Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Celebrating Women's History Month- Occupation: Weaver

Working girl: Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation. 

  My Great Great Grandmother Bessie Mae Eargle Price is listed in the census records as either having no occupation or keeping house until 1920. From what I can gather from family stories her husband Campbell "Cam" Price was constantly moving them from place to place as he looked for work. He worked in the Textile Mills in the Richland and Aiken County areas of S.C.
At one point it looks like the family was in Alabama as well.

Bessie's son Frank wrote the following about his family:

"In early 1917 they lived 12 miles out Percival Rd.  Campbell was working at Camp Jackson.  Bessie would take lunch for about 75 in a wagon.  She got food already prepared from the bakery."
  Reports of the families poor living conditions leads me to believe that Bessie was selling the lunches to the workers for money. I can't imagine that they could afford to feed the workers for free. It leaves me to wonder if she had other ways of making money as well even if the census reported "no occupation" or "keeping house". That was probably true of most woman.  

  The 1920 Census of Richland County, SC has Bessie's occupation was a Weaver in the Cotton Mill. Mill work provided income and a place to live. Each Mill had a "Mill Village" that provided housing for it's employees.
  Sometime in 1922, Campbell Price, Bessie's husband disappeared. The family story is that he just never came home one day. Bessie and her son's moved to Aiken County, SC, where the family was from, and in 1930 her sons are listed as working at the Cotton Mill there and Bessie is listed as having no occupation.
 Times were very hard on the family. By 1937 they had moved back to Richland County. Son Frank was killed when a train hit his car on the way home from work at the Mill.  Bessie was given monetary compensation from the railroad for the loss of her son. With the money she received she was able to buy a house where she was lived comfortably until she died in 1943. 

Bessie Mae Price
Bessie Mae Eargle
On Front Porch of Home in Columbia, SC-1942
© Cheri Hudson Passey

 A generation of Cotton Mill workers followed. Bessie's daughter, my great grandmother Beulah Mae Price Roberts (1897-1980) began working in the Mills in 1940. Beulah and her daughters, along with her husband and sons worked in the Textile Mills in North and South Carolina.
She, like her mother before her. had to travel where the work was. Beulah Mae Price Robert's death certificate says she was retired from Hermitage Mill Camden, SC.

 For more information about The Celebrating Women's History Month Blog Posts visit Lisa Alzo at
 The Accidental Genealogist

© 2013 Cheri Hudson Passey


  1. Women did a lot of work in those days to help with the family income.

  2. They sure did! Just as lots of women today.
    Thanks so much for reading my post Betty!

  3. The 1930s were really hard times. My uncle's family lost the farm and had to do sharecropping in 1933 until they got enough money to buy back the farm 10 years later. I've heard that the people who worked in the mills had it very hard. At least Bessie got compensation from the railroad!