By 1929, the Communist party had a significant presence in North Carolina. The party affiliated National Textile Workers Union started organizing strikes at textile mills to raise wages and improve conditions for mill workers. At Loray Mills in Gastonia, NC, workers walked off the job. Separate clashes with the police and strike breakers left the Gastonia police chief dead as well as Ella Mae Wiggins, a worker who had evolved into a leader of the strike.
Historian uncovers tragic fate of child labour 'poster boy' captured in haunting 1912 photograph
Giles Edmund Newsom was working at Sanders Cotton Manufacturing Co. in Bessemer City when Lewis Hine photographed him in 1912 as part of an expose of the working conditions of children. (records indicate this child died at age 18 in 1918 from spanish influenza)
Ella May Wiggins, textile worker, balladeer, and union organizer, was born in the mountains of Cherokee County. This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, http://ncpedia.org/biography/wiggins-ella
Exhibit at The SC State Museum on Springmaid Sheets - The daring and controversial ad campaigns that rescued a struggling textile business and made Springs Cotton Mills one of the giants of the industry
"Photos taken during noon hour, October 23rd, 1912, at the Loray Mills, Gastonia, N.C. They said they were working and went in to work. At night I counted over thirty children coming out when the whistle blew, and they seemed to be from ten to twelve years old. The Superintendent was much disturbed over the photos." Photograph and caption by Lewis Wickes Hine
[Whistle blows noon Opelika Cotton Mill. Smallest girl in photograph is Velma Smith a tiny little spinner with a steady job all day. I found her at home crying bitterly because her father refused to let her have any money out of the pay envelope she brought home. Mother said: "That haint no way to encourage children to work." Mother, father and several children work. Her mother admitted she worked here before 12 years old, and at Ella White Mill and one other city for about a year.