Martyr of Loray Mill

Ella May and the 1929 Textile Workers’ Strike in Gastonia, North Carolina


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About the Book

Union organizer and balladeer Ella May became a martyr for workers nationwide when she was murdered on her way to a union meeting in Gastonia, North Carolina, at age 28. A mother of nine and bookkeeper for the communist-led National Textile Workers Union, May worked to organize fellow mill workers in Gaston County. Her efforts to organize black workers—along with her brash, outspoken manner—incensed the local community and she was shot by an anti-union vigilante group on September 14, 1929. Written by her great-granddaughter, this book tells Ella May’s story, including her involvement in the Loray Mill Strike, the largest communist-led strike on American soil. Her most famous ballad, “Mill Mother’s Lament,” reveals her motivation: “It is for our little children.”

About the Author(s)

Kristina Horton, the great-granddaughter of Ella May, is a public elementary teacher in Asheville, North Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

Kristina Horton

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 232
Bibliographic Info: 48 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9964-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2243-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Prologue: The Legend 21
1. The Beginning 27
2. The Mills 37
3. A Primed Situation 56
4. The 1929 Strike 69
5. The Music 130
6. The Shooting 147
7. Aftermath 156
Appendix: The Ballads 189
Chapter Notes 207
Bibliography 217
Index 221

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “excellent”—Appalachian Journal
  • “fascinating and recommend[ed]”—Northern Review of Books