Browse Exhibits (5 total)

Beulah Collins

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Beulah Collins (1892-1986), the daughter of a tenant cropper, grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. After her husband died in the influenza epidemic of 1918, Collins moved first to Wilmington, Delaware, and then to Philadelphia with her newborn child. There she found employment as a live-in domestic, working for the Richard family of Chestnut Hill for thirteen years. Focused on providing for her child, Collins never remarried, but her son did get the education that she never had. Collins shared her life story in two interviews, recorded in 1983 and 1984. 



Ella Lee

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In this June 15, 1984 interview, Ella Lee (1891-1990) discusses her long and hard life in Georgia and Philadelphia. Recently widowed, Lee in 1929 moved from Jacksonville, Florida to Philadelphia, hoping for a better life and education for her children. In the decades that followed she did housework and laundry work in Philadelphia and New England. Unlike most of her African-American counterparts, Lee regretted the move north, stating “I would have done just as good” if she had stayed in the South.



Fannie Hutchinson


Born and raised on a sharecroppers' farm near Petersburg, Virginia, Fannie Hutchinson (1905-1990) was one of sixteen children. In her 1984 interview, Hutchinson recalls how she started to work at the age of thirteen to help support her family, her move to Philadelphia in 1926, the limits placed upon her by an overprotective uncle, and her experiences as a domestic servant and factory worker. By the 1940s she owned her own grocery and luncheonette in West Philadelphia.


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Louise Smith

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Born and raised in North Carolina, Louise Smith (189?-n.d.), moved to Philadelphia after a railroad accident left her father unable to work when she was just fifteen.  There, she labored as a domestic worker and joined East Calvary United Methodist Church, founded by Reverend Charles Albert Tindley, the city's most prominent and influential African American clergyman. Marriage took Smith to Baltimore during the First World War, but in the early 1920s she returned to Philadelphia, where she lived at 1522 Catharine Street for most of her life.  When interviewed in 1984, Smith was one of the oldest living members of Tindley Temple.


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Minnie Whitney

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In two separate interviews conducted in March of 1984, Minnie Whitney (1902-1995) recalls her journey from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to the city of Philadelphia. After spending 16 and a half years working on her family farm, Whitney ran away from home in 1919 and traveled north on a train headed for Philadelphia. Whitney shares the story of her time spent in domestic service working for a harsh and demanding woman. Whitney's strong work ethic and sense of determination influenced her decisions to move, and then remain, up north.


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