Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street Journal’

As a very new reporter for the Wall Street Journal, before I started medical school, I was sent to North Carolina to report on efforts to unionize the workers in large textile mills.  My visit took place well before the story of textile worker Crystal Lee Sutton made it into headlines; her part in the union’s work was dramatized in the movie Norma Rae.   No one could have predicted then that those huge mills would disappear, losing their market to overseas competitors.  Here’s my report, which was published on November 13, 1974, as well as an epilogue about the subsequent fates of the then-dominant American textile corporations.


Militant Mills

Textile Unions’ Fight To Organize in South Is a Tough One to Win

 KANNAPOLIS, N.C., —One evening last March, a deputy sheriff in this small, unincorporated town spotted Mrs. Robert Freeman, 50, at the side of the road, clad in her pajamas and clutching a beer can.  As the official story has it, Mrs. Freeman was drunk and was duly arrested; she was convicted of public intoxication.

Talk to her husband, though, and you’ll hear a different account.  Mr. Freeman, an organizer for the AFL-CIO Textile Workers Union of America (TWUA), says his wife merely stepped outside their home, spied a beer can on the lawn and picked it up to dispose of it, whereupon the deputy hauled her off to jail.  Mr. Freeman says she was refused permission to take a breath-analysis test.

“There’s no difference between Kannapolis and Moscow,” he declares in disgust.  “In fact, there’s probably more democracy in Moscow.”

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I wrote this article for The Wall Street Journal, where it was printed on July 13, 1973.

Women Have Changed, But Women’s Hotels Remain Quite Proper

By Karen Sullivan

This hotel—the Amazon—was for women only, and they were mostly girls my age with wealthy parents who wanted to be sure their daughters would be living where men couldn’t get at them and deceive them…

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

The “Amazon” is Sylvia Plath’s fictional tag for New York’s Barbizon Hotel for Women.  Twenty years ago, when the poetess spent a month at the Barbizon, budding models and actresses filled the hotel’s 686 tiny, pink-and-green rooms.  The hotel had a reputation for strict propriety (permitting no men past the lobby), and for past residents who’d made it big like Grace Kelly and Joan Crawford.

The Barbizon’s house rules haven’t changed since then, and neither has the room décor (a ballerina print hangs above each bed).  But today, most young women aren’t in the market for such demure monasticism.  As a result, the Barbizon and other women’s hotels are in deep trouble, casualties of a changing life style.  The young career women who once flocked to them have detoured instead to the freedom of their own apartments.

There are a half-dozen women’s hotels in New York, and two or three scattered in other American cities.  According to one New York accounting firm that keeps track of residence hotel occupancy rates, a typical women’s hotel is only 40% to 50% filled—a decline of 6% since just last year.  “The trend seems to be accelerating,” says Robert Leone, a partner in Laventhol, Krekstein, Horwath & Horwath.  “Some years ago, these places were operating at close to 100%.”

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