "complexity of

the female novelists' portrayal of motherhood might indicate the contradictory emotions that

function produces in women" (82). As Urgo notes, the maternal representations are both

complex and contradictory. However, viewing this complexity as compound depictions of

motherhood as a discursive strategy of realism reveals a salient area for expanding a feminist

analysis of the representations of motherhood as militant.

While the story of Ella May Wiggins' survival and resistance as a southern millworker

illustrates the burdens of maternity, the authors' characterizations also suggest that maternity was









also recognized as a mother' s authority within her domestic sphere. As Urgo argues, the

physiological and economic effects of childbearing represented a harsh reality, but Vorse, Page,

Lumpkin, and Dargan had lived among the women of Appalachia and understood that these rural

women also took great pride in their reproductive role of childbirth and of caring for their large

families. Alice Kessler-Harris contends, by invoking an idealized as well as institutionalized

maternal image, progressive women drew upon the only authority granted to them by a

patriarchal system, power within their domestic sphere (50). Additionally, the use of a

reproductive body as a political body, according to Kate Weigand was a pattern of many

progressive women of the 1930s who "defined themselves and their interests around the family

and adopted a maternalist style of activism that valorized features of traditional femininity" (5).

Although maternal authority has been historically subjugated by paternal authority, it has

nonetheless, been perceived culturally as the domestic core of social order and the enforcement

of moral and social values within the family structure.

However, Rabinowitz cautions that theorizing the valorized maternal trope "verges on

essentialism because it invokes women's biological capacity to bear children without

interrogating the cultural platitudes surrounding motherhood" (123). In this study, the legitimacy

of female working-class activism hinges upon the foregrounding women' s reproductive ability as

its perceived, as well as its valorized, cultural interpretation as a "natural" vocation. The cultural

perception of motherhood as a natural, as well as social, "right" legitimizes women' s political

work or wage-earning work as her moral and social contribution to society. Moreover, the female

Gastonia novelists also shift the focus of working-class consciousness from the similarly

valorized rhetoric of masculinity, depicting the experiences of an individual revolutionary male










proletariat, to the working-class feminist consciousness of a working-class collective,

emphasizing the cultural perception of the feminine as both maternal and relational.

My study examines the novels of Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan as "proto" feminist

discourses of social protest fostered by the political milieu of the Depression era. The Gastonia

novels advance the Left' s revolutionary spirit through working-class activism. While Barbara

Foley highlights some components of Eictional autobiography, collective novel, and

bildungsroman within these novels, the underlying focus hinges on the strike at Gastonia as a

depiction of class struggle which supports a social novel. Foley defines the social novel as one

that "focuses on a strike or some other event in the class struggle and stresses confrontation over

apprenticeship" (362). The social novel blurs the boundaries between the other components of

proletarian Eiction. Underpinning the social novel, however, is the goal of the author to move

their readers toward a working-class sympathy through their identification with specific

characters (Foley 362). Vorse, Page, Lumpkin, and Dargan draw their readers' sympathies

through protagonists who are mothers as well as active participants in a historical moment. The

Gastonia novels, in this dissertation, are analyzed as proletarian social novels which narrate the

lived history of a southern working-class female collective and their confrontation of class

oppression as demonstrated by the strike at Gastonia.

Theorizing a Visibility for the Undervalued

In her introduction to Better Red, the late Constance Coiner calls for a kaleidoscopic

social Hield of inquiry for theorizing radical women' s working-class writing (5). Coiner

illustrates her kaleidoscopic inquiry as an interdisciplinary approach into the lives and the works

of Tillie Olsen and Meridel LeSueur, which includes feminist literary criticism, cultural studies,

social history, labor history, and biography. Although Coiner recommends expanding areas of

critical inquiry, she also cautions researchers:










[C]ompensatory criticism "ignores or glosses over weaknesses and contradictions in
writing by women, people of color, and members of the working class as a way partly to
compensate for its exclusion. Our task is not simply to promote, but to understand the
undervalued. Failing to engage the problems of working-class writing leads us away from
its historical complexity (6)

Following Coiner's advice, I expand my areas of inquiry to include interdisciplinary bodies of

critical work focusing on the biographical, cultural, historical, and political milieu surrounding

the Depression era and the strike at Gastonia. Although Mary Heaton Vorse, Grace Lumpkin,

Dorothy Myra Page, and Olive Tilford Dargan suffered decades of exclusion as radical writers,

my intent is not to gloss over the weaknesses and contradictions within their novels, but to

understand how the working-class writing of these women was historically informed by the

culture, the time, and the place. The working-class experience of a strike in the Southern United

States in 1929 differs radically from the working-class experience of a strike in the Northeast or

the Midwest. While Coiner' s ground-breaking study was one of the first to illuminate the writing

of Olsen and Le Sueur, it also illuminates the presence of other women whose Depression era

narratives were marginalized because they focused on female experiences such as pregnancy,

birth control, and child care as well as working for wages. This study examines how Depression

era southern culture, history, and politics specifically shaped the lives of working-class women

in their compliance as well as in their resistance.

In "Gastonia: The Literary Reverberations of the Strike" Sylvia Cook Jenkins contends

that in creating a proletarian hero from a "quaint southern peasant," the Gastonia authors relied

"on the sensationalism of atrocities--rather than an analysis of [the worker' s] causes--to

produce a 'correct response' (64). Although the authors replicate the sensationalism that

pervaded the news reports, their re-exposure of the brutality also served to remind their socially

conscious readers of their participation in the oppression of the working class. The impact of the









literary image of working-class exploitation evokes a sense of accountability for those who buy

the fabric without any consideration of the life blood that was lost in its manufacture.

Cook also insists on an analysis of "the sociological realities of the massive migrations in

the South from cotton field to cotton mill" (50). She suggests a theoretical need to look beyond

the sensationalism and examine the sociological realities of the strikers as a response to their

material reality rather than a response to the political ideology as a method of mass conversion.

All four of the Gastonia novelists address the sociological realities of the migration of rural poor

to the mills as part of a material concern and a maternal concern highlighting the contributing

factors as rural privation and motivation for a better life for their children.

The migrations of the rural poor into the cities occurred in the wake of the Civil War,

when the Reconstruction of South brought about industrialization through the opening of

railways, coal mining, logging, and the textile industries. Rural Appalachia proved to be a source

of abundant, cheap labor that could be lured into industry by the promise of modernity. The

migration of many families was motivated by a mother' s concern for the basic human needs of

her family such as food, clothing, homes with electricity, and education for their children. Once

at the mill, the rural poor discover that the promises of modernity that guarantee food, shelter,

clothing, and education, are priced higher than the wages they are paid.

Studies by Hall, Salmond, and others illustrate that in some ways, the workers colluded in

their exploitation through their conservative, evangelical religious beliefs that emphasized

obedience and their passive acceptance of a paternalist factory system whose benevolence was

reinforced each Sunday in church while their exploitation continued throughout the work week.

While Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan realistically portray these sociological factors, they

also challenge the negative stereotypes that pervaded previous literary depictions of an ignorant,









rural southern poor. The strike at Gastonia is a seminal event of unionism that debunks the myth

of southern millworkers as docile and ignorant pawns in an ideological battle between

Communism and capitalism and illuminates the motives behind the strikers' response as a

collective response to their material reality and to the paternalistic systems that oppress them.

Jacquelyn Dowd Hall also confirms the motive and the collective ideology of the

southern millworkers as the collective concern for their families. Like a Family confronts the

perceived rural ignorance as well as the material reality of the southern millworkers by

illuminating the complexity of the cultural transformation of the southern millworkers through

the testimonies of over 200 interviews conducted in the Southemn Piedmont region of the

Carolinas. Like a Family provides a sociological definition of family as both an image and an

institution. The image of family is rooted in a rural, patriarchal southern tradition steeped in a

deep evangelical religious base. The institution of family reveals a gendered division of labor

and a structure of extended kinship that includes blood relationship and church family. The

image and the institution of family play across the Gastonia novels as both motive and collective

ideology linked to a maternal figure who assumes the responsibility for the material well-being

of her household while she works for wages and guards morality.

Hall explains the interdependency of the rural poor as a social system where groupop

solidarity served as a buffer against poverty and, above all, represented a realistic appraisal of

working people's prospects, .. casting one's lot with family and friends offered more promise

and certainly more security than the slim hope of individual gain" (172). Most families were

acutely aware of their "lot" and the destiny of their children, most of who by the age of twelve

follow the path of their parents and become millworkers. The millworkers cling to their shared









identity as family, which was universally understood and easily translated into class solidarity in

their transformation from the cotton field to the cotton mill and from docile to militant.

In his praise for Paula Rabinowitz's study of female militancy, Labor and'Desire:

Women 's Revolutionary Fiction in Depression America, Leftist scholar Alan Wald notes that in

bringing to the foreground "the issue of gender--especially female sexuality and maternity,"

Rabinowitz opens new areas of inquiry (52-55). More specifically, Labor and Desire prompts

the focus of this dissertation as an inquiry into how the maternal representations of Ella May

Wiggins reflect collective female militancy in Gastonia. Rabinowitz contends that the maternal

body is the central trope in most of the women' s revolutionary novels of the Depression era

because it connects women through experience and reinforces the relationship between the

individual and the collective.

Drawing upon LeSueur' s assertions of female historical experience as "written in the

book of the flesh," Rabinowitz theorizes that the female narratives of the Depression era are

embodied and textualized as both labor and desire (qtd. in Rabinowitz 2). In her comprehensive

study of more than forty Depression era authors, Rabinowitz genders the bodies and the texts of

the working class insisting:

The body of the working-class man of the 1930s--and to an extent its text--is hungry, an
empty space once filled by its labor; the body of the working class woman, as well as her
text, is pregnant with desire for 'children' for 'butterfat' to feed them, and most
significantly, for 'history' to change the world for them. (3)

Rabinowitz calls for the revision of scholarship that reflects the material conditions of the 1930s

as a female embodiment of both labor and desire. This study illustrates how the depiction of Ella

May Wiggins' labor and desire significantly changes a history that is "written in the flesh." The

maternal bodies at Gastonia not only birthed their infants, but also bore hunger, disease, eviction,









and violent acts of castigation committed in the name of the law as a consequence for their

protest against substandard wages and living conditions.

In support of her theory of gendered historical experience, Rabinowitz also draws upon

the approach of labor historian, Joan Scott, who challenges traditional historical study by

insisting the interrelationship of history and literature are both "forms of knowledge, whether we

take them as disciplines or as bodies of cultural information" (Scott 8). Rabinowitz validates the

narratives of working-class women as depictions of experiential knowledge and contends that

"[t]he only way we know history is through the retelling of accumulated stories that are narrated,

either literally or metaphorically, by and through the bodies of gendered subj ects" (9). The

atrocities depicted in the Gastonia novels are, in fact, literal historical realities reproduced within

the fictional narratives and serve as testimony to women's participation in what Gold refers to as

"class-war." Specifically, in the novels of Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan, the

representations of Ella May Wiggins as both an activist and a martyr, historicize the subj activity

of the women at Gastonia.

Protest Narratives and Maternal Activism

My dissertation is divided into four sections with each section focusing on the specific

work of Mary Heaton Vorse, Grace Lumpkin, Dorothy Myra Page, and Olive Tilford Dargan.

Each provides a brief biographical history showing how the personal and political experiences of

each author inform her working-class writing. The balance of each chapter frames the individual

novel as a feminist body of Depression era fiction that relies upon the maternal representation of

Ella May Wiggins as a discursive strategy for challenging the prevailing political ideologies and

inspiring solidarity among the southern millworkers through a working-class activism which

used motherhood as a rallying cry.









While the novels of Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan attempt to represent the lived,

material experiences of the Depression era southern millworkers, these novels also reflect the

political engagement of four white, privileged, middle-class authors with their working-class

subj ects. Like their subj ects, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan were women who were bomn and reared

in the South, and their life experiences reflect their acceptance as well as their rej section of

southern cultural traditions. Although Vorse was born and raised in New England, she arrived in

Gastonia not only as a seasoned labor j ournalist, but also as the working single mother of three

children who understood the historical impact as well as the maternal desperation of the striking

female millworkers risked the loss of their wages. Additionally, all four authors experienced at

least one pregnancy resulting in abortion or birth. In their recreations of Ella May Wiggins, they

depict an accurate historical and gendered account of the female working-class experience that

they had both observed and experienced as women living in a specific place and time.

In framing the historical activism of Gastonia' s female authors, this study is deeply

indebted to the biographers of Vorse, Lumpkin, Page, and Dargan, whose documentation of the

authors' lived histories has helped to construct the relationship between writer and subj ect.

Dee Garrison' s Mary Heaton Vorse: Life ofan American Insurgent depicts Vorse as the epitome

of the labor j oumalists, whose life experiences chronicle the first half of a century of the history

of labor. Vorse's experience as a labor reporter began with the strike in Lawrence in 1912. Her

biography reveals a life filled with "matemal guilt" as a single mother, living in Greenwich

Village and struggling to support her children as a writer and a labor joumalist (Garrison xv).

Vorse was fifty-five years old and a seasoned reporter by the time she arrived in Gastonia and

began writing Strike! while she was sending dispatches to Harpers and the Federated Press.

Vorse spent more than six weeks in the Southemn Piedmont covering the wave of strikes through









the neighboring mills that began with the strike at the Loray Mill. While in Gastonia, she shared

a room and established a close friendship with Communist organizer Vera Buch Weisbord.

While conducting interviews, Vorse established relationships with Ella May Wiggins, the female

strikers, and other the female organizers. Vorse's Strike! is the first of all the Gastonia novels and

by far the most historically accurate in its depiction of the events of the strike and the life of Ella

May Wiggins.

Vorse establishes three points of view through the observations and experiences of three

distinct classes of characters: the obj ective j oumalists who report the events; Mamie Lewes, the

fictional Ella May Wiggins, who witnesses the brutality; and a Sictionalized Vera Buch Weisbord

as a female union leader who steps in for an ineffectual Fred Beal to implement organized

demonstrations of resistance. The plot of Strike hinges on the development of the social

consciousness of a young journalist and the developing militancy of her fictional Ella May

Wiggins. Wiggins' observations reveal the specific historical atrocities such as the police

brutality against women on the picket lines; the raid of a vigilante group on the relief store; and,

ultimately, the union rally where Wiggins loses her life.

As a Northemn reporter, Vorse appears to be separated from her southern sister-novelists

as well as from her southern subj ect. However, her radical social consciousness has it origins in

her own maternal activism at previous historical demonstrations of female resistance. Vorse is

motivated by her social consciousness as well as her maternal experience, and her lived history

aligns her with her subj ect through an empathic relationship. In her fictional portrayal of Ella

May Wiggins, Wiggins represents the eye witness as well as the core of a working-class

collective whose maternal-based activism inspires union solidarity and documents a realistic

portrayal of historical female participation in the 1929 strike in Gastonia.









In her introduction to Grace Lumpkin' s To Make My Bread, Suzanne Sowinska offers a

brief but comprehensive biography. Although born into an upper class, Lumpkin grew up in a

post-Reconstruction period of economic desperation where she can recall picking cotton on the

family farm. Prior to living in New York as an active member of the Communist Party, Lumpkin

worked as a home demonstrator and taught the children of the southern poor as well teaching at a

night school for southern millworkers. At thirty-three, following the death of her mother,

Lumpkin left the South for New York City where she shared a house and her idealistic vision of

the Communist Party's platform for social change with Esther Shemitz. Lumpkin and Shemitz

met their future husbands, Michael Intrator and Wittaker Chambers while they worked for the

Party at the strike in Passaic. Although there is conflicting data as to whether Lumpkin and

Intrator were actually married, there is a record of the marriage between Chambers and Shemitz.

Scandalizing their neighbors, all four shared the house on Eleventh Street (Sowinska xvi).

Sometime in the mid to late 1930s, Lumpkin became pregnant with Intrator' s child. Friends

believe that Lumpkin' s abortion was the result of pressure from Intrator. Her relationship with

Intrator proved detrimental professionally as well as personally. Intrator's expulsion from the

Communist Party as a Lovestoneite in 1929 resulted in Lumpkin' s alienation from her friends.

She was not only abandoned by her friends, but Intrator also left her soon after her abortion. By

1948 Lumpkin adamantly denounced her affiliation before the House Committee on Un-

American Activities and retreated back to her southern agrarian tradition living in South Carolina

as a religious witness "exposing the evils of Communism" (Sowinska xix-xxi).

Lumpkin's fictionalized Ella May Wiggins originates from a period that Lumpkin refers

to as her "Communist Phase," earning her the 1932 Gorky Prize as best labor novel of the year

(Sowinska viii). As Barbara Foley suggests, To Make My Bread is structured as a proletarian









bildungsroman which traces the parallel political development of male and female children by

contrasting their growing awareness of class consciousness (330). Lumpkin also integrates her

personal experiences as a government home demonstrator and teacher among the southern poor

by depicting Ella May Wiggins as a composite of two women, a mother who represents the rural

mountain woman driven to the mills out of economic necessity and a daughter who depicts the

mill mother who inspires union activism.

To Make M~y Bread' is divided in half with the first half illustrating the sociological

structure and the material realities of southern rural Appalachia. The first chapter opens with an

infant Bonnie in a cradle and the maternal body of a widowed Emma McClure separated from

her female community by a snowstorm while in the throes of a long and painful childbirth.

Lumpkin aligns her proletarian bildungsroman with the characters of Bonnie and her new

brother, John. The encroachment of the logging industry and the personal tragedies that force

Emma and her family to flee from the mountains to the mills fi11 the first half of the novel. The

second half of the novel documents the oppression of mill upon the bodies of both Emma and

Bonnie McClure. At the novel's end, Bonnie dies, a militant maternal martyr on the union

platform, leaving her brother lives to carry on a maternal-based solidarity and assuring

Lumpkin's readers that "pain .. accompanies birth--pain and sometimes death" (Lumpkin

373).

Christina Looper Baker' s In a Generous Spirit: A First-Person Biography of2~yra Page

portrays the lived history of a radical writer whose political idealism led her to the Communist

Party during the interwar era and through the persecution of the McCarthy era. Dorothy Markey

adopted the pseudonym of Dorothy Myra Page to protect her family from embarrassment and

later from political persecution. Born in Newport News, Virginia, Page challenged the traditions









of her southern upbringing that resulted in her belief that she was "held up by tradition and held

by tradition" (author' s emphasis, qtd. in Baker xxiii). Page's biography reveals a history of

frustration where she was thwarted by her gender as well as southern tradition. Inspired by her

fervent belief in social justice and the goals of the Communist Party, Page created Gathering

Storm: A Story of the Black Belt as her artistic intervention. The novel was both criticized and

commended for its adherence to the Communist Party platform. Page's Ella May Wiggins

transgresses cultural boundaries and offers answers to questions of class as well as to the

"Woman Question" and the "Negro Question." Page's resistance to southern tradition is reflected

through the resistance of her fictional subj ect to gender, class, and race oppression.

Dorothy Myra Page was the youngest and the most educated of the female Gastonia

novelists. Actively involved in the Communist Party, Page and her husband delayed having

children until 1934. Although Page was in Russia at the time of the actual strike in Gastonia, she

drew upon the material of her doctoral research from the summer of 1926 when she studied the

female millworker's attitudes about children and work. While Page' s advanced degree positions

her in a more comfortable economic situation, her doctoral research also reveals much of her

heartfelt empathy for the southern millworker as well as revealing her political and feminist

sympathies for the southern millworkers at Gastonia.

Page's Gathering Storm begins in the mill village rather than the mountains and relies

upon a maternal grandmother' s narrative for the sociological history of the family's rural

migration. The grandmother sabotages her husband's potato patch so that the family can escape

from rural privation and the children can get an education. Like Lumpkin, Page pairs her female

protagonist with a brother and throughout the novel, and both develop a social consciousness.

However, Page's male proletariat travels north for his educational experiences in union










organizing and racial equality. Page's female protagonist, Marge Crenshaw, remains in the

South; and Page documents a lived history of female subjugation with yearly pregnancies and

capitalist oppression at the hands of the mill managers. Page also parallels the Crenshaw family

with the African American Morgan family. Martha, the Morgan's eldest daughter is raped and

murdered by the mill owner' s son, and the historical events that reveal the ingrained racism of a

Jim Crow South subsequently lead to the massacre of the entire Morgan family and mass exodus

of the black families who live in the Back Row, the segregated area for African Americans.

Martha' s rape and murder are depicted as Marge' s first lesson in racial equality, and

Marge carries this memory throughout the novel. Despite her oppression, Marge, female

millworker, finds her voice as maternal militant who defends the union stand on racial and class

equality. Marge shares the union platform with Page's version of Ella May Wiggins. Page uses

Wiggins' maiden name, Ella May, to depict the lived history of the strike's balladeer. Marge

Crenshaw and Ella May are linked as sisters and comrades, sharing similar experiences and

supporting each other' s union activism The death of Ella May, however, does not end the novel.

After Ella May is shot and dies in the arms of Marge Crenshaw, Crenshaw j oins the ranks of

union organizers and goes north to attend an even larger union rally and emerge as a female

organizer inspiring working-class solidarity among her sisters.

Sixty-six-year-old Kentucky-born playwright and poet Olive Tilford Dargan chose the

male pen name Fielding Burke and emerged from her isolation in the North Carolina hills to

create her version of Ella May Wiggins as a working-class maternal heroine in Call Home the

Heart. In the novel's Biographical Afterword, Anna Shannon notes that the gaps and

inconsistencies in Dargan's biographical record may be attributed to Dargan herself, who "may

have conspired in the destruction of the evidence of her political activities and contacts during









two of the periods of political repression through which she lived" (433). In a letter to her friend,

she implied that leftist ideology inspired her vision of social change. Dargan claimed she was

"perusing the Daily Worker regularly and assiduously" and that she was "still vivid red"

(Shannon, Biographical 440).

Although much of her personal correspondence was destroyed in fires occurring in 1919

and in 1924 as well as during the Red Scare of the 1950s, the papers that were treasured and

saved along with her earlier works offer striking evidence of Dargan' s feminist activism.

Shannon contends that much of Dargan' s correspondence reveals "a network of women

providing one another with their primary source of identity and energy" (434). The voices of

Dargan's supportive network included feminists like Rose Pastor Stokes, a fellow socialist and

one of the founding members of the American Communist Party; Alice Stone Blackwell,

daughter of women' s' rights pioneer Lucy Stone; and Anne Whitney, a lesbian sculptor.

At age forty, when Dargan learned she was pregnant, she sought the support of her friend,

Rose Pastor Stokes. Dargan left her husband behind in the Carolina Hills and spent the summer

in the Stokes' home. Dargan' s daughter was born prematurely in May 1907, living for only two

hours after her birth. Shannon's biographical study reveals that Dargan's summer with Stokes

not only helped her to heal physically and emotionally from her loss, but the Socialist

atmosphere of the Stokes' home also strongly influenced Dargan's politics (Afterword 437).

In Call Home the Heart, the maternal body of Dargan' s fictional Ella May Wiggins

represents and reveals Dargan's feminist philosophy as a sharp contrast to the material reality

and the cultural traditions of the working-class poor of the Appalachian South. Dargan' s story

begins with an adolescent Ishma Waycaster' s early resentment of the rural patriarchal traditions

that circumscribe her life as a woman. Dargan's protagonist runs the family farm that supports










her mother, sister, and shiftless brother-in-law as well as a brood of hungry children. Ishma soon

marries; as she begins to replicate the cycle of yearly pregnancies of her sister, the farm fails due

to a series of disasters. Out of frustration, a pregnant Ishma escapes with an ex-beau to a mill

town in the valley. Mentored by the town's Marxist physician, Ishma Waycaster evolves from a

volunteer home health-care provider into a maternal activist. Dargan "saves" her fictional Ella

May Wiggins by returning her to the mountains just as the violence of the strike begins to unfold.

Ishma returns to her husband and together they plan to convert the family farm into a retreat that

will offer a healthy environment for the children of the millworkers. Ishma' s call home to the

mountains is more than a nostalgic call for a return to the past; it is a militant maternal call to

provide for the future generations. At the same time, Dargan's feminist message is carried back

to Cloudy Knob as an epilogue written upon the recalcitrant reproductive body of Ishma

Waycaster who claims that she "couldn't go on living like an old cow. Fodder in winter and

grass in summer, and a calf every year" (393). Although Dargan returns Ishma to the mountains,

she also provides her protagonist with the knowledge to control her yearly reproductive destiny.

In Labor 's Text, Laura Hapke contends, some of the most important texts of worker

fiction came from three radical women writers who told the mother' s-and their mothers'--

story. .Whatever their leftist biographies, Olsen, Smedley, and Le Sueur radicalized the

maternal plot by documenting the work conditions of the blue-collar domestic sphere" (231). It is

important to make visible four other female writers whose novels also radicalize the maternal

plot and document a working-class domestic sphere. Mary Heaton Vorse, Grace Lumpkin,

Dorothy Myra Page and Olive Tilford Dargan depict of a Depression era Gastonia in which a

Sictionalized "Ella May Wiggins" serves as a (female) catalyst for working-class activism that

will change the world for the future of all children.









CHAPTER 2
MARY HEATON VORSE: UNCOVERING THE MATERNAL MILITANCY IN STRIKE!

Labor Correspondence and Leftist Conversion

Published in the early fall of 1930, Mary Heaton Vorse' s Strike! emerged as the first of

six novels inspired by the strike at Gastonia. As a reporter for Harpers, Vorse had spent almost

six weeks among the female workers and had developed a friendship with Ella May Wiggins. Of

the four female authors who portrayed Wiggins' s life and focused on the role of women in a

fictionalized version of Gastonia, Vorse was the only author who experienced the events first

hand and knew Wiggins personally. On the day Wiggins was murdered, according to Dee

Garrison's biography, Mary Heaton Vorse: The Life of an American Insurgent, both Vorse and

Wiggins were en route to the same union rally. Vorse's car was blocked by an angry mob, but

police intervention saved Vorse and the car's other occupants At the same time, some distance

past Vorse's vehicle, the truck in which Wiggins was riding was also blocked by another group

of vigilantes; guns were fired and Wiggins was fatally shot (Garrison, Introduction 229).

Hearing the news of Wiggins' murder, Vorse recalled Wiggins' last words to her: "I

belong to the union because of my children. I haven't been able to do anything for them. .. But

when they grow up, they won't have to work twelve hours a day for nine dollars a week ...

They would have to kill me to make me leave the union" (Garrison, Introduction 229). Though

Vorse sent dispatches to Harpers and the Federated Press, the reports appear to have fallen short

of conveying the maternal motives of the murdered woman. Vorse' s reports also fell short of

conveying the story of the maternal activism that drew Wiggins toward union solidarity and that

fateful journey to the rally.

Along with writing her dispatches, Vorse also began writing her novel, Strike! Vorse

integrates the actual historical events occurring in Gastonia as well as in neighboring mill towns









throughout the Southern Piedmont. The historical reality within Strike! extends beyond the

reported acts of oppression and demands a class-based accountability. Vorse reveals Wiggins'

murderers as the class of "comfortable people"(12) who resort to mob violence out of ignorance,

rather than a nameless capitalist system. Vorse's novel specifically focuses on Wiggins, not as a

singular protagonist or victim, but as the core of a female collective whose activism was

motivated by her desire to earn a living and create a better life for her children and whose death

was a class-based political act of violence.

As a labor journalist and freelance writer, Mary Heaton Vorse arrived at Gastonia with

extensive experience in documenting strikes and an acute understanding of the concerns of

working mothers. Vorse was the mother of two when she arrived at the Lawrence Strike in 1912,

and her career in labor j ournalism reveals a sweeping historical chronology of the labor

movement including the 1916 Mesabi Range Strike; the 1919 National Steel strike; the 1920

Amalgamated Clothing Workers' strike and the 1926 Passaic Strike (Garrison Mary xiii-xvi). In

addition to her reportage, Vorse produced a massive collection of articles and stories, as well as

two plays and sixteen books, all of which Garrison notes, are marked by Vorse' s "consistent

attention to the special concerns of women" (Mary x). Vorse' s understanding of women's

concerns came from her personal and her professional experiences as a working mother.

Despite the recognition and critical acclaim of her career as a radical writer, Vorse

struggled with an intense sense of failure in her attempt to balance her professional role as a

labor activist and reporter and her personal role as a wife and a mother. Garrison states that the

professional and personal contradictions of Vorse' s life experiences give her life its "greatest

poignancy" (xvii). In 1922, following her disastrous affair with Robert Minor, Vorse suffered a









miscarriage and fell into a dark depression. Focusing on her "neglect" of her children, Vorse

draws a self-defeating portrait of maternal guilt:

My failure is that of almost every working woman who has children and a home to keep
up, whether she scrubs floors, or works in mills, or is a high-priced professional woman.
It' s nearly impossible to do both j obs well. So most women fail in either or both. .. Are
two things possible? Must there always be a double failure? (qtd. Garrison, Mary xv).

Vorse's sense of double failure reflects a distinctly female conflict between the demands of

mothering and the demands of working for wages. In her inclusive description of "almost every

working woman," Vorse implies a collective maternal experience that unites working women

and stretches across class boundaries spanning the most menial to the most prestigious of

professions. Vorse' s focus on the roles of women reveals an attempt to negotiate the conflict

between a woman's reproductive role and her professional role.

As part of a larger proj ect of examining the relationship of maternal representations used in

women' s revolutionary fiction, this chapter explores Vorse' s fictional representation of the life

of Ella May Wiggins as a maternal activist whose narrative voice reflects the professional and

personal struggles of the working-class maternal collective in Gastonia. This chapter briefly

addresses how the contradictions between the personal and political experiences of Mary Heaton

Vorse inform her fictional representation of Wiggins' maternal activism in Strike! The balance of

the chapter focuses on Vorse's fictional portrayal of Ella May Wiggins as the core of a working-

class collective whose maternal-based activism inspires union solidarity and documents a

realistic portrayal of historical female participation in the 1929 strike in Gastonia.

The plot of Strike! is loosely based on the radical conversion of a young naive reporter,

Roger Hewlett, into a man with a working-class consciousness. Hewlett is closely mentored by

an older more seasoned reporter, Ed Hoskins, who provides an informative summary of

Gastonia' s local history and culture, as well as the historical background of working-class









resistance. Hoskins' narrative of experience spans Vorse's own career in labor j oumalism

beginning with the Lawrence strike in 1912 through the Passaic Strike in 1926. In the novel's

introduction, Garrison contends that the characterizations of Hewlett and Hoskins are

representative of the various stages in Vorse' s career in j oumalism, as well as representing a

more authoritative voice in a profession dominated by men. Additionally, Garrison suggests that

the political conversion of Hewlett reflects the development of Vorse' s own working-class

consciousness (Introduction xv).

Most critics concur that the plot of Strike! relies upon the presence of Hewlett and Hoskins

for its unity and its message of political conversion. However, viewing the novel from a maternal

lens reveals historical moments of female activism at the core of the reporters' consciousness-

raising narratives. Although the journalists observed, reported, and were transformed by the

strike, the heart of Vorse' s novel lies in the collective strength of the women who experienced

the physical, emotional, and economic brutality. Strike! illustrates the message of maternal

solidarity in the strike at Stonerton through the character of Mamie Lewes. Lewes' participation

and eye-witness accounts document the experiences of a female collective whose maternal-based

activism not only inspires working-class militancy, but also portrays a history of injustice meant

to inspire a social consciousness within the hearts of the middle to upper classes.

Joseph Urgo notes that upon its release, Strike! was highly praised by reviewers for its

truthful depiction and its "moral purpose," however, the novel was also criticized as a "second-

rate piece of Eiction" (68). In his 1930 review for the Nation, Sinclair Lewis concurs with most of

Vorse's contemporaries and contends that Strike! is more a "statement of facts than a novel"

(qtd. in Urgo 68). Strike! did not meet the expectations of the reviewers in the 1930s because it

defied the formulas for both bourgeois and proletarian Eiction in its lack of a specific singular










protagonist. Although Vorse's historical facts appear to overshadow the literary quality of her

novel, the female testimonies beneath her historical reportage reveal an in-depth coverage of

human experience.

In her contemporary study, Barbara Foley notes that Vorse's extensive use of historical

facts reflect a "documentarism" that is characteristic of a collective novel. According to Foley,

the documentation of facts "links the text' s collective protagonist to historical actuality by

multiple threads of reference." Moreover, Foley asserts that a collective "novel has no hero

because reality has no hero" (420). The strike at Gastonia extends beyond traditional

representations of northern and western industrial strikes with the heroic revolutionary male

proletariat because the strikers were predominantly female. Written from a journalist's

perspective, there is no single protagonist to act as a heroine. Vorse posits her fictional Wiggins

within the historical events as part of the collective's resistance. Therefore, Vorse depicts the

strike at Gastonia through the multiple threads of collective female experiences of the striking

millworkers .

In the opening chapter, Vorse confronts the limits of journalism and suggests the

possibility of a story behind a story through her characterization of Roger Hewlett. The

reporter' s questions highlight how even the most realistic documentation of collective human

experience cannot be reduced to the space of a headline or a summary lead in a newspaper.

Hewlett asks: "How can you tell people who have never seen a strike what it means to the people

who are striking? How can one indicate in the space of a few pages what makes people strike?

How are you going to make other people feel terror?" (17). In Strike!, Vorse lifts journalism's

obj ective and editorial veil to make people see, feel, and understand what motivates the

militancy of the millworkers. Vorse also lifts j ournalism's obj ective and editorial veil to make










the comfortable people feel the terror at Gastonia and recognize their accountability for the

brutality against the female millworkers and for the murder of Wiggins. Through her depiction of

Wiggins, Vorse reveals the story behind the headlines and illustrates the meaning of a strike as

the collective belief that "a strike is about life" and "life is more important than business" (14).

Vorse characterizes the lives of the Southern millworkers as a maternal collective who believe

that the lives of their children are more important than the textile business in North Carolina.

A Life of Contradiction: Militancy and Maternity

Vorse' s perceptions of motherhood and gender relations were diametrically opposed to her

mother' s Victorian ideals of femininity; her resistance resulted in severe economic

consequences. As a child born into an upper-class eccentric New England family who avoided

the society of Amherst, young Mary Heaton was surrounded with Hyve older siblings from her

mother' s first marriage. Vorse was youngest and only child of Ellen Marvin Heaton and Hiram

Heaton. Vorse' s mother inherited her first husband' s estate and maintained control of the

family's Einances as she steered her sons toward successful economic careers and her daughters

toward successful economic marriages. When Vorse defied her mother' s traditional ambitions

for her and expressed her desire for a writing career, her father cautioned her that he was

powerless and could not support her decisions. Hiram Heaton explained that he was not his

wife' s equal, but rather his position was one of servitude to "the Queen of Persia" (Garrison,

Mary 20). Vorse defied the "queen" and pursued her writing. The power of Vorse' s mother over

her husband and her children was painfully demonstrated through extended silences and finally

through disinheritance, leaving a widowed Vorse struggling to support herself and her children

for most of her adult life.

At eighteen, Mary Heaton met and secretly married Bert Vorse, a thirty-two year old

newspaper reporter and aspiring author, and moved into an apartment in Greenwich Village.









Shortly after the birth of their son, Mary wrote and sold love stories for women' s magazines to

supplement the family income while Bert struggled with his own writing career. As the marriage

floundered through her husband's defeats and infidelities, Mary "opted to ease [his] suffering

through maternal solicitude" (Garrison 35). Vorse set aside her writing, sweetly tended to her

husband's childish behavior and birthed a second child, Ellen. Yet, Vorse discovered another of

Bert Vorse's affairs and again, attempted reconciliation in an attempt to save her marriage. The

family's tour of Europe in 1909 appears to be the pivotal moment marking the end of the Vorses'

marriage as Bert returned to New York and Mary remained in Europe. Bert died on June 14,

1910 of a cerebral hemorrhage, freeing Mary from her marital constraints. The next day, June 15,

Vorse's mother died of heart failure, leaving Vorse without a penny of inheritance (Garrison

Mary 44).

After the deaths of her husband and mother, Vorse wrote in earnest. According to

Garrison, Vorse's fiction reflects the transformation of a nineteenth-century Victorian ideal of

maternal love as a selfless form of female superiority to a "demonstration of men' s inferiority"

(Mary 41-44). In writing for women' s magazines, Vorse created narratives that exposed the

idealized marital myths. Vorse's fiction depicted mothers who were frustrated, bored, tired, and

even angry at meeting the ever-constant demands of motherhood. Vorse' s stories gained

popularity and helped to stabilize her Einancially.

Garrison's biography notes three transforming experiences that were pivotal in Vorse's

development of a class consciousness and that inspired her commitment to working mothers and

the politics of labor. In 1910, living in Greenwich Village as a single working mother, Vorse

joined the New York Milk Committee as a writer publicizing the need for pure milk. The

committee provided milk for the babies of the immigrant mothers who worked in the garment









district and could not take time away from their j obs to nurse their infants. Many reports

attributed the infant death rate to either inherent ethnic traits or flagrant neglect of the immigrant

mothers. Vorse responded to the accusations with passionate claims against the sale of

contaminated milk that risked the lives of working-class infants to make more money for the

wealthy (48). Vorse's concern for lives of immigrants' babies led her to yet another realization in

1911 when she witnessed the loss of the lives of the mothers who worked at the Triangle

Shirtwaist Company. According to Garrison's biography, Vorse ran eight blocks from her

apartment and watched in horror as women threw themselves from the windows of a burning

building because the exit doors were locked and the firemen's ladders reached only as high as

the sixth floor. Vorse stood helpless and in shock as she stared at the bodies of the mothers who

would not be returning home to nurse their babies at the end of their work day (Garrison, Ma'~ry

49).

One year later, in 1912, Vorse's activism was again sparked by maternal concern when she

convinced Harper 's Weekly to send her to Lawrence where the mill owners had arrested fifteen

children and their mothers who were boarding a train to Philadelphia to escape the violence of

the strike. Although the beating and j ailing of strikers appeared to go unnoticed, deterring the

interstate travel of women and children to safety resulted in a public outcry and sparked a

national investigation (Garrison, Mary 48-61). While in Lawrence, Vorse met Elizabeth Gurley

Flynn, who became her friend and confidant, and Joe O'Brien, who became her second husband.

Vorse returned from Lawrence with a newfound career in radical journalism. In witnessing the

atrocities occurring in New York and Massachusetts, Vorse realized that she was she was

ignorant of injustices that surrounded her; she knew that she needed to be "on the side of the

workers and not with the comfortable people" (qtd. in Garrison 61). Although Vorse was born









into the class of "comfortable people," she believed that their indifference, like hers, was only

naivete. Vorse felt that her radical journalism and her maternal-based activism could enlighten

those who did not understand how the most basic comforts of human survival were denied to

working-class women and children.

In their first year of marriage, Vorse and O'Brien continued to actively work for the cause

of labor. After only three years of marriage, O'Brien fell ill with stomach cancer and died in

1915. Once again, the weight of the roles of mother and breadwinner fell upon Vorse (Garrison,

Mary 99). By this time, Vorse was in her mid-thirties and had three small children; yet, she had

emerged as leader among radical journalists. Vorse's working-class enlightenment arose from

her maternal identification with the working mothers of New York who unwittingly fed their

babies contaminated milk, from the immigrant women of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company who

were struggling to feed and clothe their children, the mothers in Lawrence who just wanted to

save their children from the hunger and violence, and her own desperate struggle to support

herself and her children as a freelance journalist.

Socially Conscious Plot and Maternal Plight

The first chapter of Vorse's Strike! establishes three points of view through the

observations and experiences of three distinct classes of characters: the union leaders who

organize demonstrations of resistance, the journalists who report the events, and Mamie Lewes

who represents the material reality as well as the militancy of the millworkers. Hapke notes that

Vorse's attempt to "meld men's and women's experiences, male strategists and female rank and

file" contributes to the novel's flawed fragmented structure by alternating gendered experiences

"at thirty-page intervals" (157). Although the portrayal of male and female involvement appears

fragmented or divisive with regard to a formal plot or a singular protagonist, Vorse's intervals










reflect a structural technique that illuminates the development of the class consciousness of an

entire collective.

Class consciousness in a collective novel, as Foley attests, "consists in the development of

a new, more collective self, one that acquires identity through acknowledging rather than

denying its multiple extensions into others" (237). In alternating between the multiple and

gendered experiences within a singular historical event, Vorse's collective novel depicts realistic,

and perhaps more palatable identities, within a traditional division of labor. Vorse's readers were

comfortable middle-class people who could accept the need of a mother to work outside the

home, but accepting a militant working mother went against the grain of Southern tradition. Yet,

through the gendered intervals of factual reporting, Northern union organizers strategizing, and

maternal activists picketing, the naivete of the middle-class comfortable people is dispelled and

social consciousness emerges as part of a natural societal order. Vorse's experience on the Milk

Committee in New York proved that economically comfortable people understood the need to

provide milk for infants. Consequently, Vorse foregrounds the militancy of the collective as a

model of maternal activism that invokes and revises the glorification of domesticity and

motherhood to draw the sympathy of the comfortable people as well as to inspire solidarity

among both the female and the male members of the working-class collective.

When Vorse's young reporter, Roger Hewlett, first arrives to cover the strike in Stonerton,

he seeks out the location of a union rally where he expects to interview Fer Deane, the

fictionalized Communist leader, Fred Beal. However, Hewlett's first interview at the "speaking"

event is with Mamie Lewes, who emerges as the unifying character among the female

millworkers. Lewes' testimony reveals the effects of long hours and low wages upon female

strikers and also presents an abbreviated biography of Ella May Wiggins. Vorse closes the










chapter with a brief interval that offers an insight to the struggles of the union organizers. Fer

Deane admits his alienation and suggests the workers "would do a lot better if they had a

southern feller for their leader." Deane states, theyhy like me but I don't belong to them" (12).

Deane' s confession implies that as a Northemner, he falls short of understanding his rank and file

because he cannot identify with the regional and cultural experiences of the southern

millworkers .

Significantly couched between Hewlett' s introductory arrival and his interview with an

alienated strike leader, is Hewlett' s unofficial interview with a southern woman who meets all

but one of Deane' s qualifications: gender. In her introduction to her fictional Wiggins, Vorse

posits Mamie Lewes as a maternal voice of authority who belongs to the working-class and

enlightens a naive Hewlett to the plight of mill working mother through the course of his

informal interview. Where the character of Deane, similar to the real-life Beal, is consistently

absent from picketing demonstrations, Vorse' s narrative establishes the presence of Lewes as the

voice of the southern working-class collective.

After settling into his hotel and locating the union rally, Hewlett notices Lewes in the

audience and notes that she appears poor enough to be a mill worker but seems to distinguish

herself through her enthusiasm. Hewlett initiates a conversation with "a short curly haired

woman dressed in poor clothes, but there was something about her that was alert and gay and

extremely alive." He asks if she has j oined the union and Lewes responds, "No, I ain't jined up

yet, but I'm a goin' to" (5). Lewes explains how maternal responsibility conflicts with her

professional goals and that between working long hours at the mill and tending to her children,

she doesn't have time to get to the union headquarters before the office closes.









After discovering that Lewes has four children and lives with her kin in a two-room shack

almost two miles away, Hewlett also learns that Lewes earns "only eight dollars and forty cents a

week" and can'tt even afford to git a house on the mill hill" (6). The real-life Wiggins already a

joined the union and served as union secretary by the time Vorse had arrived in Gastonia (Hall,

et al. 227). However, Vorse alters this historical fact to depict how the promise of union

solidarity drew its membership from the southern millworkers. Vorse's fictional maternal

narrative echoes Wiggins' historical last words to Vorse and justifies union membership as

viable solution for working-class oppression. Vorse illuminates the workers' belief that the union

would help them to improve working and living conditions as opposed to the middle-class

perceptions that the workers joined the union as the result of a political decision to become

Communist revolutionaries.

Unlike the other female Gastonia novelists, Vorse avoided any formal political affiliation

with organized labor or with the Communist Party. However, Vorse's reportage of strikes also

extended to her participation in labor politics through organizing, picketing, and advocating

union solidarity. More notably, Vorse had worked with her good friend, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn,

as a co-leader in organizing the workers on the Mesabi Range strike of 1916. The union

recruitment of Lewes in Strike! not only illuminates Vorse's union advocacy, but also plays out

in the novel as the recruitment of Hewlett into a working-class collective of labor j journalists.

Hewlett' s interview with Lewes also reveals how the mill manipulates workers through a

system of reward or punishment through the assignment of shift work. Many mills permitted

female workers to take the evening shifts while their spouses worked the day shifts so that they

could be at home with their children. When Hewlett asks Lewes if she works nights, Lewes

continues her maternal testimony with "I couldn't git to work nights. I had eight children and










they took sick with dipthery. I cried and begged for thet sup'intendent to let me work nights so's

I could stay home and take keer o' the children daytimes, but he wouldn't me go. .. Four o' my

children died." Lewes voices her resentment at not being assigned an evening shift when she

requests the assignment and declares the superintendent to be "the sorriest man in the world" (6).

Hewlett' s question implies his understanding of the management' s past practice as a legitimate

request. Lewes' testimony suggests that the superintendent' s denial of any maternal

consideration is an intentional act of cruelty directed toward Lewes and represents mill

management's abuse of the collective.

Vorse also suggests that the superintendent' s denial of a night shift contributed to the

destruction of Lewes' marriage. Lewes sympathetically explains that her husband, Wil,

abandoned her and her children because he "got all discouraged like, havin' the chillen die. Plum

did take his ambition away. He went off to another town to git work and I never did yeah from

him no mo"' (6). Through Lewes' lack of bitterness, Vorse emphasizes how poverty affects the

male millworkers' perception of their traditional roles as providers. Moreover, Vorse' s own

experience attests to the disastrous effects upon her first marriage when her success as a writer

overshadowed that of her husband' s. In Vorse's biography, Garrison notes that in two separate

articles, "Working Mother" and "Failure," Vorse wrote: "Not many men will forgive their wives

for supporting them" (qtd. in Mary 33).

Lewes concludes her maternal testimony with her concern for her children's education,

"My little girl, she's eleven, and she heps me right smart. Don't none of my chillen git to school.

How could they? I wouldn't have no one to leave the little ones with, and ef I could, how would I

git clothen and shoes for 'em?" (6). Lewes testimony, again, reflects Ella May's lived reality

where her eleven-year old daughter, Myrtle, tends her four younger siblings whose ages ranged









from eight years to thirteen months (Salmond 129). Myrtle Wiggins and her siblings also reflect

the reality of the millworkers' children whose lack of education and opportunity perpetuated the

poverty of the mill worker and guaranteed the mill's supply of cheap and contented labor.

Hewlett offers no answer to Lewes' question of how to supply something as basic as clothing

and shoes as the fictional Wiggins "drifted away in the crowd" (6). Vorse shifts her reporter' s

attention toward the organizers, leaving the Lewes interview open-ended with the answers to

Lewes' questions left in the hands of the comfortable people who read her novel.

Maternal Veil of Ignorance

In her second chapter, Vorse introduces economically comfortable people as reproductive

bodies that reproduce class oppression. Drawing a sharp contrast to the interview with Lewes,

Hewlett stops briefly to chat with friends of his family who also live in Stonerton. Vorse depicts

a veil of ignorance skewing the perceptions of the middle-class comfortable people through the

maternal body of Mrs. Parker and her daughter, Jean. Similar to her own experience in growing

up in an upper-class environment and developing a class consciousness through her reportage,

Vorse links Hewlett' s ignorance with a maternal class inheritance. Vorse introduces the Parker

women as friends of Hewlett' s mother. Young Hewlett remembers the shared vacations with the

Parkers in the North East. The reporter' s escape to the home of family friends appears to provide

a brief respite for Hewlett who is initially overwhelmed by the harsh realities in Gastonia.

However, Hewlett' s visit to the Parker' s home illuminates a place of class ignorance within

himself and within the Parkers.

In contrast to the shack shared by Ella May Wiggins and her daughter, Mrs. Parker and her

daughter live on a street of "pleasant houses" Hewlett remarks that he is "back in a familiar

comprehensive world" (17). For Hewlett, comprehensive meant a familiar place outside of the

desperate world of the millworkers, where his inclusion in the world of middle class comfort










makes sense. Vorse j ars Hewlett' s sense of escape with a dose of class-consciousness and reveals

the malignancy of class ignorance through the naive exaggerations and oversimplifications of a

mother and daughter who represent "the grace and manner that people identify with the South"

(17). The feminine perceptions of the Parker women draw upon the southern tradition of

womanhood. The image of a southern lady, according to Ann Goodwyn Jones, is a

representation of "her culture' s idea of religious, moral, sexual, racial, and social perfection" (9).

Jones also asserts that the idealized virtue of southern womanhood is perpetuated through female

ignorance where a woman' s "goodness depends directly on innocence--in fact, on ignorance of

evil" (9). Mrs. Parker and her daughter represent Jones' model of a southern lady whose

perceived goodness depends upon what she reads in the newspapers and hears through the

town's gossip.

As the Parker women chat with Hewlett, they not only reveal their ignorance of evil, but

they also reveal how they perpetuate the paternalistic system that oppresses the millworkers.

According to Jean and her mother The absentee mill owner, Mr. Schenk represents a man of

southern honor, as well as an economic savior who "bettered" the conditions of the ignorant

mountain people who "came from their mud-floored cabins" (18). Mrs. Parker claims, "We have

never had any trouble with our workers. .. They are far better off than when they left the

mountains" (19). Mrs. Parker' s comments mimic the antebellum justification of slave ownership,

as well as the separation of a class with "our workers." Mrs. Parker notes the generosity of Mr.

Schenk who provides "nice houses with electric light free. And lots of them have baths." Mrs.

Parker' s daughter immediately interj ects that the families "never use the baths" because theyy

just use them to keep things in"(19). Ironically, the Parkers are revealing the facts as they naively

understand them. They have no idea of the amount of rent Mr. Schenk charges the workers to









live in these nice houses or the mitigating circumstances that require the millworkers to use bath

tubs as additional sleeping arrangements in an overcrowded mill house.

Mrs. Parker also invokes a flawed economic comparison between a mountain family and

an unnamed college-educated cousin. Despite the thousands of dollars spent on a college degree

and study abroad, Mrs. Parker laments that Jean's cousin only earns forty dollars a week. Mrs.

Parker highlights the economic injustice as she explains, "Take a family of four mountain

people, each making eighteen-fifty a week, and that gives them an income of seventy-four

dollars a week" (18). Mrs. Parker' s flawed statistic suggests a class entitlement and implies that a

mountain family's income is almost twice that of the poor Parker cousin' s income. Mrs. Parker

not only reports an inflated salary level, but she also compares the wages of one worker to the

wages of four workers. Ensnared within their own naivete, the Parkers fail to comprehend that

even in the most ideal of situations, a mountain family of four would still be comprised of a

mother, a father, and two children working in the mill, which would deny the children the

educational opportunities available to the Parker' s cousin.

As Hewlett questions the women's wage estimates, the women respond with additional

evidence to validate their perception of how the millworkers selfishly spend their high wages by

consuming the choicest products from the local farmers. Mrs. Parker posits conspicuous grocery

consumption with, "Oh, lots of them are making much more, my dear boy. Why, the time when

farmers with eggs and vegetables and chickens used to drive up to the house all the time to sell

things. Now they never get past the mill village. The mill village buys up everything" (18). The

Parker' s resentment is rooted within basic human survival in a competition for eggs, vegetables,

and chickens. Hewlett recognizes that the epitome of resentment is rooted in real life within the

Parker' s home. Through her obj ective reporter' s two short interviews, Vorse documents class










contradiction between the lives of the Parker women and those of Mamie Lewes and her

children.

Sitting in a comfortable parlor with two women, Hewlett makes a startling discovery about

class warfare: "Here was where the hate came from. .. Here was the home of the Mob. The

comfortable people, the well-fixed people of Stonerton felt fury and outrage at the mill hands'

revolt. .. Hate and Mob were a multiplication of the Parkers" (19-21). Through his reproductive

rhetoric, Hewlett creates an originary myth that implies that class hatred and mob rule are not

only reproduced through the Parker women, but also reproduced within himself through his

maternal inheritance. The individual identities of the Parker women and Hewlett' s unnamed

mother are replaced by a unifying collective maternal identity that not only reproduces a class,

but whose veil of ignorance contributes to the reproduction of class oppression. Hewlett, like the

Parkers and others of their class has not experienced economic discomfort, and his recognition of

his own ignorance is the first step toward class consciousness. Moreover, in Strike! Vorse

attempts to shift the consciousness of her economically comfortable readers through her

characterizations of the Parkers as a maternal ideal grounded in a tradition of ignorance resulting

in the exploitation of the working-class.

Maternal Ballads of Union Solidarity

The day after his interview with the Parkers, Hewlett witnesses his first working-class

demonstration of resistance with the picketing of the Manville-Jenkes Mill. Vorse relies upon the

narratives of her reporters, Hewlett and Hoskins, to proj ect a voice of social consciousness and to

reveal the maternal-based activism as the legitimate motive for working-class resistance. In

aligning the observations of Hewlett with Hoskins with the narratives of Lewes, Vorse

foregrounds the experiences of the working-class collective and its desire for a better life for the

children. The collective "workers' parade" in Stonerton is described by Hoskins and Hewlett as a










scene of solidarity and maternal activism: "Here were people, men and women and children

walking together, rank on rank of young millworkers walking along bearing banners that read

'we want schools.' .. There were smaller children marched with banners-'Must we go to the

mill? '" (26). The banners reflect the common goal of the collective as concern for the children,

but the observations of the reporters lend credibility to the messages on the banners by creating a

vivid image of maternal-based solidarity for a skeptical readership.

Vorse also depicts the emotional connection between the j journalists by narrating Hewlett' s

response: "he felt unexpectedly moved. He wasn't ashamed to say as much to Hoskins." Hoskins

then responds, "they get me too. I can't help remembering they're the docile one-hundred per

cent Americans. ..[T]hey've been docile and one-hundred-per cent so long" (26). Vorse

suggests that the reporters are emotionally "moved" because they personally identify with the

workers and their children as Americans like themselves. The shared identity of the reporters

with the southern mill worker invokes both a paternal and a patriotic unity that differs from the

emotional affiliation with the labor demonstrations of the North where the strikers were

immigrant workers. Vorse also emphasizes the industrialization of the South as built upon the

backs of the southern working-class who also share a historical sense of regional affiliation.

Vorse moves from the observations of the sympathetic reporters to depicting the

developing social consciousness of Lewes. Lewes' reflective observations shift from a sense of

isolation to a sense of collective affiliation and purpose:

She had lived alone and isolated. She made so little since her husband left that she couldn't
even live on the mill hill. She knew few people. Now she was part of something--she was
part of the parade. Yesterday she had joined the Union .. She felt part of the crowd.
They were all keeping time to one thing. They were all absorbed in something bigger than
they were--something that brought them all together and merged them in something
outside themselves. I reckon this is the solidarity that they's always talking' about, thought
Mamie Lewes, feeling she had made a valuable and novel discovery. (27)









Until the working-class demonstration of solidarity, Lewes and her co-workers passively

accepted their wages and conditions because they were silenced by their isolation and

vulnerability. Entirely dependent upon a patriarchal system of exploitation, workers feared for

their livelihood and could not risk voicing their singular resistance. However, Lewes' affiliation

with a "parade" shifts her perception as an individual voice toward "something bigger" a

powerful collective voice against social injustice. However, Vorse contrasts Lewes' discovery of

solidarity with the prevailing opinion of the middle-class people. According to Hoskins,

"Americans don't understand the philosophy of demonstration"(27). Rocks are thrown, a fight

breaks out, and the governor calls in the militia. While the power of demonstration of a large

organized contingent of union members appears to be a genuine threat to the economically

comfortable Americans, for Mamie Lewes, the right of the collective represents the power to

resist an oppressive patriarchal tradition.

Despite the presence of the militia the next day, Lewes leaves her children at home and

joins the picket line to prevent scabs from entering the mill. When a union leader asks if she

could leave her children, Lewes answers, "reckon ef I kin leave 'em to work I kin leave 'em to

picket" (35). Vorse illuminates part of her own personal conflict between wage work and mother

work through Lewe' s comment. The parallel of Lewes' responsibility to the union and her

responsibility to her children also mirrors the concerns of many who, according to Vorse, are

"the mothers of small children [who] have to work at night to keep their families in food and

necessities" (47). As the only breadwinner, Lewes' commitment for better wages is a

commitment to the survival of her family. Vorse illustrates how a woman' s sense of commitment

to her family is inseparable from her commitment to her work. At the same time, the conflict

between picketing and child care also reflects Vorse's own sense of "double failure" and the










compromises needed for her to leave her children to report labor uprisings across the United

States.

Although Lewes experiences her revelation of solidarity at the first picket parade, Vorse

draws upon the solidarity among women to further Lewes' understanding of collective identity

and dedication to the union. Before appearing on the platform at union meetings, Lewes writes

and sings her ballads while she is working at the relief store with other women who are

distributing food staples such as comn meal and lard to the families of the strikers. Lewes rises to

the union platform to sing only after Old Ma Gilfillin assures her, "Weall admires fer to hear you

sing your song-ballits" (52). Ma Gilfillin' s assurances convince Lewes that she is part of the

maternal collective and her voice is a viable part of the union voice.

To emphasize Lewes' sense of maternal solidarity, Vorse, like the other three female

Gastonia novelists, draws upon the voice of Ella May Wiggins and the lyrics of her powerful

ballad, "Mill Mother's Lament." Written in first person plural, "Mill Mother' s Lament" affirms

Wiggins' commitment to the union and to matemnal-based activism. Vorse reproduces four of the

six stanzas within her novel to illustrate how Lewes' is an integral part of a female collective and

to invoke the power of maternal tradition as a means of evoking the sympathies of the middle-

class comfortable people who subscribe to the paternal tradition of southern womanhood. Lewes

stands on the union platform and sings "easily and without effort" at the union rally: "We leave

our homes in the moming,/We kiss our children good-by/While we slave for our bosses,/Our

children scream and cry. .. /It is for our little children/That seem to us so dear,/But for us nor

them, oh, workers, the bosses do not keer" (53). Invoking maternal tradition, Wiggins' ballad

employs the plural "we," which represents a biological unity of women, as well as the paternal

responsibility of men and implies a matemnal-based solidarity. Lewes' comfort in singing before









a crowd from the union platform also suggests the developing social consciousness of the female

millworkers as maternal activists in, "it is for our children." The ballad emphasizes the shared

responsibility of the collective for taking care of "our" children implying a moral and social

obligation for both women and men to care for the small and helpless.

Vorse affirms how Lewes' ballad inspires a unified response: "It was their own story, put

in incredibly simple terms. Every one had lived through this. There was no piece of sentiment; it

was the history of every one there put into song" (53). The response of the collective reveals a

sense of maternal solidarity for "every one" in the all-inclusive lyrics of Wiggins' ballad. Vorse

implies a collective identity through shared experiences reflected in "their own story" and

suggests that "every one there" at the union rally identifies with the struggle for subsistence

survival and a mother' s concern for her "dear little children" who suffer from capitalist

exploitation. The "Mill Mother's Lament" highlights the social injustices inflicted by the

comfortable people through the depiction of the children of the millworkers and justifies the

resistance of the working-class through maternal activism.

Maternal Muse of Militancy

Although Lewes' ballads inspire maternal solidarity within the collective, the character of

Lewes resists the heroic identity as the muse of the millworkers. Rather, Lewes' view of the

union as her muse implies that the lyrics of her ballads are a reflection of a collective voice.

Lewes claims "[t]he songs just seem to come to me now that the union came" (166). The arrival

of the union also coincides with the arrival of Lewes' social consciousness and the recognition of

Lewes' as dedicated to union solidarity. The reporters comment upon Lewes' dedication and

note that the scabs continue to return to the mill instead of maintaining the strike. The scabs

excuse their actions with maternal concerns claiming that "sickness in the family and a new

baby" force them to violate the picket line. Hoskins claims the scabs don't understand the









meaning of solidarity and states, "these folks here haven't got it yet." Hoskins clarifies his

definition of solidarity as "that real heart of it, that 'all for one and one for all'." However,

Hewlett contends that Mamie Lewes "certainly got it" (109). With Hewlett as her witness,

Lewes' ballad writing, relief work, picketing, and militant resistance plays out in the novel as

heart-felt acts of union solidarity inspired by a commitment to the union' s maternal collective.

In addition to her portrayal of female militancy within the maternal collective, Vorse also

depicts union solidarity through maternal care taking. Although Lewes escapes much of the

physical brutality that inflicted upon Vorse's other characters, Lewes is ever-present sharing in

the operation of the relief store, rushing to the aid of the wounded and the evicted, and helping in

the packing over three hundred homeless strikers into make-shift "homes" in a tent city. Vorse's

portrayal of Lewes counters the perceptions of the middle-class who believe the union a

challenges the southern tradition of white supremacy; represents anarchists, Communists,

Bolshevists and socialists who promote free love; and wants to "kill people and incidentally

destroy the State and industry" (Vorse 153-158). Vorse depicts the heart of militancy as the heart

of a maternal caretaker who is dedicated to peaceful demonstration for social justice.

In response to their fears, the comfortable people reinforce their police force by forming,

the Committee of One-Hundred, a vigilante group to defend American decency. Vorse

documents the terror of this organization through vivid descriptions of their attacks upon the

maternal bodies in the break up of picket marches and the destruction of the relief store and tent

city. Vorse depicts each brutal incident with children screaming and crying in the background

and women being beaten, choked, and black acked. After the raid of the Committee of One

Hundred on the strikers' tent city, seventy-two females along with nine males are arrested and

charged with the murder of Chief Humphries, the fictionalized Chief O.F. Aderholt. The number









of females arrested in Vorse's fictional portrayal affirms the historical reality of a militant

collective that consisted largely of female activists. Although the women are released in

Gastonia, as well as in Vorse' s Stonerton, the judge' s declaration of a mistrial leads Committee

of One Hundred, once again, down a path of brutal revenge upon the maternal activists that

results in the murder of the union's ballad singer.

Vorse alters the historical events surrounding the murder of her fictionalized Wiggins to

emphasize her portrayal of Lewes as the core of a female collective whose death highlights the

maternal-based activism as the motive behind the strikers' militancy. Vorse foreshadows the

murder through the character of Dewey Bryson, a weaver and local union organizer who appears

as Lewes' love interest, who "got up Saturday with a feeling of execution. A death house

feeling" (201). En route to the meeting, Bryson and a group of strikers are delayed in Stonerton

by a confrontation with the mob and by the time they arrive in Tesner, the rally had already been

broken up by vigilantes. As Lane notes, Lewes' murder occurs during a union rally as a singular

event as opposed to the actual historical event during which Wiggins was shot en route to the

rally (86). With Bryson delayed and no other union leaders are present at the event, Vorse places

Lewes in a union leadership position.

The absence of the organizers foregrounds the maternal presence of Lewes, whose ballads,

to this point, had consistently followed the oratory of the male leadership. Vorse locates the

event in Tesner, rather than Stonerton, where Lewes worked and lived, suggesting the

geographical expansion of the strike and positioning Lewes as calling forth the membership to

hear her message of solidarity. Bryson confirms Lewes' presence as central to the rally through

her taunting lyrics: "Come all ye scabs ef you want to year/The story of a mean millioneare

/Basil Schenk is that millioneare' s name-" (201). Lewes' message is cut off when Bryson and










the vigilantes arrive at the same time and the millworkers flee in fear. Lewes stands on the back

of a truck, along with other departing millworkers, and confirms her attempt to hold the rally

telling Bryson, "We tried to hold [the rally] ennyway, Dewey." Lewes then completes the ballad

that had signaled the event with the last line of her lyrics: "He cain 't buy the thrion 0I ithr his

money and frame!" (author' s emphasis 202). The song that depicts the end of the event where the

collective has gathered also represents the end of Lewes' life. A report of gunshot follows and

Lewes collapses and utters her final words, "Oh Lawdy, they've hit me." Bryson confirms the

death of the ballad singer screaming, "Mamie Lewes! She's daid! Mamie Lewes is daid!" As

Bryson helps to carry Lewes' body to a neighboring house, the death of union solidarity pervades

his every thought: "'It's over!' he thought. 'It's over!' .. She and her 'song ballits' had been

the very core of the strike" (202). Bryson confirms that Lewes is the "core" of the collective and

her death occurs as an act of maternal activism in the presence of her maternal collective.

Bryson's testimony extends beyond that of a grieving lover to a grieving comrade who

recognizes the heart of the maternal resistance has literally and figuratively stopped beating.

Vorse's depiction of Lewes' funeral mirrors the funeral of Wiggins. In addition to the

attendance of Lewes' children, family, and co-workers at Lewes' funeral, Vorse' s narrative

confirms with historical accuracy that reporters from "[a]ll the big metropolitan newspapers"

appeared with photographers who took "pictures [that] would go to workers all over the country,

and all over the world." Vorse ends the rituals with the voice of a mill worker from Tesner who

offered Lewes' ballad to the workers of world and sang, "How it grieves the heart of a mother! "

(204). In her final hour, Lewes emerges as a world renowned "mill mother" whose lament led

her to a core position of leadership where she gave her life for cause of the maternal collective.









Vorse's documentation of the arrests and trials in Stonerton reflect the same futility of the

arrests and trials in Gastonia; No one was prosecuted for the murder of the ballad singer. Yet, in

the final thirty pages of Strike!, Vorse portrays the historical repercussions when the murder of

Wiggins at Gastonia sparked widespread demonstrations among the millworkers within the

Piedmont region. The final strike of Vorse's fictional Stonerton memorializes Lewes, as well as

the participation of the female collective who gather together in maternal solidarity in another

tragic demonstration that claims the life of Fer Deane and four male strikers.

Despite the death of Lewes, the fictional mill owners, like the real mill owners, still did not

keep their promises. Vorse reveals the impact on the six female and two male workers: "There

was discrimination. Ma Gilfillin and Daisy West could get no work. Nor could Jolas or Binney

nor any other of the Jolas girls" (215). In a report to Fer Deane, a striker notes the readiness of

the millworkers for another picketing demonstration: "When Mamie Lewes wuz shot, we all tuk

an oath we'd not rest till we'd got 'em out ag'in. .. The women's ben takin' a part. Mis'

Cuthbert and some of the Trent wives ha' ben organizing right smart amongst the women (213).

The mill worker invokes Lewes as the maternal martyr who motivates more women to take an

even more militant role in resistance. Moreover, the death of Lewes inspires women to make a

sacred pact to unite and resist as a memorial from the heart of the maternal collective.

The final strike results in the deaths ofFer Deane and five male millworkers, as well as the

death of the resistance of the maternal collective. John M. Reilly argues that in her historical

alteration of the fate of the fictionalized Beal, Vorse martyrs Deane rather than revealing Beal's

defection to Russia (153-154). Reilly's comment suggests that the martyrdom of Deane

overshadows the martyrdom of Lewes and the participation of a female collective. Vorse's

fictional alteration of shared union martyrdom, however, supports her portrayal of the multiple










and gendered experiences of the collective and emphasizes the significant participation of female

activists. The shooting of the male millworkers and the funeral scene following the death of

Wiggins are taken from another workers' demonstration in Marion, outside of Gastonia. Beal's

fate depicts a final act of solidarity among union brotherhood and the subsequent end of the

story .

Conversely, the death of Lewes symbolizes the death of a maternal martyr who inspires the

militancy of the entire collective. Lewes is not only the first to die a martyr' s death, but her death

inspires Deane to j oin the picketing workers in their final demonstration of resistance.

Throughout the novel, Deane, fearing assassination, hides safely in his room, as well as in

neighboring towns, leaving the organizing of the demonstrations to his assistant, Irma Rankin,

Vorse' s fictionalized Vera Buch Weisbord. Joseph Urgo suggests that Rankin' s name is a play

on words implying "rank and file" (69). Reading Rankin from a maternal lens, her gendered role

aligns her with Lewes, as well as with the other female strikers and relief workers whose

positions as "rank and file" were the real backbone of the strike. Lewes unites the rank and file to

represent a collective whose maternal activism sustained a militant working-class resistance.

In Strike! Lewes is immortalized as a maternal whose death inspires the radical conversion

of Vorse's young naive reporter to a working-class consciousness. Del Evans, a mill worker from

Stonerton, tells Hewlett, "We're agoin' to bring solidarity to the whole South. We cai't lose no

time. .. so's they all, an' Mamie Lewes too, won't have died fer nothing (235). Vorse narrates

Hewlett' s epiphany as a heart-felt affiliation to reporting for the union's cause: "And he had to

go on too. He had lost his own class; he could never belong in their class of workers. He was

without country now, and yet wherever they went, what ever their destination might be, he had to

go with them" (23 5-23 6). Roger Hewlett' s conversion reflects Vorse' s own life' s j oumney.










Inspired by Wiggins and "almost every working woman," who balanced work and family, Vorse

also had to "go on" as a labor j ournalist from Lawrence, to New York, to Philadelphia, to

Passaic, and to wherever there was a "spontaneous uprising" of workers. Vorse' s Strike! not only

reveals maternal solidarity as the heart of collective human experience through her fictional

portrayal of Ella May Wiggins, but she also delivers a message of maternal-based activism to the

comfortable people.









CHAPTER 3
GRACE LUMPKIN: LABORING WOMEN AND THE POLITICS OF LABOR INT TO M~AKE
MY BREAD

Mother Work and Mill Work

In reporting the murder of Ella May Wiggins in the 1929 textile mill strike in Gastonia,

North Carolina' s News and Observer linked the union-organizing activism of Wiggins with her

maternal need to supply bread for her hungry children. The summary lead read: "The state of

North Carolina stands shamed and disgraced by this inhuman crime... The humble woman sought

to improve the conditions under which she worked sixty hours a week to find bread for her five

children" (qtd. in Salmond 129). Where most of the newspaper reports questioned Wiggins'

"morality" as a single mother, the lead of the News and Observer evoked a sense of shame from

the entire political body of the state of North Carolina. The report of News and Observer

emphasized the inhumanity of murdering a woman whose labor was measured in both her wage-

earning hours at the mill and in her maternal responsibility for the care of her children. Although

the motive for the murder was never clearly established, Wiggins' death legitimized working-

class protest by inspiring a social consciousness across class distinctions, not only in North

Carolina but across the United States.

In To Make M~y Bread Grace Lumpkin moves her readers to a working-class sympathy by

recreating the life and the death of Ella May Wiggins through two generations of women who

labor in mother work and mill work. Lumpkin's fictional Wiggins, Bonnie McClure, and her

mother, Emma McClure, portray the experiences of women who left rural privation in the

Carolina mountains to work in the mill villages. Through her female protagonists, Lumpkin

articulates a revolutionary model of maternal-based activism where the nurturing and caretaking

of a woman's family in the rural Appalachian Mountains extends into mills and inspires a model

of working-class solidarity.












By the time Lumpkin was writing To Make My Bread, she was a loyal member of the

Communist Party. Like many revolutionary writers in the 1920s and 1930s, Lumpkin believed

that the party offered a cure for the social and economic ills that plagued the United States; she

also believed that she could be a part of the "artistic intervention" that could help to spread hope

to the working-class (Sowinska vii). This chapter briefly addresses how Lumpkin's personal and

political experiences inform her revolutionary writing. The balance of the chapter focuses on

Lumpkin' s fictional recreation of Ella May Wiggins as a maternal representation of two

generations of women who left the rural mountains to work in the Carolina cotton mills. In To

Make My Bread, Lumpkin recreates her fictional Gastonia and depicts a revolutionary model of

maternal-based activism through a mother and daughter, Emma and Bonnie McClure.

The first half of the novel traces a widowed Emma McClure' s struggle to take care of her

daughter, Bonnie; her three sons; and her aging father in a small rural farming community in

Southern Appalachia. Lumpkin's narrative reflects the experiences of most women in the

Piedmont Region who, out of economic desperation, were forced to abandon their rural farm life

and seek work in the mills. The novel opens with an unseasonable spring blizzard and Emma

birthing her youngest son, John. Isolated from her female community, Emma relies upon her

father to assist in her delivery. The newborn is placed in the cradle with an infant Bonnie,

Lumpkin' s fictionalized representation of Wiggins. The cradle sharing links Bonnie and John in

a parallel childhood as well as political development. By the time Bonnie is thirteen, her mother

will have taken in an unwed mother into their already crowded cabin, her grandfather will have

been arrested for bootlegging, one older brother will have been murdered, and the eldest brother

will have sold the family farm to a lumbering company and abandoned the family entirely. Out









of desperation Emma is forced to pack up her two youngest children and her aging father, join

the family of her husband's brother, and seek work at the Wentworth Mill.

The second half of Lumpkin' s novel focuses on the experiences of the McClures, who

discover that the mill offers no respite from poverty. When Emma is stricken with pellagra and

can no longer work at the mill, Bonnie and her younger brother, John, begin working so the

family can remain in mill housing. Along with their adolescent development, Lumpkin traces the

development of Bonnie and John' s social consciousness. While her brother' s union militancy

occurs soon after his employment, Bonnie marries; like the real-life Wiggins, her labor is

interrupted by yearly childbirth. After her mother, husband, and daughter die of malnutrition and

lack of medical care, Bonnie j oins John in advocating for the union cause. Speaking for herself

as well as for the other mill-working women, Bonnie composes maternal ballads that invoke

motherhood as a social responsibility. Just as she steps up to the podium with her mother-

millworker message, Bonnie is shot and killed leaving John to carry on the message of union

solidarity .

A Mill Writer's Artistic Intervention

Living most of her life in rural South where the cotton mill industry had firmly established

itself since the 1880s, Lumpkin witnessed the effects of long hours and low wages on the

millworkers. Born in Georgia in 1892, Lumpkin was the ninth of eleven children in a family that

clung to their religion and their southern Confederate identity. Although the Lumpkins were

better off than most of their neighbors, they felt the economic impact of Reconstruction after the

Civil War, and Lumpkin's father moved the family from Georgia to South Carolina in the hope

of economic recovery. Lumpkin attended school with the children of sharecroppers, whose

poverty was far below that of the Lumpkins. When her father died in 1910, the family was left

destitute and Lumpkin borrowed money to attend college. She completed a two-year certification










program in one year and began her teaching career in Georgia and later, South Carolina.

Historically, Lumpkin' s college experience reflects a time in the early 1920s when progressive

reformists focused on adult education as a means of societal reform (Heller 214). In running a

school that offered evening adult education for the farming families of Southern Appalachia and

working for the federal government as a home demonstrator, Lumpkin combined her belief in

adult education with her social consciousness and actively sought solutions for the rural poor.

Sylvia Cook notes that Lumpkin spent summers in the mountains of North Carolina staying with

families who worked in the cotton mills (52).The relationship between Lumpkin as the mill

writer and the mountain families as millworkers is one of historical experience and a socially

conscious sense of shared identity born of economic struggle.

Lumpkin's political consciousness also led her to work for a year for the YWCA in France

with an organization for French working girls. After Lumpkin returned to the family home, she

worked for the YWCA in South Carolina. During this time she realized that "the workers could

only better their lives by means of unions" (qtd in Sowinska x). Following the death of her

mother, Lumpkin pursued her career in New York City in 1925 writing for a "pacifist and mildly

socialist" publication, The World Tomorrow. The sparks of Lumpkin's proletarian conversion

were ignited when she covered the first Communist-led strike in Passaic, New Jersey, in 1926.

While in Passaic, Lumpkin first met the man who would become her lover and husband, Michael

Intrator, who was a member of the Communist Party during this period. During the picket

sponsored by the Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee in 1927, Lumpkin was arrested with

other members of the party.

By the late 1920s Lumpkin was an ardently committed Communist "scoundrel" and j oined

the writing staff of The New M~asses. Lumpkin was sent South by the party to investigate










lynchings, help organize the African American sharecroppers, and participate in the Communist-

led resistance in the Piedmont region of the Southern Appalachian Mountains at Gastonia.

Lumpkin was instrumental in bringing race relations and the need for interracial solidarity to the

forefront of the Communist Party's agenda. (Sowinska xi-xxi). To Make M~y Bread emerged

from Lumpkin' s leftist loyalties winning the praises of the Communist Party as well as the 1932

Gorky Prize as best labor novel of the year (Salmond 188).

Although Lumpkin's experience with the Communist Party inspires a story of maternal

solidarity, her break with the party reveals another maternal-based story in which Lumpkin

aborts the pregnancy that resulted from her relationship with Michael Intrator and sinks into a

life of rural isolation. Although the leftist ideology had inspired her prize-winning novel, her

conservative southern religious upbringing, which she portrays as the moral conscience in her

novel, imposed its own death sentence upon Lumpkin's creativity as a revolutionary writer.

In New York Lumpkin and Intrator scandalized their neighbors by sharing an apartment

with Esther Shemitz and Whitaker Chambers. The defections of Intrator and Chambers from the

Communist Party created animosity among Lumpkin's friends, who chose to separate themselves

from the factionalist politics of the party. By the late 1930s, feeling abandoned by her friends,

Lumpkin sought an abortion and left Intrator. No one can guess whether Lumpkin' s defection

from the Communist Party was prompted by her own sense of shame brought on by her abortion,

the defections of Intrator and Chambers, or the pressure of the Chambers-Hiss espionage and

perjury trials. Lumpkin reconstructed various versions of her involvement with the party during

her testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Despite the conflicting

evidence, history records Lumpkin's intellectual and political struggles as a catalyst to her most

creative period as a writer, or what Lumpkin herself refers to as her "Communist Phase"










(Sowinska xviii-xx). Lumpkin's novel stands as testimony to a woman's life when love,

pregnancy, and an intellectual struggle for a shared sense of identity inspire a working-class

social consciousness. Armed with first-hand experience of the plight of the southern rural poor,

liberal Leftist philosophies, and her own maternal experience, Lumpkin not only reported

women' s historical place on the picket lines, but she also crossed the boundary lines of gender

and race to tell a story of a maternal-based working-class solidarity.

Mountain Myth and Material Reality

Lumpkin devotes the first half of To Make M~y Bread to establishing the interrelationship

of a mother and daughter, Emma and Bonnie McClure, and how they function in a cooperative

female community as a basis for survival in an environment where males are either absent or

ineffectual. In the second half of the novel, Lumpkin maintains the cooperative interrelationship

of the mill families as a maternal extension of a communal class consciousness. For generations

of pioneering farm families, worker solidarity, was understood as the shared labor of all family

members who lived and worked on the family farm. Larger families were an advantage in that

many hands shared in the planting and harvesting; thus, the yearly pregnancy experienced by so

many women was a source of pride in producing more hands for working the farm. southern

rural women were also socialized to assume a sense of social obligation to other women in their

community by supporting each other during births and deaths. When families migrated from the

mountains to the mills, their interdependent kin relationships then translated as multi-layered,

deeply felt relationships of solidarity with other millworkers.

Both the labor of mill work and the labor of domestic work were gendered and rooted in

rural mountain tradition. The mills replicated a gendered division of labor assigning the more

physical manual labor to males and the repetitive less physical labor to women and children.

When women began working in the mills, they replicated mountain tradition of their double duty









of farm labor and domestic labor. Therefore, solidarity among women was also understood as

family relationship where their labor of wage-earning extended into the social labor of the

caretaking of their families as well as their fellow wage workers. As its title reveals, To Ma'~ke M\~y

Bread is Lumpkin's story about a Depression era struggle of survival represented through a

socialized network of maternal laborers. The female millworkers not only labored in bread-

winning, but they also labored in bread-baking, childbearing, child burying, and community

bridge-building for creating and sustaining political activism among the working-class.

In the first chapter of To Make M~y Bread, Lumpkin reveals the impact of economics and

patriarchal oppression upon the maternal experience through metaphors of nature and gendered

labor. Lumpkin locates the economic centers of the rural mountain community, Swain' s General

Store and Barren She Mountain, as masculine space. In Swain' s, a small group of men sit around

a potbellied stove smoking pipes and sharing gossip about Possum Hollow. When the steers

begin to bellow outside the store, Sam Wesley "remembered that his woman must have meal for

supper." As he departs the store, he cautions his friends, something'sgs a-happening up yonder"

(9). The steers appear to sense the fury of the impending blizzard, and their restlessness reminds

their owner of the need to bring home cornmeal for bread baking. Steers are castrated bulls that

are raised for beef as well as for farm work. These steers appear to symbolically bellow a

warning of economic castration, which represents the impotency of the mountain economy.

Lumpkin does not narrate any exchange of money for the cornmeal, implying that Wesley, like

most mountain families, would be charging it to an account at Swain's General Store.

Using the unpredictability of weather as the topic of male concern, Lumpkin foreshadows

the economic devastation upon the mountain families as a threat to masculinity. Swain sells his

store to a lumber company; the lumber company will dupe the families and take their land. The










government will also legally dismantle the last remaining vestige of mountain economy,

moonshine business up on Barren She Mountain. However, Lumpkin also foreshadows hope for

the working-class with the reproductive labor and birth of the McClure infant which is also

happening "up-yonder" on a ridge above Possum Hollow. Although the father of the infant died

of a fever, the birth of his heir, Emma's son, plays out in the novel as the originating story of a

revolutionary proletariat who will lead the working-class resistance. Not only does Emma's

reproductive labor deliver hope for a working-class revolution, but Lumpkin also posits the

maternal body of the proletariat' s mother within the storm as a resisting force against economic

oppression.

In the public space of Swain' s General Store, Lumpkin also genders the labor of men who

run the bootlegging business up on "Barren She Mountain." Read metaphorically, the feminized

mountain that is both "barren" and a "she" represents an illicit space outside of the patriarchal

law where an illegal alcoholic beverage is produced as well as a space which fails to produce

legitimate heir from the seeds that are sown into its soil. The mountain's barren soil and lack of

marketable crops symbolize the impotency of the southern farming economy. The betrayal of

Barren She Mountain is further compounded by the illegitimacy of moonshine economy. Not

only is the mountain reproductively barren, but any economic production from the mountain is

also rendered illegitimate by patriarchal law within the capitalist system.

As a trope of nature, the snowstorm that is stirring up in the mountains also represents the

industrialization that will sweep through the mountain range. In recreating a contradictory nature

as a nurturing pastoral replete with naive mountain folk and as a destructive storm, Lumpkin also

emphasizes the contradictory nature of her maternal characters where the bodies of mountain

women represent both relational caretaking and organized resistance. Lumpkin's snowstorm









occurs on April 19, 1900, a date, which in the Appalachian region of the North Carolina,

corresponds to the season of spring and a metaphorical rebirth. Yet Lumpkin's storm permeates

the public masculine space of the local store and reduces the men to a state of helplessness and

inadequacy when they attempt to return home.

In Swain' s General Store any danger of the storm "coming up hard" is dismissed by Jim

Hawkins, who voices a symbolic rural naivete of the danger of industrialization with, "If it was

winter, I'd be making tracks for my cabin" (7). The men resist returning home and continue

puffing their pipes around a public stove. Their silence is broken by the entrance of Young Sam

McEachern, who is searching for Granpap Kirkland so he can "get his help in the business they

carried on" (7-8). Granpap's absence from his usual community of men suggests that he, too,

disregards the threat of the storm and tends to the business up on Barren She Mountain rather

than making tracks for his cabin. The silence is again broken when one man is seen shivering

against the cold and Sam McEachemn asks, "A rabbit run over your grave?" Sam's superstitious

question about a rabbit is rooted in rural folklore. It is both reproductive and destructive as a

metaphor of an overly abundant reproductive ability and a foreshadowing of death. Moreover,

Sam's reference to the grave plays out in the novel as his denial of paternal responsibility in the

pregnancy of an unmarried woman and his murder of his rival, Emma' s son, Basil. Ultimately,

Sam McEachern himself is murdered as the fictional recreation of the only deputy sheriff to be

shot at Gastonia. Thus, the threat of a snowstorm in early spring and the symbolic fertility of the

rabbit folklore contradict their associations with the sentimental pastoral nature and imply of a

more threatening beast. Conversely, any sense of safety is implied through the domestic space of

the cabin.










Despite their dismissal of the early warnings of a snowstorm, Lumpkin' s naive males are

forced to face the blizzard in order to rescue the farm animals that were not sheltered. Lumpkin

does not narrate the storm's impact on the men or on the livestock. Rather, the impact of the

storm literally rages violently and wreaks its force upon maternal bodies. Lumpkin narrates the

physical impact of the blizzard through a nameless female community, "Women stood outside

the doors with snow stinging their faces like wasps and called to their men, or crawled to meet

them, trying to make their shrill voices heard above the wind" (10). Lumpkin's maternal

caretakers are concerned for the safety of their husbands and sons, who are blinded by the

blizzard and unable to find their way back to their cabins. The women not only stand outside

their cabins and bear the impact of the "stinging" violence of the storm, but they also reduced to

crawling into the direction of the blizzard and guide their husbands and sons toward the safety of

their cabins.

The storm repeats its violence at the McClure cabin: "Emma stood outside the door and

screamed to them. She could not stand long against the strong wind. It blew her against the wall

of the cabin with the force of a strong man' s fist" (10). The storm's rage is compared to an act of

male violence against a female when the physical force of the storm throws Emma' s pregnant

body against the wall. Lumpkin personifies the storm as male: "The wind slapped against the

cabin and snarled down the chimney. Snow blew in under the north door and spread over the

floor in a hurry and flurry like an unwelcome guest who is trying to make himself at home" (12).

However, Emma rises in resistance and continues to call to her father and sons, who seek a

direction toward safety. When Emma and her female community confront the blizzard, they are

risking their own lives to protect the lives of their families. Although the impact of the storm

threatens the lives of the male kin because they are exposed to the elements, the intensity of









storm's violence is actually less destructive. The impact upon Lumpkin's male characters is

illustrated with, "They came crawling on hands and knees" (10). Although a male reduced to

crawling implies a humbling experience, the brutality of a man's fist represents a violent attempt

at complete domination. In constructing two parallel versions of the brutality of the storm against

the mountain's female community, Lumpkin constructs a symbolic shared experience and

emphasizes a need for unified resistance against the threatening elements of industrialization.

The onset of Emma' s birthing labor begins only after Emma has accomplished the

caretaking labor for her father and sons. Emma is acutely aware that the storm is separating her

from the female community who would assist her in her delivery. In spite of her isolation she

continues the care taking of her family as "between the pains" she pours hot coffee to warm her

father and relays instructions for cutting the umbilical cord. Emma disregards the storm and

focuses upon her delivery, wishing "in herself there was a woman who would know what to do

without telling" (12). Lumpkin illustrates the isolation of Emma from her community of women

in the absence of another woman to act as midwife. Emma approaches parturition and seeks her

bed in a corner of the cabin:

Sitting up on bed she pressed down slowly with her hands over the great lump stirring
inside. Others had done this for her before to help the child come. She found that she could
not do this for herself. The hot pulling cramp forced her to lie back and scream again. A
bear was gnawing at her belly, pulling at the muscles with its strong teeth. She felt its fur
on her face and beat at the fur with her arms. It was Granpap's beard. (12)

Lumpkin emphasizes Emma' s wishing for the presence of someone who knows how to

assist in delivery by pressing on her abdomen. Emma has gained this knowledge from "others"

through her experiences in childbirth, but discovers that her pain prevents her from performing

this procedure. The only adult presence within the cabin is Emma's father; in response to his

daughter' s screams, he takes on the role of midwife.









Theorist Joseph R. Urgo notes the violent imagery surrounding Emma' s birthing scene and

contends that her father' s "delivery of her dead husband' s son underscores the complete

domination of her body by males" (72). Although Urgo's argument confirms the literal male

presence, the absence of Emma's dead husband also reflects the absence of male dominance

within Emma' s domestic sphere. Additionally, the male-personified storm does not defeat the

maternal caretakers in their rescue of their male kin, nor does it intrude upon the cabin where

Emma labors to deliver her infant. Additionally, Emma's father, Granpap Kirkland, a man

scarred from a battle with a she-bear and a Civil War battle, actually resists the role of dominator

because "he had known fear and dread in the last few moments since he knew that some time in

the night he must deliver Emma of her child" (11i). Emma' s birth experience is an exclusively

female experience where Granpap has no control outside of cutting the umbilical cord. Granpap

further demonstrates his lack of power over the birth experience when he fails to follow his

daughter' s directions on how to cut the umbilical cord at an appropriate length. Lumpkin

illustrates the reproductive authority of Emma and her community of women as exclusively

female knowledge when Emma's son later reveals, "The protruding navel .. had something to

do with his birth and the fact that Granpap had cut the cord instead of some woman who knew

her business" (53). Emma' s father' s lack of skill is not only reflected through a permanent scar

on a future proletariat, but the grandfather is also feminized through his grandson's comparison

to a woman who would have had skill and knowledge that surpassed that of the elder patriarch.

Granpap is not a fearless dominator because the birth experience proves more

overpowering than the bloody battles between men and the battles with maternalized raging she-

bears. Lumpkin parallels Emma' s female experience of birthing with her father' s performance in

his hunting experiences; Emma's resistance to male domination is evident in her courageous










reproductive labor experiences. Lumpkin' s description of Emma' s labor pains resembles her

father' s description of his "she-bear" as she feels a "bear gnawing at her belly, pulling at the

muscles with its strong teeth." When Emma realizes the fur of the bear is really her father' s

beard as he bends close to "tell her to keep covered," she pushes him away because "[i]t was not

possible to bear the agony of one hair touching her" (1 1-12). Pushing her father away enacts a

resistance to her father' s presence in her reproductive experience, and Emma defeats the beast by

bearing her child through her body's own natural process of giving birth.

Although Emma depends upon her father' s assistance in the delivery of the infant, her

response to his concern for Victorian modesty can also be read as an act of resistance to male

domination. Isolation from her community of women, Emma faces her reproductive labor as a

solitary act. Emma refuses domination and focuses upon her own mind and body: "There was no

Granpap and no children now. Nothing mattered but herself and the pain" (1 1-13). Emma

maintains the ownership of her body, her pain, her space, and her birth process by effacing both

her father and her family.

After Emma delivers her son, her father separates himself from his imposed caretaking role

and transfers the maternal responsibility to the only other female in the cabin, Bonnie. Granpap

covers his daughter, who is lying on the "exhausted on the dry side of the bed," and places his

new grandson "in the cradle with Bonnie to keep it warm until Emma would come to and let it

suck" (13). Bonnie is the only other female in the cabin and the heat from her body serves in

keeping a newborn infant warm. In sharing her cradle, Emma's daughter is symbolically initiated

into what contemporary theorist Nancy Chodorow refers to as the reproduction of mothering

where "the early mother-infant relationship creates both a foundation for parenting in children of

both genders and expectations that women will mother" (7). In her perception of her role as a










maternal caretaker, Bonnie's sense of a shared female reproductive consciousness is rooted in

her social role as opposed to her biological role. The cradle-sharing also foreshadows a symbolic

maternal-based solidarity between Bonnie and her brother as well as between Bonnie and a

gendered working-class. At chapter's end the metaphorical snowstorm is replaced by two hungry

infants who lie quietly awaiting the sleeping maternal breast. There is no resistance from the

female child in the cradle and her shared role with her mother as an infant caretaker and nurturer

marks the beginning of the cycle of matemnal-based solidarity for Bonnie as a fictionalized

heroine.

Cradles, Kin, and Maternal Caretaking

Bonnie's cradle-sharing indoctrination into mothering extends into the second chapter

when six years later she rescues her cradle mate from a rattlesnake. Again, Bonnie's body bears

the maternal burden of caretaking, which is reminiscent of her mother' s experience in rescuing

her brothers and grandfather from the snow storm: "She caught the back of John' s j eans and

clumsily jerked him against her. The impact of his body on hers brought them down on the slope

together, and they rolled down hill until a rock stopped them" (16). Bonnie not only pulls her

brother down a hill to safety, but her body cushions his fall and results in Bonnie being bruised

and bleeding, John escaping unscathed, and their mother believing that Bonnie merely fell while

playing. Bonnie and John do not reveal the details of their snake experience to Emma; their

secrecy implies their understanding of maternal authority and the consequences of their

confession. Bonnie's actions also allude to a gender expectation that as an older sister, she shares

maternal responsibility for her younger brother and, even at age six, lifts some of Emma' s

maternal burdens.

Along with the maternal care of her younger brother, Bonnie also learns about the

gendered boundaries imposed upon women by a patriarchal cultural tradition. As Emma' s sister-









in-law, Ora, and cousin, Jennie Martin, are gathering around Emma' s loom, Emma' s first

narrated conversation with her daughter reveals the reinforcement of traditional gender roles.

Emma exposes Bonnie' s her gendered transgressions as well as those of Ora' s daughter, Sally,

by referring to them as "boy-girls" who "Always wanted to run around like boys instead of

helping [their] Mas." The reprimand is immediately understood and articulated as a single shared

thought between Emma and Bonnie. Emma first responds to Bonnie's inquiry about the absence

of Ora' s eldest daughter with, "Sally's got to stay home." Bonnie concludes Emma' s sentence

with, "To work for her Ma" (24). Emma' s "got to" not only implies that there are no other

options for Sally, but also suggests that those carefree days of Bonnie's and Sally's boyish

freedom have now ended. The split identity of a "boy-girl" privileges the term "boy" by placing

it first, thus subordinating the identity of"girl." In finishing her mother' s sentence, Bonnie

articulates her respect for the authority of her mother as well as her own understanding of her

subordinate position as a female within a caretaking community of the mothers and daughters

who understand their domestic responsibilities.

In contrast to Bonnie's carefully mentored maternal training, Lumpkin portrays a young

woman whose lack of proper mothering results in the social death of Minnie Hawkins. Minnie' s

mother, as well as the moral guardianship represented by a mother, is absent. Lumpkin describes

Bonnie' s unsexed female body as "little and slim" compared to the body of daughter of Jim

Hawkins who is slightly older and "plump." Minnie' s sexualized body attracts the pursuit of the

local boys and results in Minnie's social damnation as a devalued, sexualized obj ect who tempts

the local boys toward the sin of fornication. When the rural women notice the boys and men are

eyeing the "prettiest girl around the valley," they are filled with a distrust which Lumpkin

succinctly explains as, "Then, they remembered her mother" (42). The community of women









must strain to remember the time when Minnie's mother was present. There is no memory of any

immoral action outside of her abandonment of her duties as wife and mother.

Lumpkin further emphasizes the moral contrast between Bonnie and Minnie in the spiritual

coming-of-age ritual of baptism down by the river in Possum Hollow. The preacher immerses

Bonnie and she is "saved" from mortal damnation. However, when Minnie glances at Emma' s

son, she slips from the hands of the preacher as well as slips from baptismal saving grace. In the

eyes of her community of onlookers, Minnie' s lack of salvation leaves her with the stain of the

original sins of her mother. The ill-timed presence of Emma' s son riding a horse through the

baptismal waters fails to evoke any community scorn. However, Minnie's questionable "baptism

was the subj ect of many discussions for years afterward, especially when Minnie herself later

became the chief subject of talk in the community" (64). Lumpkin implies that Minnie' s lack of

a maternal bond also indicates a lack of a mother' s moral training. Minnie reenacts her mother' s

fall from patriarchal religion's grace when she, too, abandons her infant. Minnie's lack of a

mother also implies her lack of the social ability be a part of the maternal caretaking within her

female community.

However, Minnie's lack of a maternal influence and her social alienation from her rural

community serve as Emma' s lesson to Bonnie in female solidarity when Minnie conceives a

child of unknown paternal origin. As a social pariah bearing an illegitimate child, Minnie is cast

out of her father' s home and left to fend for herself. Although rumor suggests several

possibilities which include both of Emma' s sons and Sam McEachemn as possible fathers, Emma

McClure believes that the possibility of the child being a McClure is enough to warrant her

embracing Minnie as family. Emma takes Minnie into the already overcrowded cabin where

there is barely enough food available for the McClure family to survive.









Surrounded and supported by the McClure women, Minnie's reproductive labor is

contrasted with Emma's birthing experiences. Emma describes her own labor by saying, "Mine

all came hard." Lumpkin announces Minnie's labor and delivery a single sentence: "A few

moments after Ora arrived Minnie groaned a little, and there was a baby" (93). Minnie's ease of

labor suggests that the pains of childbirth appear to have very little to do with questions of

morality or legitimacy. Emma' s maternal embrace of Minnie suggests that acceptance by other

women who share the knowledge and experience of childbirth can ease the burden and the pain

for other women. The knowledge of the women who assisted in Minnie' s childbirth is the

knowledge of shared female experience where women extend their nurturing and caretaking of

children to the nurturing and caretaking of each other.

Lumpkin also draws upon Minnie's pregnancy and parturition to emphasize Bonnie's rite

of passage into womanhood as well as into a culturally-reproduced sense of maternal solidarity.

The onset of Bonnie's menstrual cycle and her surrogate motherhood of, and maternal separation

from, Minnie's infant symbolize the severe economic desperation that forces the rural families

out of their homes and into the mills. The menstrual event is narrated through Emma' s maternal

reflections: "Bonnie was getting older and it had come upon her. For herself, Emma could do

with any rags that came along, but for Bonnie she wanted the soft cloth. If she went to the store,

Hal Swain would probably give the cloth on credit" (author's emphasis 109). Both Bonnie and

Emma share the universal, yet unnamed, experience of "it." Despite the secrecy, mother and

daughter share an exclusive female experience through their mutual identification as

reproductive menstruating bodies.

In combining menstruation as both a shared female experience and an economic hardship,

Lumpkin illustrates a sense of social consciousness that is understood as an exclusively female










experience of economic desperation. Emma' s hope for her daughter' s economic future is also

revealed through their bodily functions where Emma wants to nurture her daughter as a woman

and provide a soft cloth to take care of a woman's reproductive cycle. Where Emma' s menstrual

and childbirth cycles are marked by rags and agonizing labor symbolizing poverty and pain,

Emma' s desire for a soft cloth implies her hope for a softer and easier life for her daughter. Yet

the link between mother and daughter is overshadowed by the need for more credit at the general

store. Lumpkin's representation of Bonnie's menarcheal event within the novel was

revolutionary, implying the possibility of female bonding through the shared experience of a

female coming-of-age ritual and the possibility of female solidarity through a shared

understanding of how economic desperation affects women' s bodies.

The economic desperation that finally forces the family to leave the mountain parallels

Bonnie' s separation from her nurturing role as the surrogate mother of Minnie' s infant. Shortly

after her delivery, Minnie leaves the supportive community of the women in the McClure

household, and Bonnie assumes the role of surrogate mother to Minnie's abandoned infant.

Lumpkin emphasizes a surrogate maternal nurturing: "Bonnie couldn't be budged from the baby

inside [the cabin]. She wanted to hold it continually" (94). When Minnie's father hears that the

McClures are leaving the mountains to work at mills located in the valley, he comes to claim his

grandson. Bonnie' s painful maternal separation is also parallel to the painful separation of the

McClure family from their land. In the silence that follows the grandfather' s request, Bonnie

cries out, "Hit's mine...I raised it. .. Bonnie cried all the way down the valley..." (139).

Bonnie believes the baby belongs to her because she was responsible for the caretaking and

nurturing of Minnie' s son. Similarly, the McClures believed in their ownership of their

inheritance because they, too, nurtured and cared for their land. The senselessness of the










separation of an infant from a nurturing community represents the separation of the working-

class from their livelihood, and Lumpkin posits the need for a return to a matemnal-based

solidarity as a viable model of caretaking ownership as well as activism for unifying a working-

class collective.

Grinding Bones and Making Bread from Maternal Bodies

Scarred by a maternal separation and a lack of rags for her menstrual flow, Bonnie' s

coming of age marks the turning point in the novel that symbolizes the economic deterioration of

an agrarian tradition. Out of desperation, the McClure family moves toward the industrialized

modernity of a mill town. Trusting in promises of high wages, education for their children, and

homes with electricity, the McClures journey to what Lumpkin refers to as the "outside."

However, the outside reneges on its promises, and Lumpkin symbolizes this harsh reality

through a child's fairy tale in which an ogre consumes dreams as well as maternal bodies.

Bonnie reads the grim fairy tale to the children, who are too young to attend school. What would

appear to be a nurturing scene of maternal caretaking in reality foreshadows the fate of the

millworkers: "And the ogre said, 'I'll grind your bones to make my bread'" (219). Since the

millworkers struggle to make enough money to buy bread, the ogre embodies the monster of

industrialization, which grinds their bones with low wages and physical exhaustion.

Lumpkin illustrates the ogre' s grinding wrath through Emma' s maternal body. In

sacrificing the health of her physical body through hunger as well as hard physical labor, Emma

develops pellagra and her maternal body becomes the sacrificial bread for the capitalist ogres.

While Emma works for wages to feed her children, protein for her is in short supply. She

deprives herself of nutrition so that there is more food on the table for her children. Lumpkin

illuminates how survival for the millworkers in the Depression era was a gendered hierarchical

structure with the bodies of mothers and children bearing the brunt of the brutality.










Lumpkin undoubtedly witnessed cases of pellagra and noticed that it struck maternal

bodies with great frequency. Contemporary medical studies now show that while young children

seem to be affected the hardest by pellagra, the bodies of female millworkers were ten times

more likely to succumb to this vitamin deficiency than male workers. This statistic implies a

hierarchical favoring of bodies when meat or dairy products were available (Hall, et al. 150).

Lumpkin reveals a traditional agrarian life pattern where men were engaged in manual field labor

and women worked in the home. Based on physical needs, men required more sustenance to

support their manual activity so the dinner table reflected a nutritional pecking order.

Additionally, most women favored their children over themselves in the division of nutrients.

The agrarian tradition of male privilege and maternal privileging at the table carried over into the

urban environment, and the bodies of the female millworkers bore the resulting pellagra.

Lumpkin contrasts the deterioration of Emma' s body with the maturing of Bonnie' s body

as well as with the development of Bonnie's maternal-based working-class consciousness.

Bonnie marries Jim Calhoun, who immediately departs for the war, leaving a pregnant Bonnie

behind to care for her invalid mother in addition to working long hours in the mill. Bonnie's

infant, Little Emma Calhoun, silently appears in the same way Bonnie appeared in the first

chapter, as a presence in the cradle. Bonnie "was soon up and waiting on the baby and Emma

together, and then back in the mills at her frames" (283). Inspired by her hungry infant and her

sense of justice, Bonnie confronts the mill boss and requests time off "to nurse the baby." Bonnie

"was so sure that what she wanted was a good and natural thing, there was no thought in her of

being denied." Bonnie's maternal request is not a request for privilege. She expresses her

willingness to "lose the money while the machines are idle." Mr. Burnett responds, "If I let you,

.. I'd have to let every young woman who's got a young baby do the same. And there are










plenty of babies in this village, Bonnie." Bonnie's anger is sparked and she responds, "And

plenty of them dies. .. It was the first time she had said such a thing to anyone in a long time,

and the first time she had spoken that way to one of the higher-ups" (283-284). Framed as

maternal consciousness and fueled by a sense of social justice, the resistance of Lumpkin' s

protagonist transgresses both the boundaries of gender and the boundaries of class. Lumpkin

dares a conscious literary expression of female resistance within a patriarchal culture as both a

reproductive consciousness and a social consciousness.

Bonnie's role as the maternal breadwinner is challenged further after Emma' s death when

her caretaking extends to her husband who escapes injury in the war but loses his hand in a mill

accident. Jim's health deteriorates along with his ability to function in the role of husband and

provider. Bonnie minimizes her husband's failure in his traditional role and states: "He had

become careless about everything, and uninterested. He had never been the best sort of husband,

but Bonnie understood him and had learned early not to expect too much" (315). Ironically,

Bonnie reverses the expectations of gender roles. When her husband fails to be a good provider,

she compensates by having lower expectations and working harder as a maternal caretaker and

breadwinner.

In contrast to Bonnie's maternal self-sacrifiee, Jim Calhoun subscribes to a separate

standard for survival. He is also the child of a single woman who was abandoned by her husband

and worked in the mills. The lack of a father also represents a lack of a model of paternal

responsibility, and Jim reproduces his father' s behavior pattern by abandoning Bonnie. Bonnie's

forgiveness and compassion for her husband are illustrated through the language of a maternal

reproductive body: "Loving was as natural to her as the breath she took into herself without

thought, so she had a child every year" (315). Lumpkin illustrates how many rural women









understood their reproductive destiny by equating sexual passion with "loving" and, inevitably,

with childbirth. Bonnie's perception of her reality is relational. Bearing the burden of a husband

who has been emasculated and crippled by both the war and the mill demonstrates her love as

much as bearing an infant yearly demonstrates her love.

After Jim Calhoun abandons his family, Bonnie demonstrates her resistance to cultural

traditions which closely parallels the historical resistance of the real-life Ella May Wiggins and

her subsequent death: Bonnie' s outward defiance of the southern tradition of race segregation

and her union activism ultimately lead to her death. At first, Bonnie's choice to live in

Stumptown, a predominantly African American neighborhood, is a pragmatic choice rather than

an act of defiance. In her position as a single mother, Bonnie no longer qualifies for mill housing

so she makes an economic choice to move into "a cabin that had been lived in by colored

people." Living outside of mill housing. Bonnie is further away from any community support

and again makes an economic choice where duringig the day, she left the children at home with

five-year old Emma" (317).

Like her mother and her grandmother, little Emma is culturally indoctrinated into the

reproduction of mothering and a sense of separation. Lumpkin illustrates the shared

responsibility between mother and daughter: "Each morning [Emma] rose at four, made her own

breakfast, and left coffee and a pot of hominy with flour gravy on the stove where little Emma

could reach them when the children awoke" (3 17). Yet in spite of the little Emma' s caretaking,

her infant brother dies. On the day Bonnie buries her child, she realizes that little Emma is still a

child herself. Bonnie makes another pragmatic choice and embraces the friendship of a "colored"

co-worker, Mary Allen. Mary sends her fifteen-year-old daughter, Savannah, to help Bonnie with

child care. Bonnie's relationship with Mary Allen and Savannah emerges as a climactic point in










Lumpkin's novel where Bonnie faces her own racial prejudice with "shame" and recognizes that

she, Mary, and Savannah share a matemnal-based bond. Lumpkin illustrates a mutual maternal

understanding that crosses the boundaries of race:

Bonnie's terror about the other children left alone had been made so much greater by the
death of one. And Savannah's presence during that week made her anxiety less. It was her
need to have that anxiety lightened when the new grave had just been covered up that Mary
Allen understood. (321)

Regardless of racial difference, Bonnie is supported by Mary Allen and Savannah because

Mary not only "understood" the loss of the child in the grave but also understood the terror and

the burden of maternal guilt for leaving the remaining children unattended.

The Allen women also understand that their own maternal roles are caretaking roles

without race or class. The support of the Allen women suggests the possibilities for a maternal

solidarity that can extend into a cooperative maternal-based activism where Bonnie's goals as a

union organizer also benefit Mary Allen and her family. Lumpkin argues for racial equality

through Bonnie: "The colored people work alongside of us, .. I can't see why they shouldn't

Eight alongside us, and we by them" (350). At a time in the Jim Crow South, when African

American families were one step lower than poor white trash, the "family" relationship that

existed among the workers at the mill was racially determined according to southern tradition.

Yet Lumpkin draws the millworkers together in maternal solidarity for the union cause. The

"Hight" is for something as basic as the human need to survive. Until the death of her own infant,

Bonnie does not understand that her relationship to an African American woman is an instinctive

bond of survival. The death of a child draws them both into a shared maternal experience where

a human act of charity crosses cultural barriers and illuminates a matemnal-based activism.

By entering Bonnie's home and offering service, Mary Allen's actions are not outside of

any racial boundaries because her act of charity originates from a position of servitude in










southern tradition. However, through Bonnie' s acceptance of Mary and the African American

community of millworkers and her physical presence within the African American neighborhood

where she and her neighbors share in a struggle to survive, Lumpkin reveals the revolutionary

possibility of racial integration.

When Mary Allen becomes a part of the mill's reduction of workers and is "given her

time," Bonnie attends her first union meeting. By the following week, Bonnie also receives her

notice of termination and she begins union organizing among the female millworkers. Like her

historical counterpart, Bonnie not only transgresses racial boundaries by making her home in

Stumptown, but she also transgresses gendered boundaries by recruiting as union members her

African American community of neighbors who also need a livable wage. Lumpkin represents

Bonnie's union appeal to her African American co-workers as a need for bread as well as a need

for maternal-based solidarity. Bonnie relates the shared bond of survival: "She felt a sympathy

for them, since, like her, they were poor and only wanted to make their bread..." (359). For

Bonnie the cry for bread is also a cry for worker solidarity across racial barriers.

Bonnie's cry for bread no longer mimics the teacher in the mill school who reads tales to

children about ogres; she fights the ogre of industrial exploitation who devours the bodies of

herself and her children and j oins the workers on strike at Wentworth Mill. Bonnie believes the

strike will defeat the ogre, and she listens attentively to the promises of the union organizer who

"had a message that was founded in the facts of her everyday life." The organizers promise

enough food and better education for the children. The strike organizers advise, "Be true to

yourself and your own, and you can't go far wrong" (340). Following the advice of the union

organizers to be true to herself, Bonnie writes her mill mother's ballad: "How it grieves the heart

of a mother/You everyone must know./But we can't buy for our children'/Our wagers are too









low./It is for our little children/That seem to us so dear./But for us nor them, dear workers/The

bosses do not care" (345-346). Bonnie's ballad reveals the truth for her and for her own children.

Bonnie's song inspires a mass walkout leaving the Wentworth Mill "almost empty of workers"

(348). Lumpkin's millworkers identify with the working-class solidarity that is born in the heart

of a grieving mother whose everyday life is rooted in maternal care taking.

Bonnie's next ascent to a union platform as a maternal activist revises historical reality

when Lumpkin's fictional Wiggins dies on the union platform rather than on the back of a truck.

In locating Bonnie on the union platform, she is located in a subj ect position and her death

reflects the silencing of a mother' s lament as well as the silencing of a reproductive body. As a

political agent, Bonnie delivers a message of revolutionary consciousness as she would deliver

an infant, as a labor of love. Although Bonnie dies, her message of maternal solidarity lives on

through the lyrics of her ballad. Inspired by Bonnie's message and martyrdom, the strikers

descend upon the fictional Wentworth Mill just as they did upon the Loray Mill in Gastonia.

Although the first shot of the working-class revolution was fired upon a maternal body standing

on a union platform, Bonnie's death reflects the martyrdom associated with death in childbirth.

Bonnie died giving birth of a reproductive social consciousness.

As a fictionalized representation of Ella May Wiggins, Lumpkin' s Bonnie McClure-

Calhoun demonstrates a model of maternal solidarity as she gives birth to social consciousness

and dies as the lyrics of a maternal ballad and the dream of working-class revolution live on. At

the end of the novel, Lumpkin implies the possibility of a working-class revolution by claiming,

thishs is just the beginning" (3 84). Despite the tragic ending, Lumpkin suggests that the story of

Ella May Wiggins is a story of beginnings. While Lumpkin was in her "Communist Phase," she

planted the seeds of revolution, through the militancy of the martyred maternal body of Ella May










Wiggins as well through the stories of the female southern millworkers in North Carolina.

Lumpkin depicted a maternal-based model working-class protest that inspired a social

consciousness across class distinctions. As historical testimony of female agency and subj activity

during the Depression era, the life and the ballads of Ella May Wiggins reflect more than just a

sentimentalized "Mill Mother's Lament." Grace Lumpkin invokes Wiggins' militant lyrics as a

millworker' s maternal cry for bread for hungry children, and creates To Make My Bread as a mill

writer' s cry for a working-class sympathy and a maternal-based solidarity.









CHAPTER 4
DOROTHY MYRA PAGE: WEARING THE RADICAL RED SHOES OF MATERNAL
SOLIDARITY INT GA THERING STORM: A STORY OF THE BLACK BELT

Maternal Memorial

Early in 1993, Dorothy Myra Page, a radical 1930s novelist, essayist, feminist, and

communist, was asked by her biographer how she wanted to be remembered. Page chose her

traditional gender identities over her political activist identities and said that she wanted to be

remembered as "a good mother and a good wife" (qtd. in Baker xxiii). Christina Looper Baker' s

biography, In a Generous Spirit: A First Person Biography ofhyra Page includes extensive

interviews with Myra Page, who shares her maternal experiences as well as her professional

experiences as a writer. Page's dedication to her children was also balanced by her dedication to

her career. Page told Christina Looper Baker "the woman who works is a much better mother for

her children. She is more a part of the real world they're growing up in if she takes her j ob

seriously" (Baker 174). Because she shared a sixty-six year marriage with John Markey and

raised two children, as well as living the tenets of her socialist ideology, it is clear that Page took

her all of her jobs seriously. Yet, Page's focus on the importance of her own maternal identity

offers a valuable insight into the characterizations in her writing. In 1932 Page privileged the

maternal identity of another working mother when she fictionalized the life and murder of Ella

May Wiggins in her novel, Gathering Storm: A Story of the Black Belt. Page recreates the

maternal body of Wiggins as well as the maternal bodies of the women who worked at Loray

Mill as political bodies invoking a traditional gendered role as a model of maternal activism that

would create a better world for working-class women and their children.

This chapter briefly addresses how Page's personal and political experiences both resist

and embrace tradition and inform her revolutionary writing. The balance of the chapter focuses

on Page' s fictional portrayal of the psychological and physiological experiences that shape the









lives of the female millworkers through her protagonist, Marge Crenshaw and a fictionalized Ella

May Wiggins. In recreating the lives of working-class women in a fictional Gastonia, Page

presents a viable model of maternal activism that inspires working-class sympathy and female

solidarity .

Page, like many other female writers of the 1930s, relied upon her own experiences as a

woman to write about the experiences of other working-class women. Although the working-

class feminine rhetoric of the early 1930s focused heavily on motherhood as debilitating, Page

and the other female Gastonia novelists viewed the maternal body as a political body. The

maternal body invokes the power of a traditional gender role as a woman's means of challenging

the social injustices of her real world. In Red Feminism, Kate Weigand uses the term

"maternalist style of activism" to refer to the recreation of traditional gender roles as activist

roles (5). In telling the story of Ella May Wiggins, Page relied upon the maternal body to

represent and reveal a model of model activism that not only inspired the resistance of the

working-class, but also inspired the sympathies of her readers' for motives behind the

millworkers' strike.

The real-life Ella May Wiggins was a mother, motivated by her concern for the survival of

her children, who actively worked for the unionization of the millworkers and their protest

against substandard wages and working conditions. Wiggins, inspired working-class solidarity

among the southern millworkers and evoked the sympathies of an upper class by invoking her

traditional maternal role in her ballad, "Mill Mother's Lament." She urged workers to fight for

higher wages because "it is for our dear children" (Page 336). Wiggins was a single mother who,

after she was abandoned by her husband, reclaimed her maiden name of May and fought for

better wages and working conditions. Wiggins lost her life on the way to a union rally in









Gastonia where she had hoped to inspire maternal-based solidarity among the workers who

would strike for their dear children. Her death inspired a wave of strikes across the Carolinas.

Although the strike at Gastonia failed, the Labor Defender dedicated its October 29, 1929,

edition as a memorial to Ella May Wiggins who would be remembered as a woman who died for

the cause of labor and became a "martyr for an organized South" (Salmond 156).

Six years after Wiggins' death, Page, pregnant with her first child, wrote an article for the

Labor Defender reminding her readers of the promise made in their 1929 edition, "We'll not

forget you, Ella May" (qtd. in Baker 144). On April 21, 1935, the same day that Page was

writing her memorial article to a maternal martyr, she became a mother, giving birth to her

daughter, May Markey (Baker 144). While Baker's biography attests to Page' s success as a

mother and wife, it also accurately attests to Page' s success as a radical voice of the 1930s who

dared to write about Ella May Wiggins as a good mother and a good unionist. Page also

remembered Wiggins six years later as a mother who gave her life for maternal activism as well

as for union solidarity.

Shield of Southern Tradition

Baker' s biography also reveals Page' s private journey toward her radical social

consciousness as a young woman, Dorothy Gary, whose goals went beyond marriage and

motherhood. Dorothy Gary's goals were so far outside of her family's southern tradition that she

adopted the pseudonym of Dorothy Myra Page to shield them from embarrassment and from

knowing about her affiliation with the Communist Party. Page asserts that throughout her life she

was a woman who was "held up by tradition and held by tradition" (qtd. in Baker xxiii, author

emphasis). Nonetheless, she transgressed those boundaries of tradition by challenging the

southern traditions of her upbringing in Newport News, Virginia, and embracing the new and

revolutionary ideas of the American Left through her membership in the Communist Party.










Page' s exposure to the real world of the working-class and southern tradition came early in

her life. As a child, she accompanied her father, Dr. Gary, a physician in Newport News, on his

house calls where he tended both white and black patients. Page's mother, Willie Alberta

Barham Gary, devoted herself to the traditional "obligations of white southern womanhood"

(Rosenfelt 248). Despite her more liberal upbringing, which permitted cross-class friendships

with the children of the dock workers, Page quickly learned that her family had more traditional

expectations for her. Her brother was expected to carry on her father' s medical practice and she

was expected to follow her mother' s example: marry, oversee the house, and produce children.

She resisted the family's expectation of marriage, broke her first engagement, and left Newport

News to attend West Hampton College, the women' s branch of the University of Richmond.

Discouraged from pursuing a medical degree, Page maj ored in English as an undergraduate

student, but her college experiences led her toward a doctorate in sociology as well as toward

leftist ideologies. As an English maj or, Page struggled with her writing and was advised to write

about the things she knew. However, what Page knew and experienced in growing up in the

South made her angry. Page she told her biographer, "I knew I wanted to write, but I wasn't

ready to write about the South" (Baker 38). Although Page could not understand how some

people in the South were held back from equality through gender discrimination, class

distinction, and racial segregation, she had no solutions to the social ills that plagued the South,

only resentment of the inequities.

Instead of writing, Page took a teaching position in Newport News for a year and then

entered Columbia University in pursuit of her master' s degree. In 1919, while studying at

Columbia, Page was introduced to working-class consciousness and the Leftist movement at the

Rand School in New York. There she attended lectures by Scott Nearing, who later befriended









Page and her future husband through their shared interest in the Communist Party. Page also

attended lectures by Anna Louis Strong, who presented her personal account of the political

changes occurring in Soviet Union. Page also met the radical labor reporter, Mary Heaton Vorse,

at the Rand School. At Columbia, Page was inspired to j oin the Social Studies Club, which led to

her political involvement in the strikes of 1919 as well as reaffirming her beliefs in leftist

ideology (Baker 45).

After finishing her master' s degree, Page worked briefly as the YWCA' s industrial

secretary at a silk plant in Norfolk, but she was forced to resign because of her outside political

activities. Page contends that "preaching unionism and socialism" offended the Board of the

YWCA as well as the "lawyer' s wife" and other "women [who] came from protected

backgrounds .. none [of which] had ever worked outside the home or had any real idea of what

the world was like" (Baker 52). Page was acutely aware that she, too, came from a privileged

background and had been protected from the real world. Despite her family's protestations, Page

moved north to work in the factories in Philadelphia and New York because she believed that

startingig at the bottom in a factory would help [her] to study the working people as one of

them" (Baker 54). Despite her efforts in menial sweatshop positions, Page discovered that she

could not transcend her privileged position. Unlike the workers at the bottom, Page did not

depend upon her salary for subsistence, and she could not communicate with her fellow workers

who were "foreign-born girls who spoke little English" (qtd. in Baker 56). Attempts to strike

failed because the workers had no other means of financial support and lacked the

communication skills to make their needs known. Page learned how the experiences of the

working-class were dramatically different from the experiences of the privileged class, and the










recognition of the growing disparities between the classes proj ected her toward her goal of

education for workers.

Page received a fellowship for doctoral study in sociology at the University of Minnesota.

In 1925, while in graduate school, she met and married John Markey. Page kept her maiden

name, Dorothy Gary, after her marriage. By 1927, both Page and Markey had joined the

Communist Party. Although Page admits to being more radical than her husband, she kept her

affiliation with the party hidden from her friends and family who were unaware of her work as

Dorothy Myra Page (Lane 158). It was shortly after their marriage in April that Page left her

husband in Minnesota to conduct her doctoral research among the female textile workers in

North Carolina. Page's sociological study on the behavior patterns of southern textile workers

was directed toward the attitudes of female millworkers about children and work. Page returned

to Gastonia in the summer of 1926 to continue her research, sharing a room in a boarding house

with a millworking mother and her young daughter. Living on the "hill" in mill housing and

teaching night school, Page was accepted by the workers; she gained better insight into the lives

of working-class women and the need for union organizers to accomplish worker solidarity in

order to improve working and living conditions for their families.

Radical Red Shoes

Although Page earned her doctorate in June 1928 with a double minor in economics and

psychology, the Great Depression and sexism thwarted her career opportunities at the university

level (Baker 92). She then directed her writing toward reporting on labor issues and the struggles

of textile workers, sharecroppers, and miners. Page's writing, like most reportage of the era, was

polemical and militant. Page believed that the Communist Party of the interwar era offered what

seemed to be a viable solution to the social and political ills that plagued the United States, and

her leftist views permeated her work. In reporting how the Soviet Socialist Republic was










designing a classless society, Page believed that she possessed a voice of advocacy through her

writing. In addition to her visit in 1928, Page lived in the Soviet Socialist Republic for a period

of two years where she worked as a full-time correspondent writing for the Daily Worker, the

.ambnrlllI Worker, Working Woman, and the M~oscow News (Baker 121).

In Russia, Page witnessed a system of socialized medicine that guaranteed sick pay and

granted women workers a four-month paid maternity leave, and she envisioned such a system in

the United States. Her faith in her vision was not only fostered by the Party, but it was also

inspired by the revolutionary changes she was witnessing in the lives of women who appeared to

be benefiting from the political and economic changes within the Soviet Socialist Republic. With

the changes in health care, Moscow's infant mortality rate had dropped 50 percent; under the

collectivist system, every family was guaranteed at least one room per person in apartment

housing that also provided child care and laundries (Baker 121-128). Only in retrospect did Page

discover that most of the Russian population did not enj oy the benefits of the socialist visionary

radical reform. Like so many other disillusioned leftists, she saw only what the Russian

government wanted her to see. Yet, under her pseudonym of Dorothy Myra Page, she presented

what she believed to be the truth as well as a viable solution for social injustice. Page also

believed that the political ideal of a classless society that embraced gender, race, and class as part

of a collective identity was still in its infancy; and with maternal caretaking, the political dream

could become a reality in the United States.

Page returned to the United States in 1934, ready to inspire social radical reform by

attacking the racism and sexism of the South that were so much a part of her own internalized

resentment. Page wrote about her own childhood discovery of racial segregation in "Beyond the

Color Line" which was published in Crisis (Baker 110). Page opened her story with the









forbidden friendship of a little African American boy named Tom, who just wanted to play with

a child who was white; and the story of Belle, the family's cleaning woman who could not

support her family on three dollars a week. Page ended the story with Ethel, who graduated with

honors from Columbia but could not get a job. Tom, Belle, and Ethel were all African American;

and the anger and shame of southern tradition poured into her writing (Lane 160). The story of

Tom's forbidden friendship plays out again in Gathering Storm as the forbidden friendship of

Charlie and Myrtle Morgan and Billy and Sam Crenshaw. Page also published .kidenrlll Cotton

Mills and' Labor as a non-academic version of her dissertation in the hope of appealing to a

working-class audience. .winrlrelin Cotton M~ills and Labor became the foundation for Gathering

Storm: A Story of the Black Belt and the underpinning of Page' s political vision of racial, gender,

and class equality.

Page was the most educated of all the Gastonia novelists, and her dissertation study

focused on the working mothers and their children, a topic that not only professionally and

intellectually stimulated her but one that had evolved from years of researching working mothers

and their children. In spite of its literary flaws and blatant didactics, Gathering Storm expressed

Page's vision of a collective and classless society. Her first novel accomplished precisely what

she had intended as a scholar, a teacher, an organizer, and a mother--the presentation of a model

of maternal activism that would inspire workers to j oin in this revolutionary vision. Of the few

reviews that Gathering Storm received in 1932, most criticized the novel as "too propagandistic"

or "political and agitational"; yet, one reviewer praised the Page's theoretical base as an

"understanding of one who has studied Marxism and Leninism" (qtd. in Urgo 74). Gathering

Storm did not garner literary favor with contemporary critics Sylvia Jenkins Cook and Laura

Hapke. Both concurred with the early reviewers and faulted the novel as extreme propaganda.









However, Page did not wish to be among the "partisans who pushed politics ahead of art" (Baker

1 16). Page's novel is an artistic expression of historical events evolving from her life experiences

as researcher, woman, wife, and mother.

On the other hand, Barbara Foley countered the accusations of her contemporaries by

recognizing some merit in Page's depictions of Gastonia. Foley equated Gathering Storm with

Clara Weatherwax' s arching!Ma~rching! as "offer[ing] more encyclopedic summaries of the

party program than do any other novels of the decade" (242). Gathering Storm clearly emerged

as Page's "encyclopedic" contribution to the Party's "Black Belt" resolution of 1928 in her

recreation of the atrocities committed against her fictionalized African American family.

Gathering Storm also emerged as Page's testimony to the gender inequities in the Depression era

South in the 1930s and her belief that solidarity would help create a better world for children,

regardless of race or gender. Foley also attested that unlesss we cynically refuse to take [Page

and Weatherwax's politically-based] testimonies at face value, we should acknowledge most

Depression-era leftists' fervent belief that altered relations between men and women would be

one of the most valued benefits of the 'better world' for which they were fighting" (245). The

female authors of the Left were not naive, but rather fighting with what Foley refers to as the

Communist Party's "visionary conscience" (246). Like so many other leftists of the 1930s, Page

was living the tenets of her ideology, and her vision of a better world was rooted in the socialist

ideals professed by the Communist Party. Page sincerely believed that the Communist Party

offered a cure for the economically-based race and gender oppression, and she wrote Gathering

Storm: A Story of the Black Belt as an artistic model of a better world made possible through

maternal activism.









In Gathering Storm Page's protagonists, Tom and Marge Crenshaw, are the two oldest of

ten children and already entrenched in the long hours for low wages at the Corey Mill in

Riverton Before he is sixteen, an angry and frustrated Tom leaves to find work in the North. In

New Jersey, he discovers that his African American neighbor, Fred, has also escaped the Back

Row. After some painful lessons about racial equality, Tom and Fred develop their working-

class consciousness, join the Communist Party, and become union organizers. At Marge' s

desperate request for help in forming a union, Tom, returns to North Carolina to help organize

the millworkers of the Corey mills.

Conversely, the social conscience of Page' s female protagonist, Marge, develops in the

southern textile mill towns as she shifts from mill to mill in her attempt to find better wages and

better working conditions. By the time young Marge reaches Riverton, North Carolina, she has

lost her grandmother, her mother, two children, and her husband to disease and lack of nutrition.

Marge is inspired and supported by her co-worker and fellow union organizer, Ella May, who

has also lost children and struggles to provide a healthy life for the ones remaining. Marge

Crenshaw and Ella May are drawn together in maternal solidarity by their desperate desire for a

living wage that would support them and their children and a union that would guarantee

equality for all regardless of race, gender, or class.

Although the character of Ella May does not appear until later in the novel, the story of

Marge's personal and political development parallels the story of the real-life Ella May Wiggins

and characterizes most of the female textile workers whose lives are circumscribed by their

yearly reproduction of another mouth to feed and the most meager level of subsistence. By the

time Ella May steps onto the union platform, Marge is at her side as a fellow union organizer and

another maternal voice of solidarity. When May is shot, Marge cradles the head of her dying









comrade. Although Marge becomes the primary caretaker of May's children, the novel returns to

the actual historical events, and the state removes the children from Marge's custody. Shortly

after the death of Ella May, Page again alters the historical facts and Marge, along with the male

union organizers, is arrested for the murder of the real-life police chief in Gastonia, Orville Frank

Aderholt. Released on the grounds of a mistrial, Marge departs with her brother for a union

conference in the North where she meets other maternal activists who are seeking a better world

for their children. Educated as a union organizer and affirmed by her socialist vision, Marge

Crenshaw emerges as a union organizer for the Communist Party and a voice of maternal

solidarity (374).

Maternal Legacy of a "Fightin' Spirit"

In Gathering Storm Page introduces maternal activism through an oral history narrated by

Ole Marge Marlow, the grandmother for whom the protagonist, Marge Crenshaw, is named. At

her fourteen year-old granddaughter' s prompting, Ole Marge begins her story at the point when,

as a young mother concerned for the health and welfare of her children, she tricks her husband

into leaving the mountains for the cotton mills. While Ole Marge's narrative relies upon maternal

concern for the future of children as justification for female activism, Page also positions the

grandmother as a model of maternal activism for young Marge. Living in rural privation, Ole

Marge listens attentively to the recruiter from the cotton mills who contends that "some of the

city folks heerd how bad off the hill folks was since the war, 'n they be studying' a way to helpen

you, 'n themselves at the same time. So they's building' the mills, 'n helping everybody all

around" (15). The recruiter implies that the growth of the textile industries in the South is a result

of the mill owners' concern for families rather than a concern for profit. He lures the mountain

families with a call for help that reflects a collective social responsibility for resolving the

economic ills that affect everybody. As a mother, Ole Marge is drawn into the recruiter' s rhetoric