Interview with Beulah Collins, August 1, 1983

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Hometown of Snow Hill, Maryland: Life on the farm

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Partial Transcript: Okay. All set?

Segment Synopsis: Beulah Collins speaks fondly about growing up in the country, raising chickens and growing vegetables.

Keywords: Philadelphia (Pa.); Widows; Wilmington, Delaware

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Housing.; Childhood

GPS: Snow Hill, Maryland
Map Coordinates: 38.1750, 75.3908
00:05:43 - Moving to Philadelphia, circa 1919

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Partial Transcript: When did you come up to Philadelphia? When did you come north?

Segment Synopsis: Collins discusses her decision to move north after her husband died during the 1918 influenza epidemic and her parents passed away, taking her siblings' advice to seek opportunities for better wages and an education for her son.

Keywords: Domestic work; First great migration; Philadelphia (Pa.)

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

00:09:16 - Domestic service: Living with the Richard family in Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: So when you came up here, then, did you go to work?

Segment Synopsis: Collins explains how she began working as a domestic worker for the wealthy Richard family on Chestnut Hill.

Keywords: Domestic work; Philadelphia (Pa.)

Subjects: African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

GPS: Coordinates to the Richard's home on Chestnut Hill
Map Coordinates: 40.065846, -75.202665
00:11:32 - On boarding her son with "Mom" Taylor

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Partial Transcript: But ahead of my story before then. I did work for another lady out, way out in Ardmore somewhere.

Segment Synopsis: Collins recounts spending a portion of her earnings paying “Mom" Taylor to look after her only son, as he could not live with her at the Richard residence. She shares her happiness and contentment that "Mom" Taylor treated her son like one of her own children.

Keywords: Childcare; Domestic work; Low wages; Philadelphia (Pa.)

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

00:17:46 - Domestic service in Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: Now, um, you know, I'm very interested in finding out more about domestic service.

Segment Synopsis: Collins describes how she was "pretty well satisfied" doing domestic work to ensure her son had a good education. She shares how she used to go up and look at the brides during weddings at a church on Saint Martins Lane.

Keywords: Domestic service; Philadelphia (Pa.)

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Recreation; African Americans--Social conditions.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

GPS: The Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Chestnut Hill
Map Coordinates: 40.065567, -75.206903
00:20:59 - Domestic service: Low wages

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Partial Transcript: What were your wages like?

Segment Synopsis: Collins shares how she made $13 a week and how she had to stretch it to provide for her son. She talks about how she always had enough to eat during the Great Depression because she lived with the Richards family. She also shares her feelings about wearing a uniform, which the family bought for her.

Keywords: Domestic work; Low wages; Wearing a uniform

Subjects: African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Housing.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Depressions--1929; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; United States--Race relations.

00:27:11 - Domestic service: Long hours

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Partial Transcript: What were your hours like?

Segment Synopsis: Collins recounts her daily routine and duties as a domestic worker, including squeezing fresh orange juice for breakfast, sweeping the porch, making the beds, getting the boys off to school, serving the meals, washing the dishes, and tidying the house. Once a week, she polished the silver. Mrs. Richard hired another woman to do the heavy washing and ironing. She shares that her days began at 7:00am and ended at 8:00pm, thirteen hours hours later. She says that she had Sundays and Thursday afternoons off. Still, she rarely complained. She also shares that one of the Richard's sons married a granddaughter of Washington Atlee Burpee, the founder of Burpee Seed Company.

Keywords: Daily routines; Domestic work

Subjects: African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; United States--Race relations.

00:33:18 - Work options as a Black woman in Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: Now when you came up you were a young woman up from the South--

Segment Synopsis: Collins describes learning to be a good live-in domestic, and discusses her distaste for laundry and factory work.

Keywords: Domestic work; Factory work; Laundry work

Subjects: African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Discrimination in employment.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

00:36:07 - Memories of the South and her husband's death in 1918

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Partial Transcript: How, how do you think, uh--how did Philadelphia compare to, uh, to--when you, when you arrived in the city, when you were first living here, I guess after you moved in from Ardmore.

Segment Synopsis: Collins reminisces about life on the farm as a young woman and shares the reasons why she never had a desire to return to Maryland. She explains why she never remarried for fear that a new husband might not be good to her son. She shares how she heard about her husband's death at Fort Meade in 1918 and how she intends to be buried beside him when she dies.

Keywords: Influenza Epidemic of 1918; Maryland

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Marriage.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Influenza Epidemic, 1918-1919.

00:41:49 - Memories of her childhood as a tenant farmer's daughter

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Partial Transcript: Now, did your family, uh--you grew up on the farm, right?

Segment Synopsis: Collins recalls the crops her father grew as a tenant farmer: wheat, corn, potatoes, and "most everything," She speculates about the course her life may have taken had she stayed in the South.

Keywords: Corn; Maryland; Potatoes; Tenant farmers; Wheat

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Social conditions.

00:44:21 - Final thoughts: Religious leaders and the Great Depression

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Partial Transcript: Did you, uh, did you pay any attention to Marcus Garvey back in the '20s?

Segment Synopsis: Collins briefly discusses religious leaders as well as hardships she faced during the Great Depression.

Keywords: Father Diving; Great Depression; Marcus Garvey; Philadelphia (Pa.)

Subjects: African American leadership; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Religion.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Depressions--1929.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.