Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 114 / Number 3
'I have . . . a lot of work to do': Cotton Mill Work and Women's Culture in Matoaca, Virginia, 1888–95
- Beth English, pp. 356–83
This article is a study of a late-nineteenth-century working women's culture in Matoaca, Chesterfield County. The correspondence between Anthelia Holt, a white textile mill worker at the Matoaca Manufacturing Company, and her friend Lottie Clark, who lived in neighboring Amelia County, reveals the contours of the culture that existed among a community of women who were part of the first generation of female millhands in the New South. For Matoaca's women, the worlds of factory and farm intersected. These women were grounded in traditions of work and recreation, values, and networks of mutual aid and assistance that were normative in rural communities throughout the region. But within the context of their industrial reality, Matoaca's mill women gave them new meanings and fashioned them to function according to the dictates and regimens of factory work. The dynamics that shaped the lives of Matoaca's mill women were at work in textile mill villages throughout the South during the late nineteenth century. Ultimately, the culture that southern female mill operatives were active agents in shaping, largely defined their lives both as women and as workers, and it underpinned bonds of commonality and solidarity among female millhands in the twentieth-century textile South.
• Index to Volume 114