The most famous casualty of the Gastonia Loray Mill Strike
She was shot and killed by anti-unionist
s on September 14, 1929
. No one was ever tried for the crime.
Like thousands of other mill workers, Ella May moved to Gastonia from the Appalachian Mountains in search of a better life. Her husband had left in 1920, leaving her to care for their five living children (her other four children had died).
Ella May earned about nine dollars a week as a spinner
at the American Mill in Bessemer City, a mill known for its low wages. On September 14, 1929 she was riding in a truck of passengers on their way to a union rally in
South Gastonia. (A rally which was halted by the American Legion)
Her death was painted by the media as an accident, but mill workers were convinced that she had been killed intentionally.