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Tobacco: Labor Issues in Tobacco Processing

Subject: Eighth-grade, Social Studies
Written by:
Seth Brown and Sam Newell, Pitt County Schools, Greenville, NC

Lesson Plan Format


Students will identify different job classifications in a tobacco company using the Export Leaf Tobacco Co. (Greenville, NC). From this students will determine the typical sex and wage rate of tobacco production employees in the early 20th Century. Students will determine the impact of gender on wage earning potential.



Competency Goal 5: The learner will evaluate the impact of political, economic, social and technological changes on life in North Carolina from 1870 to 1930.

Objective 5.01: Identify the role played by the agriculture, textile, tobacco, and furniture industries in North Carolina, and analyze their importance in the economic development of the state.

Skill Competency Goal 2: The learner will acquire strategies to access a variety of sources, and use appropriate research skills to gather, synthesize, and report information using diverse modalities to demonstrate the knowledge acquired.

Objective 2.02: Explore print and non-print materials.

Time Required for Lesson:
One class period.

Materials/Supplies Needed:
Access to the Internet and the Eastern North Carolina Digital History Exhibits; pencils and paper.

Recommended Digital Resources:

Export Leaf Tobacco Co. (Greenville, NC) Payroll Sheets, 20 November 1914 (

Lesson Plan Format

Focus and Review:
The teacher will explain that tobacco production has changed considerably with technological advances. In the late 19th / early 20th century, the complicated processing of tobacco involved a variety of skills. The teacher will describe some of the jobs and get students to predict which gender would most likely hold that job.

Statement of Objectives/Inquiry Formation:
To analyze tobacco production jobs to determine if gender discrimination existed in the tobacco industry in the early 20th century.

Teacher Input:
Teacher will demonstrate how to navigate the Eastern North Carolina Digital History Exhibit web page ( Students will click on the Tobacco Exhibit link; click on the Records/Photos Link; click on 14 November 20 - Export Leaf Tobacco Co. (Greenville, NC) Payroll Sheets link. The teacher will need to point out the list of 24 jobs included on the payroll sheet. The teacher can describe the jobs that logically require skills and are paid accordingly.

Individual Activities:
Individually or with a partner, students will create a chart listing the jobs, sex, and wage of tobacco production employees.

Fireman M 12.35 wk
Hanger F 4.20 wk
Cooper M 15.25 wk
Toilet Attendant F 4.20 wk

Group Activities:
After creating their charts, the teacher can lead the group in a discussion of what assumptions they can make about the information they collected. The challenge is to determine if job availability was influenced by gender and what impact that had on the wage earned.

Reflection and Closure:
Students will write a paragraph describing the limitations imposed by gender in early 20th century tobacco job markets. What does this mean for women of that time period compared to women today?

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Page Updated 01 September 2004
2003-2004, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University