Domestic Staff

The Dooleys employed seven to 10 staff who worked inside their home and dozens of others who tended the grounds. The presence of competent, uniformed domestic workers signified James and Sallie Dooley’s social standing and affluence. Domestic staff members ranged in age from late teens to mid-sixties; most were single but several were married with children, and women made up the majority of employees. Most Maymont staff members were African American from the greater Richmond area, although a handful had migrated from other states. Census records indicate a high literacy rate among those workers listed. They ranged in age from late teens to mid-sixties; mostly single but several were married with children. Women made up the majority of employees.

Some employees worked full-time, others part-time; extra workers were hired as needed. A few individuals resided in the mansion or on the estate, but most “lived out," that is, they returned to their separate homes and families at night. Both residential and live-out employees worked every day of the week, and full-time employees typically worked 13 hours every day, except Thursdays and Sundays, when they had the afternoon off. They ran up and down stairs, lifted, scrubbed and bent for hours. They had daily tasks, weekly chores and monthly or seasonal duties. They often stepped in to help at various positions if needed. The cook might wait a table, the lady’s maid might sweep or the butler might drive. They helped each other.

When the Dooleys spent summers, up to five months, at their Swannanoa estate located in the Blue Ridge mountains, many of their Maymont employees would also travel to work there, leaving their own families behind for several months at a time.

Butler

Butler

$100/month (1923 wages)

This position was the most entrusted and highest-ranking household employee. He held keys to outer doors, storage cupboards and the wine cellar (he also unpacked crates, bottled wine from casks and decanted it for the table). Responsibilities included ensuring all ground-floor rooms were kept orderly and clean addition to ceremonial duties like answering the door. The butler or second butler would answer the telephone just as they did the doorbell. The cook and butler also placed calls to order the delivery of groceries and household supplies. He supervised the housemaid and second butler. He set the dining room table, placed linens, china, glass and silver. During meals, he served and directed other employees in the correct presentation and timely removal of each course. He was tasked with cleaning and maintaining the silver and table wear. He prepared mealtime and after-dinner drinks and also attended Mrs. Dooley when she served tea. He was assisted by the second butler in all his duties.

Known Employees 
John Winston, 1900; Frank Alexander, 1910; Joseph A. Carter, Sr., 1912-1913; William J. Dilworth, 1919-1925

Second Butler

Second Butler

$60/month (1923 wages)

The second butler tended to have heavier tasks including cleaning, lifting, running errands, hauling coal in heavy scuttles and stoking the furnace. He cleaned the front steps and porches daily. He may also have functioned as a valet, polishing shoes, brushing and laying out clothes and helping Mr. Dooley bathe and dress.

Known Employees
John Thomas Walker, 1919-1920; Justin Simms, 1923-1925

Coachman

Coachmen & Chauffers

Coachman

The Dooleys kept a variety of horse-drawn vehicles in the carriage house. The full-time coachman’s responsibilities were to maintain and drive the Dooley carriages even after they began to acquire automobiles.

Chauffers

$140/month (1923 Wages)

Chauffers drove and cared for the Dooleys' motorcars. By the early 1920s, the Dooleys owned two Fords, a Hupmobile, a Pierce Arrow touring car, and a seven-passenger Packard Landaulet.

Known Employees
James Fitzgerald, 1914-1917; Abraham Walker, 1919-1920; Joseph Walker, 1919-1920; C. Hamilton Fitzgerald, 1920-1925; James Patrick Lewis, 1923-1924

Head Cook

Head Cook

$43 a month (1923 wages)

The Head Cook shared equal authority with the butler. Kitchen staff wore a gray uniform and white aprons, and white collars, cuffs and caps of various styles completed the outfit. Duties included meal preparation in consultation with Mrs. Dooley. The cook was responsible for feeding the Dooleys, their guests, and the staff. They maintained a rigid schedule with many deadlines and used a coal-burning range to prepare these meals. The cook and her assistant no doubt benefited from the era’s new canned and packaged foods, but they still faced hours of preparation. With the help of her assistants, they baked bread loaves and rolls which specifically required a lengthy process of several hours devoted to mixing, kneading, allowing dough to rise, shaping and baking. Their responsibilities also included plucking and dressing chickens, soaking hams, grinding coffee, grating spices, shelling beans and peas, baking, churning butter, making buttermilk and cottage cheese.

They spent very long hours on their feet. A 1911 study showed cooks walked the equivalent of 250 miles a year just in meal preparation! A typical work day was estimated to include 24 minutes of sifting ashes, 15 minutes of carrying coal, 24 minutes laying fires, two hours tending fires and 30 minutes emptying ashes. Every two weeks another two hours of labor was spent “blackening” the stove so it wouldn’t rust. The head cook was also charged with keeping the range in working order. All of these additional chores were done to support cooking meals and cleaning the kitchen. A cook, even with help, could spend up to 10 hours on one meal!

Known Employees
Georgia Weedon, 1910-1914; Nannie Johnson, 1915-1919; Frances Twiggs Walker, 1919-1925

Kitchen Maid

Kitchen Maids

$20 per month (1923 wages)

Kitchen maids were assistants to the head cook. They prepped vegetables, meats and fish, stoked the cook stove, and kept the kitchen clean. If a kitchen maid did well she may advance to another household as head cook.

Known Employees
Alice Johnson, 1915-1919; Francis Walker, 1923-1925; Hannah Walker, 1919-1922; Mary Walker, 1920-1923

Lady's Maid

Lady's Maid

$30 per month (1923 wages)

The lady's maid was a personal attendant who helped the lady of the house with bathing, grooming, and dressing. She laid out her employer’s clothes, sometimes arranging as many as four changes a day. It was her responsibility to see that garments were properly cleaned, pressed, and mended. Evening wear needed extra attention. Mrs. Dooley’s wardrobe included European-made gowns of comprised of costly material such as antique lace, brocade embroidered with silver and pearls, and silk trimmed with fur.

When Mrs. Dooley traveled, her lady’s maid packed her trunks. If she went out for the evening, the maid waited up to assist her to bed. During sickness, the maid nursed her and, if needed, slept in her room.

Known Employees
*Georgia Anderson, early 1920s; Fannie Waddy

*After Mrs. Dooley’s death in 1925, the City of Richmond employed Georgia Anderson to work at Maymont Mansion as a housekeeper and occasional guide. She held this position throughout the remainder of her life.

House maid

House Maid

$30 per month (1923 wages)

The house maid was responsible for keeping the mansion clean including dusting, sweeping, cleaning, polishing and hauling coal in heavy scuttles. She also removed trash, beat carpets, scrubbed bathrooms, changed sheets and collected soiled laundry. At times, the Dooleys may have employed multiple house maids. Maids were required to wear special uniforms. A gray dress with white apron for daytime, black dress with white apron for evenings and a burgundy dress with white apron detailed with burgundy piping for special events. White collars, cuffs and caps of various styles completed the outfit.

Known Employees
Genevieve Glaser, 1910; Emma Harrison, 1910-1915; Martha “Mattie” Netherland, 1919-1921; Fannie Waddy, 1920-1925, Rosa Jones

Laundress

Laundress

$15 per month (1923 wages)

Two or three days a week a laundress arrived to wash clothing and linens of the Dooleys and their employees. Using the mansion’s original triple-basin tub, she would soak, scrub and rinse three loads at once. Between stages, she squeezed out excess water with a wringer. A laundress job required skills for using flammable fluids or absorbent powders for “dry” cleaning, ironing and folding, and they worked with a variety of fabrics. Few domestic jobs were more physically demanding. She would endure hours of standing, bending and lifting, with her hands in hot water and harsh cleaners, or lifting hot, heavy irons. For their efforts, laundresses were respected in the working community.

Laundry at Maymont

With our large family and the need for fresh napkins at every meal, my mother once estimated that our laundress washed and ironed 125 cloth napkins each week.

—Mary Branch Converse, interview (2001)

The Laundry Room was the site of hot, wet, heavy work. Two or three days each week, a laundress arrived to wash clothing and linens of the Dooleys and their employees. On occasion, the Dooleys sent wash out.

Modern plumbing saved Maymont’s laundress from hauling gallons of water in from an outside pump. Using the mansion’s original triple-basin tub, the laundress could soak, scrub, and rinse three loads of wash at once. Between stages, she squeezed out excess water with a wringer.

Summering at Swannanoa

Like many upper-class families, the Dooleys left the city’s oppressive heat for the cooler temperatures of country retreats or hotels. After 1913, the couple summered at Swannanoa, their estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Swannanoa included five servant bedrooms in the main house, a cottage for the estate manager, and a garage apartment for the chauffeur. 

Many of the Dooleys' Maymont employees would travel with them, leaving their own families for several months at a time. Other staff were left behind on reduced “board wages.” The Dooleys also hired temporary local workers while staying at their summer retreat.

"One time, Papa carried me upstairs and said, "Now, I’ll be away for the summer. I want you to look out for the family and look out for Mamma." When he was gone, he would write every week and send home his check."

—Harold Bailey, grandson of Maymont butler William Dilworth

Domestic staff had the difficult task of “closing” the city house, removing heavy carpets and curtains, draping furnishings with dust sheets and packing employers’ clothing and provisions. It was a long process they reversed in the fall.