A podcast exploring history and culture through the collections of the Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University.
Ep. 2: Women in the Elizabethton Rayon Strikes
In the late 1920s, two German-owned rayon factories began operations in the town of Elizabethton in East Tennessee. By 1929, a huge strike was underway at both plants, with the women workers leading the charge. We examine a matchbook ad in our collections that launches us into the women’s side of the story of the Elizabethton Rayon Plant Strikes of 1929.
Our interviewee for this episode is Dr. Marie Tedesco. Dr. Tedesco is the director of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program at ETSU.
To watch period footage of the Bemberg plant, the 1929 strike, and company-sponsored events after the strike, click here. At 15:18 women strikers with Amerian flags are visible. Footage is courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives
May 1st marks the annual holiday International Worker’s Day, often referred to as May Day. Learn a little about the origins of May Day here.
Sources for the Show: Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd. “Disorderly Women: Gender and Labor Militancy in the Appalachian South.” The Journal of American History, 73, no. 2 (Sep., 1986): 354-382.
Tedesco, Marie. “Elizabethton Rayon Plant Strikes, 1929.” Tennessee Historical Society. https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/elizabethton-rayon-plants-strikes-1929/.
Music Credits: “Valantis” by Blue Dot Sessions, “Lumber Down” by Blue Dot Sessions, “Backed Vibes Clean” by Kevin MacLeod, Intro by Podington Bear.
Ambient Sound Credits: “Queen Street Mill, automatic loom starts and runs” provided by phonoflora, “Floor_trading5” provided by touchassembly, “women-crowd-1” provided by robinhood76.
From left to right: Marlene Dietrich in an ad for Bemberg stockings, another Bemberg ad for stockings.
Above: Women in an altercation with national guardsmen in the Gastonia Mill Strike of 1929. This North Carolina strike began in May 1929, the same month that that Elizabethton strikes were coming to a close.
Above: Dr. Tedesco with another item from the Reece Museum collections: A poster produced by the Bemberg Corporation detailing the rayon production process.
"Recollections" is a production of the B. Carroll Reece Museum, a unit of the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee. This episode was produced by Saro Lynch-Thomason, with assistance from the staff at the Reece Museum. Special thanks to WETS for the use of their studios.