As I get information on bloggers or articles from those who were either The Help or children of those who were The Help, I’ll post them here.
The blog is Phillis Remastered and the post is titled Chocolate Breast Milk- A Review of The Help
“. . . For me, it was summer, circa 1976, and my family and I were visiting my mother’s mother, Grandma Florence. My sister Sidonie, several cousins and neighbors, and I decide we would integrate the White pool in Eatonton, Georgia. Bolstered by my mother’s donation of 50 cents for each child, we begin to walk across the railroad tracks.
We arrived at the pool, which we discovered was nearly three times the size of the pool we’d been swimming in. As soon as we placed our small Black bodies in the pool, the White children got out, but after a few minutes, one decided to get back in. The little girl spoke to me; she was about 3 or 4 years older.
“You’re related to Florence, aren’t you?” she asks. “You look just like her.”
I had never heard my grandmother’s name without a handle on it. “I am Mrs. Florence James’ granddaughter,” I said.
“Oh, I just love Florence so much! She used to clean house for us. When you go home, tell her ‘Miss Sally’ says ‘hey’.”
I talked to the little girl for a while, not really because I wanted to, but because I wanted her to notice that I kept stressing that my grandma should have a “Mrs.” in front of her first name. I used my most proper tones, but the little girl never took the hint.
This was my first experience with the figure of the Black Mammy, someone who belonged to her employers, whose love is assumed, even required. She doesn’t work for a paycheck. The money is incidental; the real compensation is her pure joy in laboring for her White employers. But she can never be an equal, even to a child. And she was my blood.
I’ve thought on that sunny afternoon many times. I was a child who’d been raised with a sense of my own middle-class entitlement, but in a few seconds, that girl stripped me of that, and reminded me of what my place was supposed to be–beneath her. She didn’t mean the slightest bit of harm, but she harmed me anyway. ”
This next blog is called The Ladner Report and the post is titled No thanks Kathryn Stockett, I don’t want to be “The Help”
“There is nothing glorious about cleaning up after dirty people and nothing like being exploited by people who don’t give a damn about you. I have written about this in my memoir that I am almost finished writing. Maids are invisible and their lives are invisible to their white employers. When I was fourteen, I quit a job when the white girl who was my age DEMANDED that I wash her blood stained underwear from her menstrual period. When her mother came home from work she told her that I refused to do so and her Mother lit into me saying I thought I was too good to wash these clothes. Before I left that day I made sure that the pancakes Jo Lee demanded that I make for her included dirty dishwater instead of water or milk, and I fried them with the ring of grease around their nasty kitchen sink instead of lard. Jo Lee praised me for making what she described as the best pancakes she’d ever eaten.”
The blog is called Before Barack and the post is titled Sniffing Dirty Laundry: A True Story from “the Help’s” Daughter
“Have you ever thought about the fact that the woman you call ‘Odessa’ was the same woman my friends called ‘Mrs. Singley’? That she supported a family on the six dollars and bus fare (fifty cents round trip) your Grandmommy was paying her? That the woman you call your ‘best friend’ was forty years your senior and had another whole life of dignity, hopes, and dreams that had nothing to do with being in service to you and Grandmommy? That maybe “Odessa” didn’t like you as much as felt sorry for you because you were the baby of the family, the one your brother and sister slapped around, the one they were always leaving behind? You ever thought of that?”
Wedding Princess is silent, so I continue.
If you know of another true life story, please let me know so that I can include it here. It’s important that these voices be heard
‘The Help’ Stirs Memories and Debate About Life in Segregated South
Voices from the past:
“It is not only the long hours, the small pay, and the lack of privacy – we often have to share a room with the children – that we maids find hardest to bear. It is being treated most of the time as though we are completely lacking in human dignity and self- respect. During my first year at this work I was continually hopeful. But now I know that when I enter that service elevator I should park my self-respect along with the garbage that clutters it. Self- respect is a luxury I cannot retain and still hold my job.”
You can read more about Naomi Ward’s first person account here
To be continued . . .