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On to Chapter 4



Frayser accepted, with mixed emotions, the necessity of seeking new employment. She felt pleasure at the prospect of another adventure but regretted leaving her beloved adopted state. She sent out numerous job queries. One of her applications went to the Children's Bureau in Washington. Julia C.Lathrop, the head of the Children's Bureau, had followed with great interest the work Frayser was doing in South Carolina between 1912 and 1917. She had even loaned a representative of the bureau to help with a short course at Winthrop in 1917.

In the spring of 1917, the problem of inaugurating the enforcement of the new federal child labor law faced Lathrop. Congress passed the law recommended by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. This law prohibited the interstate shipment of products from factories where children under fourteen were employed or children from fourteen to sixteen were employed more than eight hours a day. Congress designated the Children's Bureau to administer the law.

This first federal child labor law existed only

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briefly: it was declared unconstitutional in 1918. But in the short period in which the country enforced the law, policies were laid down and administrative procedures adopted which established a pattern for later national labor legislation, notably the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.1

Lathrop asked Frayser to take the position as Assistant Child Labor Inspector in Georgia, "since the work you have done in South Carolina will be an invaluable experience for the work to be done in Georgia."2

Frayser was to enforce the 1917 Child Labor Law and she had no way of knowing that the courts would soon declare the law unconstitutional. However, the law did move the social conscience of people so that some states soon passed more progressive child labor laws.3 This work was important to Frayser because of her love for children. She felt the work she accomplished in Georgia would eventually make life better for children. The law she helped put into operation would, within two years, cause nineteen states to enact legislation for children which would be better than the 1917 Federal Law and would be a part of a movement fraught with far reaching

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social good.4 When the child labor law was declared unconstitutional, Frayser was once again seeking employment but due to her excellent reputation she was not long in obtaining a new position.

From Georgia Frayser returned, in November 1917, to Virginia her native state, where she served as an extension worker under the United States Department of Agriculture. World War I raged on and Frayser's duties included organizing centers to teach food conservation and preservation. She also gave instruction on providing adequate diets despite shortages and on plans for growing victory gardens.5 In a report to T. A. Cary, local Food Administrator of Richmond, Virginia, Frayser wrote that she had been unable to convince the public of the necessity of learning to use food supplies sparingly. Their conception of the need to conserve was totally inadequate.6

While Frayser was in Richmond the 1918 influenza epidemic spread across the city and she helped organize a "soup brigade." Whole families were too ill to take care of

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themselves or leave their homes to seek aid. Frayser and others made and delivered over 100 gallons of soup per day to people in their homes.7 The conditions revealed while distributing the soup were heartrending. At some of the homes there was no one well enough to come to the door for the nourishment. In others all the adults were ill and the soup was received by a little child. For her service, the Federal Government awarded Frayser a certificate for "meritorious war service during World War I."8

Toward the end of 1918, Frayser resigned from the Virginia Extension position to become a field director of the Virginia Tuberculosis Association. In her acceptance of Frayser's resignation, Ella G. Agnew, Assistant Director of Home Demonstration in Virginia, wrote that Frayser had done a splendid job in arousing the women of Richmond in a way few women could have. Agnew had no idea where she would be able to find a woman capable of filling Frayser's shoes.9

Frayser served as field director of the Tuberculosis Association from 1919-1921. The work she pursued consisted of

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securing the interest of key people in the counties and arranging for free physical examinations by state supplied physicians to all who desired them. These clinics disseminated health information and stimulated interest which sometimes led to the employment of a county public health nurse and even health care units in counties without this service.10 In 1920, the Tuberculosis Association added the task of obtaining the interest of state school authorities in inaugurating health education in the schools to Frayser's duties. This work served as an entering wedge for health education in the elementary schools of Virginia.11

The clinics and health work must have reminded Frayser of the years she spent at Winthrop. She kept in contact with Dr. Johnson and the school through the Winthrop Weekly News, which was a "never failing source of pleasure" to Frayser.12 She also "longed for the sight of friends in the Palmetto State."13

Frayser's continued interest in Winthrop and South

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Carolina became evident in a letter to Johnson in which she made recommendations for South Carolina's specific needs and possibilities in regard to social service. She continued with an outline for courses and field work that would be needed to prepare young women for social service. She felt that graduates of Winthrop and other colleges were undertaking social service positions with only general college training. It was Frayser's thought that a Department of Social Service at Winthrop would help prepare the students for social work. If such a department materialized at Winthrop, Frayser wanted to be considered for a position in it. "It would bring me great happiness to do this work for you. I count the five years of my association with Winthrop as the richest of my life."14

In a later letter to Johnson, Frayser proclaimed how frustrated she was that his proposed Department of Social Services had not come to fruition. "It was a disappointment much greater than a personal one to me." However, she felt Johnson would ultimately get the department as the South Carolina legislature could never withstand him for long and

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the program would fill a real need.15

Although Frayser yearned to return to South Carolina, she also had questions about whether or not she wanted to continue in the field of education. In a letter to a long- time business friend, William H. Horton, Frayser wrote of being weary of the jealousies of social organizations and workers. Sometimes she wished she had taken his advice ten years earlier and had gone into business. She believed her organizational and administrative skills would have been in demand in the business sector.16 Frayser continued to struggle with which avenue her career should take. She did not know if she should stay in education and social service or try for a position in business.17

The area of education and social service would win out in the long run. Frayser went on pleading the cause of a Sociology Department at Winthrop to Johnson and in 1921, Johnson invited her to teach this subject during summer school. She accepted and offered courses in community

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organization, problems of child welfare, and vocational guidance to Winthrop's students. The favorable response to these new courses led to the introduction, in 1923, of sociology to the academic program at Winthrop.18

During the summer of 1922, Frayser was again teaching at Winthrop when she received a call from Alexander Long, president of four mills in Rock Hill and Chester. Long asked Frayser to return permanently to Rock Hill as a full time supervisor of social work at his mills. The work in the mill communities was to have the same characteristics as the service she had rendered between 1912 and 1917.19 Long also permitted her to take time off to teach the summer courses at Winthrop. Frayser could not have been more delighted. "Here I am back on my old hunting ground. I am having a wonderful time. Congenial work with delightful associations makes a good combination."20 Frayser's connection with the mills lasted until 1926 when the cotton mills of the state began experiencing a decrease in orders which necessitated a cut in operating expenses.

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In 1925, Congress passed the Purnell Bill authorizing Experimental Stations to undertake research in Home Economics. Dr. Samuel B. Earle, Acting President of Clemson College, wrote Dr. Johnson asking if Winthrop would be interested in cooperating with Clemson in this endeavor.21 Johnson replied that Winthrop would be glad to cooperate.22

It was Dr. Johnson's thought that Frayser would be ideal for the research position and he worked diligently to secure it for her. Although H. W. Barre, Director of Research at Clemson expressed some concern over Frayser's lack of research training and her hearing impairment, Johnson reassured him. He wrote,

I know her spirit and her preparation and her experience, and I have the utmost confidence in her. He further stated, that Frayser was a remarkable woman and he knew she could do the work they required. She knows the South and South Carolina thoroughly and I would not hesitate to endorse her for the position.23

Barre wanted to interview other applicants but Johnson was adamant. He knew what Frayser could do and had worked with

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her most satisfactorily. He preferred working with somebody he knew rather than to try a new person, no matter what her qualifications might be.24

Barre capitulated and Clemson offered the position to Frayser. She deeply appreciated the support Johnson gave her and wrote, "I look forward with keen pleasure to another term of service under your leadership."25 Frayser worked for the Clemson Experimental Station for twenty years conducting research in various areas throughout South Carolina. The studies carried out by Frayser included the social and economic aspects of rural home and community conditions. She wrote reports and bulletins on the findings from her surveys. Some of the areas Frayser covered in the bulletins, published and distributed by the Experimental Station, included the nutrition of pre-schoolers, the use of leisure time, the play and recreation of children, the libraries of South Carolina, the economic resources of rural homes, and the vocational desires of high school students. Social workers, home demonstration agents, teachers, and club women used these reports to develop programs that would help South Carolina

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Frayser's return to South Carolina in 1922 became permanent. She spent the rest of her life in her adopted state. She worked indefatigably through her associations with Winthrop, Clemson, and club women to bring about awareness of the problems facing rural families and especially the children of South Carolina. The surveys and studies she conducted and the bulletins and pamphlets she wrote helped club women and professional social workers recognize and address problems which required attention. Once problems were acknowledged, work could then begin on finding solutions for them.

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1Goldmark, Impatient Crusader, 115.

2Stackhouse, Frayser, 29.

3Stackhouse, Frayser, 30-31.

4Mary E. Frayser, Autobiographical Essay. [ca. 1929]. Frayser Papers.

5Stackhouse, Frayser, 31.

6Mary E. Frayser, report to T. A. Cary, 1 June 1918. Frayser Papers.


8Stackhouse, Frayser, 31.

9Ella G. Agnew to Mary E. Frayser, 5 October 1918. Frayser Papers.

10Stackhouse, Frayser, 31.

11Stackhouse, Frayser, 32.

12Mary E. Frayser to D. B. Johnson, 10 October 1919. Frayser Papers.

13Mary E. Frayser to D. B. Johnson, 17 November 1920. Frayser Papers.

14Mary E. Frayser to D. B. Johnson, 9 August 1920. Frayser Papers.

15Mary E. Frayser to D. B. Johnson, 17 November 1920 Employee Records.

16Mary E. Frayser to William H. Horton, 22 January 1920. Frayser Papers.

17Mary E. Frayser to William H. Horton, 6 October 1920. Frayser Papers.

18Stackhouse, Frayser, 33.

19Ibid., 34.

20Mary E. Frayser to William H. Horton, 10 July 1922. Frayser Papers.

21Samuel B. Earle to D. B. Johnson, 20 May 1925. Employee Records.

22D. B. Johnson to S. B. Earle, 27 May 1925. Employee Records.

23D. B. Johnson to H. W. Barre, 7 May 1926. Employee Records.

24D. B. Johnson to H. W. Barre, 17 May 1926. Employee Records.

25Mary E. Frayser to D. B. Johnson, 31 July 1926. Employee Records.

26Stackhouse, Frayser, 36.