Washington, D.C. (7News) — A Washington, D.C man is honoring millworkers and the legacy of American working women in a monumental way through a one-of-a-kind statue that will be around forever.
For Jim Warlick, it’s a labor of love for six years in the making.
“I thought if none of the millowners are going to honor the mill workers, maybe the son of a mill worker should do it” Warlick said.
Warlick says his mother worked in the same mill for 35 years at the same sewing machine in Morganton, North Carolina.
Warlick owns White House Gifts Shop where he sells presidential artifacts and is a passionate history buff who traveled the country learning American history.
But for years, he found that millowners were honored but there were rare stories about those who worked in the mill.
“These people got up early," Warlick said. "My mother had to catch a ride to work and she didn’t have a drivers license."
It's moments like this that stayed top of mind in Warlick's mind when researching and building this project.
"Every morning before daylight, I would see her get in the car with three other mill workers," Warlick said. "I really sensed how hard she was working, she worked for $80 a week."
Warlick started a five part project that included dignity of work exhibition, dignity of work monument, worker testimonies, and the Mary, H. Warlick college scholarship (named after his mother).
“I don’t know why we don’t teach local history, we are so disconnected and it would really bring us all together” Warlick said.
Through auctioning several items including the second to last car JFK rode in the morning he was killed in 1963 – he raised the money to build a larger-than-life monument of the millworker to include his mother and 85-year-old Anne Ramseur.
“At this particular mill, I stayed 35 years and 10 months” Ramseur said.
According to the National Council on Public History, African-American women are rarely featured in U.S. monuments.
“You don’t see many Black people on monuments. I’m proud to be one of them,” Ramseur said. “I have two granddaughters- one is 9 and one is 10. When they come to visit my daughter and see the monument I think they are going to say - is that Grandma Anne? It’s amazing.“
The monument is called the Dignity of Work which features larger than life images of 3 people, one of whom is a Black woman - Anne Ramseur, now 85-years old, who was a millworker for more than 35 years.
“Most people on a monument have already passed and I am the only one in my family still living” Ramseur said.
Ramseur, who lives in Morganton, North Carolina where the monument is located – says she still cannot believe it.
“Words cannot express still how I feel and I find myself riding by looking," Ramseur said. "I might ride by at midnight who knows just looking."
The statue is 22 feet long and 10 feet high and weighs over 9,000 pounds.