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Steven J. Niven

the first woman executed by electric chair in Georgia, was born in Cuthbert, Georgia, to Queenie Baker, a sharecropper, and a father whose name is unknown. Little is known about her early life. If typical of the African American experience in southwestern Georgia in the early 1900s Baker's childhood was probably one of long working hours and low expectations. Indeed, it was in the debt-ridden and desperate Georgia black belt of the early 1900s that W. E. B. Du Bois discovered the Negro problem in its naked dirt and penury Litwack 114 In an attempt to escape from that world of debt and desperation Baker began working at an early age at first helping her mother chop cotton for a neighboring white family the Coxes Like other black women in the community she also worked as a laundress and occasional domestic for white families in town Despite the legacy ...

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Theresa Vara-Dannen

seamstress, washerwoman, and founder of a New Haven home for the indigent, first appears in public records as a resident of New Haven, Connecticut in a City Directory in 1848. Nothing is known for certain about her birthplace or her parentage. In 1848 she was listed simply as “Miss Hannah Gray, col’d,” of 5 Winter Street.” In 1850, she was boarding with two white women, but on the census form, her place of birth seems to be deliberately illegible.

Although little is known about her origins, it is clear that she saved money and generously supported Connecticut's Underground Railroad and “poor strangers from slavery” (Black Women of Connecticut, p. 31) seeking freedom. The Yale University Divinity School community patronized her laundry and sewing business. Over time she saved enough to purchase a modest four-room home at 158 Dixwell Avenue in New Haven. In the 1860 ...

Article

Alice Knox Eaton

religious figure, was born a slave in Morris County, New Jersey. Nothing is known of her family, but as a child she became the property of the Wheelock family of Hanover, New Hampshire. She served as a personal attendant to Maria Malleville, the stepdaughter of President Wheelock of Dartmouth College. When Malleville married William Allen in 1812, Jacobs continued as her servant, eventually moving with the Allens to Brunswick, Maine, when Allen became the president of Bowdoin College. After Mrs. Allen's death in 1828, Jacobs lived on her own and supported herself as a laundress for the students of Bowdoin College until her death.

According to the Narrative of Phebe Ann Jacobs, written by Mrs. T. C. Upham after Jacobs s death Jacobs became a devout Christian while living with the Wheelock family Upham the wife of the theologian and Bowdoin professor Thomas C ...

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Nicole S. Ribianszky

free woman of color, property holder, and washerwoman, was born into slavery in Natchez, Mississippi. The exact date of her birth is not now known. She was born to an enslaved woman, Hannah Frey, and to J. S. Miller, a white planter who lived outside of Natchez near the small town of Washington. Mrs. Margaret Overaker, a white woman, and her husband, George, owned Leiper and her mother. While Leiper was still a young girl, her mother was manumitted, but Leiper herself remained enslaved. Sometime around 1831, when Leiper was approximately twenty or twenty-one, she was freed, reportedly at the insistence of her father, who paid her owner $300. In 1834 or thereabouts, following the instructions of her white father, she was taken by boat up the Mississippi River to Cincinnati, Ohio, in the footsteps of her mother.

As was the case with ...

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Delaina A. Price

washerwoman and philanthropist, was born in Shubuta, Mississippi, the only child of Lucy McCarty, a homemaker. Little is known about Oseola's father, as her mother was a victim of sexual assault. When McCarty was a baby, her mother married Willy Zinnerman, a laborer in the turpentine industry. Julia Smith McCarty, Oseola's maternal grandmother, decided to raise her because Oseola's mother would be migrating with her husband to one turpentine camp after the other. These camps were temporary quarters where workers extracted pine tree oils for solvents and were known for crime and gambling. Back in Shubuta, Oseola McCarty lived on her grandmother's farm and learned the virtues of industry and frugality. By 1918 McCarty s grandmother had grown weary of cultivating crops and livestock and moved the family to Hattiesburg Mississippi Once in town her family started a laundry business McCarty attended Eureka Elementary School ...

Article

Donald A. Ritchie

a Pentagon employee who became a celebrated witness during Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigation of Communism in the government, was born in Chester, South Carolina. One of six children of Katie and Clemon Crawford, tenant farmers, she began picking cotton at the age of five. While in her teens, she moved with her parents to Salisbury, North Carolina, where she attended but did not graduate from high school. At twenty-one she married Ernest Moss, a worker at a tobacco factory in Durham, North Carolina. They had one son.

Moss moved to Washington, D.C., in 1941, where her husband took a construction job and she ironed at a laundry. In 1943 she became a dessert cook for the Welfare and Recreation Association which assigned her to the Pentagon cafeteria As a condition of employment she joined the Washington Cafeteria Workers union a local chapter of the United Federal ...

Article

Eric Gardner

litigant, slave, and laundress, was born probably in Virginia to enslaved parents about whom nothing is known. By the 1830s, she had become the slave of Lawrence Taliaferro, an Indian agent and a major in the U.S. Army. When Taliaferro, a Virginian who had transplanted to Pennsylvania, was stationed at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, he brought Harriet with him. There she met Dred Scott soon after his master, Dr. John Emerson, was also posted at Fort Snelling. Though such weddings were exceedingly rare, Taliaferro, also a justice of the peace, performed a formal marriage ceremony between Scott and Robinson in 1836 or 1837. After the marriage, Harriet Scott was either given or, more likely, sold to Emerson.

Emerson hired the Scotts out to various officers at Fort Snelling before he married Irene Sanford on 6 February 1838. After a brief period at the Jefferson ...

Article

Margot Minardi

Boston freedwoman, was born in Africa. Spear is known to scholars primarily through the Memoir of Mrs. Chloe Spear, written by “A Lady of Boston” in 1832. According to the Memoir, Spear was kidnapped from the African coast when she was about twelve years old. Her captors carried her to a slave ship headed for Philadelphia, where Captain John Bradford purchased her and took her to his home in Boston.

Bradford was a merchant and, during the American Revolution, the Continental agent for Massachusetts. The Memoir depicts him as a harsh master and Chloe as an obedient slave. For the deeply religious author of the Memoir Bradford s most reprehensible fault was his failure to bring up his slaves in the Christian faith Bradford also claimed that it made negroes saucy to know how to read Lady of Boston 26 When he discovered that Chloe ...

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Caryn E. Neumann

Chloe Spear was born in Africa. At about the age of twelve, while she was playing on the shore, she and three or four other children were captured by a band of white men who had hidden in the bushes nearby. They were transported to a slave ship for passage to the American colonies and arrived in Philadelphia. Too sick to be an attractive purchase, she went unsold at a slave market while her childhood companions were dispersed to various buyers. Eventually, a Mr. B. of Boston bought the young slave to serve as a household worker.

In this era the state of Massachusetts attempted to promote Christianity by forcing masters to rest slaves on the Sabbath Mr B permitted his slaves including Spear to attend church services for half of Sunday Like the others Spear lacked a strong enough command of English to understand the services The slaves ...

Article

De Anne Blanton

cook, laundress, and Buffalo Soldier, was born into slavery in Independence, Missouri. Nothing is known of her parents, except that her father was reported to be a free black man. At some point in her early childhood, she went with her master's family to a farm near Jefferson City, where she toiled as a house servant until the start of the Civil War.

Probably in the summer of 1861, when she was nearly seventeen years old, Williams fled the plantation and joined the large group of escaped and newly freed slaves seeking the protection of Union troops occupying Jefferson City. Within months she was pressed into service as a laundress and cook for a Union regiment, possibly the Eighth Indiana Infantry. She maintained that position for nearly two years, accompanying the troops on campaigns in Missouri and Arkansas. In the summer of 1863 Williams found ...