Home and Family Life

Living In

Married or single, male or female, young or old, many household workers resided with their employers – or “lived on the lot,” a local expression of the day. Typically, there were two to four domestics “living in” at Maymont.

In addition to wages, the arrangement provided workers free lodging, meals and laundry. Nevertheless, live-in staff gave up much personal freedom. After retiring to their bedroom between 9pm and 10pm, a bell could ring in the night, summoning them to dress and hurry upstairs.

During time off—one or two evenings a week—they returned to their residences and reconnected with family, church and community. Parents could spend precious hours with children, who often resided with grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Living Out

Most of Maymont’s domestic employees “lived out.” By wagon, streetcar and foot, they made their way to the mansion at daybreak and returned to their own residences and families at the end of their long workday. Like residential staff, live-out employees worked every day of the week, with one or two afternoons off. They were on the job during holidays, and on occasion, were asked to work late and stay the night.

Church Life

In the Maymont era, the church stood at the center of the African American community. Offering not only spiritual nourishment, religious institutions also gave support through loans, day care for children and the elderly, medical needs and job placement.

“In the South, at least,” wrote W.E. B. Du Bois in 1903, “practically every American Negro is a church member.” It was at church, he continued, that black Americans found community, comfort and relief from a world in which they were “cut off by color-prejudice and social condition.”

Maymont employees were members of various city churches, including Fifth Baptist, Fourth Baptist, Leigh Street Methodist, Moore Street Baptist, Mount Vernon Baptist, Second Baptist and Sixth Mount Zion Baptist.