Monday, November 19, 2018
A biographical protest folk song about the textile worker, union organizer and writer of labor songs and protest folk songs--who was killed during 1929 strike by Textile Workers Union in Gastonia, North Carolina.
Ella May Wiggins
Created union songs
Ella May Wiggins
Killed in Gastonia.
When Ella May was 10 years old
Her family moved from its poor farm
From the Great Smokies to a logging camp
Where she washed clothes in wooden tubs.
At age sixteen, Ella married
A logger named John Wiggins
She had a kid at seventeen
But then the heavy log fell down.
It fell on her husband, the heavy log
So no longer could he walk or find work
But into the mill went Ella May Wiggins
Her family, she now did support. (chorus)
Sixty hours a week, working as a spinner
In-between mothering more kids
Her injured husband, he started to drink
And finally John Wiggins disappeared.
For ten years she slaved inside the textile mills
And from sickness, four kids of hers died
No money for medicine, her wages were too low,
But the Textile Workers Union then arrived.
In Gastonia, North Carolina
Workers struck in 1929
The bosses shot down strikers and Ella May's songs protested
So the mill owners said that Ella May must die. (chorus)
Led by cops and motorcycles
Five hundred vigilantes
Attacked union members on the street
The union called a meeting to protest all the beatings
To be held on September 14th.
The road to Gastonia was blocked by a mob
Who shot at unarmed workers
Ella May Wiggins' breast was hit with a bullet
And at age 29 she met her death.
Two hundred workers marched behind her coffin
When they buried Ella May in rain
And the "Mill MOther's Lament" a song she did write
Was sung at the site of her grave. (chorus)