Please let me introduce myself by saying I'm Mrs. Edna Martin (formerly Edna Lassiter). I'm married to Leonard Martin. We are natives of Rockingham, N.C. My husband and I were employed in the Pee Dee cotton mill. When there were problems of unions coming in and the majority of the workers were opposed to the union, the textile plants, most of them closed down or either operated on a small scale. These were the reasons we left Rockingham and came to Salisbury, where my husband found work in another textile plant. Due to the fact we had nine children, I was compelled to stay home to care for the children, with working now and then in a department store.
My husband and I were married in Rockingham in the year 1934, which was in the midst of the Great Depression. Hoover was president at the beginning of the Depression, then in 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt took office and took on the great responsibility of trying to get our nation back on its feet again, and I must say he did a good job especially considering his handicap.
In 1934 many people were cold, children undernourished, milk for babies was rationed, farmers had no money to buy seeds for crops and many, many more disastrous things occurred. Textile workers, including my husband and inlaws, were working only two days a week, with wages nearly nothing. There were rumors and talk among the elders and workers that something had to be done.
So I, too, was much concerned, and though being only 15 years of age but was a wife whose husband was not making enough for us to survive on, I decided to write a letter to President Roosevelt about the serious conditions of our nation and the effect it was having on our people. I asked him to please come to our rescue and with the people's help, let's get the wheels rolling again and the nation back on its feet. I waited to write this letter to FDR after my family had left for work that day. I didn't want them to know I had anything to do with it.
I was overwhelmed and delighted, though, when I received a personal, hand-written response from the president in just a few short days, assuring me he would look into the matter, and send investigators to help remedy the problems. In two weeks' time his men, two of them, came all the way from Washington to the textile mills and the one called Pee Dee No. 2 plant where my family were working, and asked questions and made suggestions to the employes about better working conditions, and the investigators wanted to meet the one who had sent the letter to the president. But no one knew, for I had not even told my family about writing it; neither had I told them of the response I had received from him. I received the president's response after my family had gone to work that afternoon in the mill. I opened it, read the contents, then tore it up and threw it in the trash can. I was very shy and thought if I told them they would laugh or make fun of it, or perhaps not even believe it.
Anyway, Leonard (my husband) told me of the men checking out the situations and working conditions of the employes, and said they wanted to know who wrote the letter and wanted to meet the one responsible. But Leonard said no one knew anything about it. So the two men returned to Washington, not ever knowing it was I who wrote the letter of request to the president.
Then I took the pieces of the letter I had received from Roosevelt, put them back together and let Leonard and my in-laws read it. They were very astonished and hardly believed their own eyes. I told them just not tell others about it, just to keep it a mystery. But now I realize how important it would be to let people know that it was I that had a small part in the improvements of our nation, back in the years of the Depression.