In her own words: Eleanor Roosevelt’s 1942 visit to Salisbury
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt described her two-day visit to Salisbury in the Aug. 15, 1942, installment of her “My Day” syndicated newspaper column, which appeared in newspapers around the nation.
WASHINGTON, Friday — Yesterday, in Salisbury, N. C., was a really busy day. In the morning, the YMCA arranged for some kind ladies to take me to see the town and one of the big cotton mills. The town of Salisbury has some beautiful old houses and the trees are very fine, which adds great attraction to many of the streets.
The cotton mill is one of the biggest in that neighborhood, known as the Cannon Mills. They employ some 16,000 people and have evidently been very enlightened in their dealings with their employees. I was told they had established a building and loan fund, and encouraged the ownership of house and land by their employees. If work is slack, the building and loan fund does not collect any payments during the layoff period.
They have a most beautiful building in which the YMCA and YWCA are housed, and they told me that this Y has the biggest membership of any in the United States. It certainly was being used by young people when we went through there. It is decorated in good taste, which they credit to the two Mrs. Cannons, who take a great interest in the activities of the Y’s.
Mr. Cannon told me that most of the work is done on a piecework basis, and outside of a few people in the day laborer class, the average earning power of a woman is $22 a week. In view of all this, which seems to meet high union standards, I was surprised to find that the mill was not unionized, but Mr. Cannon said they had always had remarkably good labor relations ever since his father had started the mill in ‘88 after the War Between the States.
I lunched with a group of ladies representing all the various women’s organizations, such as the Daughters of the Confederacy, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the women’s clubs, the Parent-Teacher Association, etc.
I spent from 2:00 o’clock on the campus of Livingstone College, meeting first in a general session some four hundred young colored people. I later attended their various commission meetings. At 5:30, the Mayor and I, with various other officials, reviewed a parade from the courthouse steps.
I returned to my hotel long enough to have supper. During this half hour, four of the National Youth Administration executives came to tell me of the successful training of both boys and girls for war industry on the North Carolina projects. At 7:00 o’clock I was back at Livingstone College and the evening meeting began at seven-thirty.
I just finished speaking in time to make the 9:35 train. A kindly crowd saw me off at the station and I signed, during the day, innumerable autograph books. I was still doing it from the steps of the train, until I decided I had better go to bed before we actually started for Washington.