Mary Phagan, for example, was just ten years old when she left school to work in a textile factory. Born in the town of Marietta, Georgia, she arrived in Atlanta with her mother at the age of 12 and found a new job in the National Pencil Company. Operating a device that put erasers into pencils, she worked 55 hours per week for 10 cents an hour.
Phagan visited the factory at about midday on April 26, 1913, to collect her paycheck of $1.20. It was Confederate Memorial Day and she was planning to go to a party at her neighbor’s house in East Point. She never made it to the gathering, however. And what happened next sent the state of Georgia into turmoil.
During his shift as the factory’s night guard, at around 3:00 a.m. on April 27 Newt Lee stumbled across Phagan’s dead body. He found it close to an incinerator in the basement. It was bruised, scratched and covered in filth. A wrapping cord was buried one quarter of an inch deep in Phagan’s neck. Her underwear was torn and bloody.