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Highlights from Women's History Manuscript Collections at the Rubenstein Library: Business & Labor

Business & Labor Overview

Image of the publication, Work Clothes for Women
These collections document women's contributions to the work force as laborers, entrepreneurs, and organizers. Included are the papers of individual women who were successful in various businesses and professions; plantation, business and corporate records which can be used to study the social history of working women; and records of individuals and groups influential in organizing or educating women workers.

Textile Mill Records

Administrative files, financial ledgers, and production records of mills can contain information on wages and working conditions of the mills' labor force which included a large percentage of women. Timebooks give names, wages, and hours of workers and administrative files may contain information on hiring practices, accident reports, and layout of the plant facilities. Examples of collections containing information on mill workers include:

Durham Hosiery Mills Records, 1887-1962
Durham, NC.

Duff Green Papers, 1817-1894; (bulk 1822-1875)
Falmouth, VA.

Leward Cotton Mills Records, 1881-1935
Worthville, NC.

May McEwen Kaiser Company Records, 1913-1948
Burlington, NC.

Royal Cotton Mill Company Records, 1899-1954
Wake Forest, NC.

William Alexander Smith Papers, 1765-1949
Ansonville, NC.

18th Century Collections

Elizabeth Lucas Pinckney Papers, 1741-1763
York Co., SC. Promoter of indigo culture in South Carolina. Included are a letterbook containing both personal and business correspondence, legal papers, and land surveys. 

Elizabeth Stephenson Papers, 1784-1801
Hereford, England. Chiefly letters from Stephenson to her brother William, describing her life as a domestic servant in the service of Abraham Whittaker of Lyson House.

19th Century Collections

Mary G. Franklin Papers, 1842-1855
Cherokee Co., GA. Businesswoman. Account book, 1847-1855, kept by Franklin, a widow, concerning a gold mine, sawmill, farm, water-powered mill, and a coal and slate mining business begun by her on a 40-acre lot on the Etowah River which she won in the gold lottery of 1832. Included are entries for work done by hired hands and slaves; work by both women and men is recorded. Second volume includes an account ledger kept by Franklin's son and copies of letters by Ophelia Yearby.

Elizabeth Graves Diaries, 1824-1839
London, England. Domestic worker. Correspondence, journals, and poetry documenting a young servant's travels throughout Europe and the Mediterranean with her employers. Contains detailed descriptions of local customs and a running commentary on the activities of the wealthy class.

George Nelson Hill Papers, 1869-1879
Brunswick Co., NC. Farm account book includes entries for women laborers.

Betsy Lineberry Ledger, 1848-1867; (bulk 1850s)
Wilmington, NC. Seamstress. Account ledger recording type of work, materials and fabrics used and payment received for her sewing, as well as other miscellaneous accounts and inventories.

20th Century Collections

Alliance for Guidance of Rural Youth Records, 1887-1963; (bulk 1914-1946)
Richmond, VA. Official correspondence, minutes, speeches and writings, financial statements, research data and photographs of a vocational guidance agency led by educator and social reformer Orie Latham Hatcher. Included are records from predecessor agencies, the Virginia Bureau of Vocations for Women, 1914-1919, and the Southern Women's Educational Alliance, 1920-1936, which document research on women's occupations and training and efforts made to provide vocational guidance to rural girls and college women in the South. Records also document Hatcher's career as a pioneer in vocational guidance research and service and her work with other women's organizations such as the American Association of University Women and the National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs.

Congress of Industrial Organizations Records, 1909-1957
NC, SC, TN, VA. Records of the CIO's Industrial Union Councils, Organizing Committees, Political Action Committees and Publicity Departments for various states contain correspondence, subject files, financial papers, pamphlets, petitions, serials, speeches, and clippings that document the organization's administration and activities in procuring and disseminating information on political issues as well as efforts in organizing and educating workers in Southern industries. Materials contain general information on women in industry as well as information on organizations and unions in which women play a major role such as the Textile Workers Union, the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural, and Allied Workers Union, the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau, the Southern Summer School for Women Workers in Industry, and the Highlander Folk School.

Josephine Napoleon Leary Papers, 1873-1987
Edenton, NC. African American barber, businesswoman, and property owner. Collection contains correspondence, legal and financial papers, maps, architectural drawings, photographs, newspapers, and miscellaneous items of Leary and her daughter Clara Ryan, and other family members.

Hattie E. Ross Papers, 1894-1909
Charlotte, NC. Account book, receipts, memoranda, a letter, clippings, mostly 1901-1909, that primarily record household accounts, especially expenditures for food, goods, and services. Includes payment to black men and women for work in the house and on the grounds. Members of the extended family are occasionally included in the records.

Fannie B. Rosser Papers, ca. 1860-1973
Durham, NC. Black businesswoman. Employed by North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company for 32 years, Rosser acquired several pieces of rental property in Durham and her hometown, Lynchburg, VA. Legal and financial papers document rental and maintenance of the properties; personal loans to individuals; and her investments in stocks and government bonds. Correspondence also relates to rental property but is chiefly personal and contains several letters to foster-daughter Mattie Meyers, who was a leader in the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP. Photographs of family date back to the mid-1800s.

Clydie Fullwood Scarborough Papers, 1919-1984 and undated
Durham, NC. Chiefly personal and professional papers of Clydie Scarborough, manager of the Scarborough Nursery School in Durham for over fifty years. Includes scrapbooks, clippings, printed material, and photographs relating to the nursery school. Also letters from her husband, John Clarence Scarborough (1877-1972) founder of the black Scarborough-Hargett Funeral Home in Durham, her mother, family photographs, and other genealogical information about the Fullwood family.

Southeast Women's Employment Coalition Records, 1868-1991; (bulk 1981-1990)
Restricted. Founded in 1979, the Coalition's primary concern was expanding the limited employment opportunities for women in the rural South. Correspondence, project files, research files, subject files, personnel records, legal and financial records, photographs, video and audio tapes, and publications document the organization's activities from its inception to its demise. Project files document various programs designed to challenge institutional discrimination, open up jobs for women and people of color, support women organizing to improve working conditions, and help women develop the skills necessary to control their own economic circumstances. Administrative files include minutes of board meetings, grant proposals, mailing lists, and internal memorandum which show how the organization was run.

Ruth Elizabeth Newton Underwood Papers, 1926-1942
Atlanta, GA. Correspondence, minutes, financial papers, reports, and pamphlets relating to the Southern Conference on Women and Children in Industry which Underwood chaired.

Amber Arthun Warburton Papers, 1917-1976; (bulk 1947-1963)
McLean, VA. Teacher, librarian, New Deal administrator. Correspondence, financial statements, writings, interviews, research reports, printed materials, photographs, diaries, and scrapbooks comprising Warburton's personal and professional papers. The bulk of the collection consists of the records of the Alliance for Guidance of Rural Youth, 1946-1963, of which Warburton was the executive secretary. Also included is material for other organizations and institutions such as Brookwood Labor College, Columbia University, Southern Summer School for Women Workers in Industry, Spelman College, Atlanta University, Affiliated Schools for Workers, and the U.S. Children's Bureau. Topics include workers in the North and South during the 1920s; workers' schools and training unemployed teachers in the 1930s; and migrant farm laborers in the South.

Isabelle Perkinson Williamson Papers, 1885-1930; (bulk 1909-1930)
Charlottesville, VA. Papers of Williamson and her mother, Isabelle Holmes Perkinson, including letters to Perkinson from former students of the University of Virginia who patronized her boardinghouse; notes and bills reflecting frequent financial difficulty; letters from Williamson to her mother while attending the Georgetown Visitation Convent, Washington, DC, visiting the Panama Canal Zone, and working in the Navy Department in Washington, 1913-1917. Additional correspondence relates to World War I, early moving pictures, life during the Roaring Twenties, and the beginning of the Depression.