Mary E. and Emma Harrison

Mary E. Harrison


Mother of Emma Harrison

Mary E. Harrison's obituary indicated that she had once been employed by the Dooleys. She likely worked either as a laundress or housemaid at Maymont approximately between 1906 and 1910.

Emancipated from slavery in Powhatan County, Mary Harrison (1841-1930) relocated to Lynchburg to work as a servant in the Hamner household. In the late 1880s, as a widow, she moved to Richmond where she operated a confection shop and cleaned the Byrd St. rail station to support a daughter and son. After her earlier mistress and husband, Bettie Hamner and Walker B. Freeman, relocated to Richmond in 1892, they employed Mrs. Harrison as a cook and to care for their son, Douglas Southall Freeman. She continued operating her shop, which also sold cigars and tobacco.

In 1906, Mrs. Harrison purchased a house at 1312 Claiborne Street, and at various times afterwards she was listed in the city directory as a cook and laundress—including ongoing work for the Freeman family. The 1910 census indicates that, at age 73, she was a self-employed laundress who took in wash at her home. At the time, her daughter Emma S. Harrison, began multi-year employment as a live-in housemaid at Maymont, just a mile away from the Harrison residence. Between 1917 and 1920, Mrs. Harrison's primary duties were as a nursemaid to the children of then-newspaper editor Douglas S. Freeman and his wife, Inez. The photograph pictures her with infant Mary Tyler Freeman. Mrs. Harrison retired in 1920. When she died eleven years later, at age 90, Freeman's News Leader ran a lengthy obituary paying tribute to this "widely-known" woman.

Emma Harrison


Daughter of Mary E. Harrison

Emma Harrison was born in Virginia about 1862. Daughter of Mary Harrison, who was also once employed at Maymont, she worked as a live-in housemaid between 1910 and 1915. While the Dooleys did not include a “housekeeper” position on their staff—a supervisory role found in other upper-class homes, Mrs. Harrison was listed with this title in the 1910 census. She was also listed as married and a mother of four children, but at the time of the census her spouse and one surviving child, likely an adult, were residing elsewhere. After leaving Maymont, she was employed in other households as a maid and cook.

Mary E. Harrison
(Photo courtesy of Mary Tyler McClenahan, pictured here as an infant with Mary Harrison.)