magine being 14. You’re sitting in class, perhaps for the last time,
struggling to pay attention. You are aware that trouble is brewing
and your life is about to change as your family struggles to make
ends meet. The next day, you’re sewing clothes in a factory.
This is what happened to Jean Ressler, who, in 1941, was only 14 years
old when she was pulled out of ninth grade and introduced to factory life.
Her family needed money and got her a job working for Weldon Pajama
Company in Williamsport, where she joined her mother, both grand-
mothers and a great aunt as a seamstress. Legally, she was too young to
begin factory work, but the bosses “looked the other way” and she was
hired. “I was just the family member next in line,” Ressler said. “I took
the place of an aunt who was leaving because she was pregnant.”
Ressler’s is just one of the intriguing stories told
for “A Stitch in Time,” an ongoing art project cre-
ated by art professor Lynn Estomin to uncover the
history of the textile industry in Williamsport and the
surrounding area. “Williamsport is known for Little
League and lumber,” Estomin said. “But few people
know that the city was a major textile center.”
The tales were animated by Lycoming College
commercial design students and Estomin, who turned
faded photos of women in rows slaving over sewing
machines into lively videos with soundtracks written by the women
who experienced the work. Viewers learn how little women were paid
(during the depression, it was as low as $10 a week), what jobs they could
or couldn’t do (pocket-setter, yes, cutter, no) and what kind of conditions
they worked in (at one point, it was so hot, that the roof melted onto the
factory’s top floor).
A Stitch in
OF TEXTILE INDUSTRY
IN CENTRAL PA.
By Matthew Parrish ’06
F E AT U R E S
LYCOMING COLLEGE 2015 SPRING MAGAZINE
Williamsport is known
for Little League
but few people know
that the city was
a major textile center.
© Lycoming County Historical Society.