Florence Greenwood: 214 South Ransom Street

Florence Greenwood occupied a unique social position in the Loray Mill village for several reasons. First, unlike many of her neighbors, she did not work in the mill itself. Instead, she served as one of the community’s many social workers. Second, she was an immigrant from England, an outsider among the majority of native southerners living in the Loray Mill. The combination of these two factors make Florence Greenwood a significant member of the Loray Mill village, especially since her occupation as a social worker entailed daily interactions with mill workers from the culturally-insular Appalachian South region.

Florence Greenwood as a boarder in the 1920 census

Florence Greenwood as a boarder in the 1920 census

In 1920, Florence Greenwood lived with other Loray Mill social workers in community housing owned by Susane H. Rabbins, the Director of Welfare, located at 214 South Ransom Street in the mill village. The building was her hope, but it also served as a center of community life. It contained a first aid room, showers, a various meeting rooms, and even a public kitchen. Women and children could come to the community building for educational or familial instruction, but it also served as a social club for male workers. Loray Mill administrators would even use the building for important meetings.

As a social worker, Greenwood was responsible for helping improve the family lives of mill workers. She taught household management skills, such as sewing, to single women and girls and tended infants while their mothers were at work in the mill. Her social worker colleagues also educated kindergarten children and taught adult workers at the night school. Although she did not work inside the mill, the Loray company was Greenwood’s employer. It hired social workers like her to improve the lives of mill workers which would hopefully make them more productive and more efficient. While social workers were successful in improving the lives of mill villagers, their occupation also demonstrates how the mill company had access to all facets of employees’ lives, including their domestic and family relationships.

Before 1920

Greenwood was born in April of 1888 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, to her parents William H. and Emily Greenwood, the youngest for their three children. She attended school as a child, though only finishing the eighth grade. By 1911, Greenwood lived with her widowed mother in Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire, England, as her father died sometime after 1891. 1911 was also the year Greenwood immigrated to the United States. Little is known behind her reason to leave her native England, but it could have been related to outbreak of World War I or access to economic opportunity in the United States.

Florence Greenwood in England's 1891 census

Florence Greenwood in England’s 1891 census

After 1920

Sometime after 1920, Greenwood left the Loray Mill village, living in Massachusetts in 1930. She might have moved to Massachusetts at the urging of her colleague Idaliah Provom, who was originally from Massachusetts. Greenwood and Provorn lived together in the community house in the Loray mill village, and the 1930 census lists Provorn as a guest in Greenwood’s Massachusetts home. In her new surroundings, Greenwood continued her occupation as a social worker, though she no longer worked with mill employees. After 1935, misfortune struck. Greenwood developed a mental illness, and by 1940, she was a patient at the Taunton State Hospital, an asylum for the mentally insane, in Taunton, Massachusetts. She remained there until her death in 1950 at the age of 62.