Trouble at the Shirt Factory

July 29, 1899


A shirt factory that employs many black women does not live up to its promises, leaving the women overworked and underpaid, so many quit.


Colored Girls Find That They Cannot Win There.
Too Little Money.
Over Two-Thirds Leave on Pay Day.
New Ones Come In, But Not Enough To Fill Vacancies.
The Old Dominion Shirt Co., opened a branch of its factory at 727 North 3rd St. Sewing machines were put in place and run by a 7-horse power gas engine. At its main factory in Manchester, Va., it had much trouble with the white girls on account, it is alleged, of the low wages paid.
In this case however, it was advertised that girls could make from $3 to $6 per week, and it was but a short time before 250 colored girls had registered their names although only from 40 to 60 were needed.
The establishment has been running about three weeks or more and the girls became restless as to the amount of compensation. They were given books in which were placed the result of their labor.
On Saturday last they got an idea of how much they would be paid, which was 3 ½ cents for sewing twelve pair sleeves, one cent per dozen for hemming and six cents for making one dozen shirts, the patterns being cut out before hand.
As a result of this on Monday for two and three weeks’ work some of the girls received from 80cts. Up to $1.60, a few received as much as two dollars.
Tuesday morning, out of over forty girls employed, not over ten or twelve reported for work. New ones were sent for and the number on Wednesday last increased to about twenty, but there are as many vacant spaces at the machines.
The hours of work were from 7 o’clock to half past five, one half hour being allowed for lunch.
About this article

Location on Page

Upper Left Quadrant


Contributed By

Elias Sturim


“Trouble at the Shirt Factory,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed September 29, 2023,