Posts Tagged ‘laundresses’

“The Laundress”

The original engravings are in the collection of The Library Company of Philadelphia.

City Characters, or, Familiar Scenes in Town published in 1851 included illustrations and descriptions of  individuals that were likely to be seen in an American city such as “The Fruitseller,” “The Retired Gentleman,” “The Huckster,” “The Street Sweeper” and “The Woodsawyer.” The chapter “The Laundress” appears on pages 34-36:

“This woman is engaged by rich people to wash and iron clothes, which have been soiled by wearing. Washing clothes is not a very pleasant business; and, when followed every day, as a regular trade must be tedious and disheartening. Those articles of clothing made of linen require a great deal of care, and give the poor Laundress much trouble. Clothes are washed in large tubs, by means of soap and boiling water. After this they must be ironed before they can be worn.  This is done with a heavy piece of smooth iron, called a flat-iron, made hot in a furnace and passed over each piece of clothing. This makes them smooth and soft.

“All this, you can easily see, takes much time and care; and the women who work at it must labour very hard. They do not receive as much as they ought for their tedious and disagreeable labour. Many persons have their washing and ironing done at home, making it a part of the servants’ work; others hire the Laundress to work at their houses.

“The woman in this picture looks as though she had just finished a hard day’s work and was taking the clothes home to the owners; see what a large basket she carries. It is full of articles of clothing neatly folded up; and this shows how much this woman has done in one day. Perhaps her husband is dead, and she has several little children depend on her for support. This is frequently the case with those who follow the occupation of a Laundress.”

The original engravings are in the collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

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The soldier’s marriage to Elizabeth was the third for each of them. The officiant was the minister of St. John’s AME Church, one of Norfolk’s oldest churches.


Widow – 372,951 / 339,402, Elizabeth Teemer

General Affidavit, Elizabeth Teemer, 11 June 1890
Betsey, [the widow was] born on Eastern Shore Va., Accomac Co. … [I] became accwaited [sic] with Wm Teemer & lived with Robt. Santos on Main St., Norfolk, Va. … I lived with Robt. Santos up until I married Wm Teemer. I knew him 10 years before I married him. Married Sept 30th 1879 on Falkland St. Norfolk, Va. by Rev. B.G. Lloyd

“[I was] owned by Robins Mapp. He owned me at the time of my marriage with Teemer and had sent me to Norfolk and hired me out to Robt. Santos for a nurse.

“My first name was Elizabeth Mapp, my owner’s name; then Elizabeth Allen; Elizabeth Teemer. I was married to Kiah Allen and Wm Teemer was my last husband and has not been married since his death …

“[I] did not have any children by him. [I] don’t know where Teemer was born and I have forgotten where he lived. He was 57 years old when he died. He was a laborer. He was low in stater [sic] his color dark-skinned. Owned by Mr. Tazwell Taylor of Norfolk Va. on Granby St. Was his butler. He had a wife before I married him. She has been dead long before him.”


Deposition, Elizabeth Teemer, 26 June 1894
About 60 years old, laundress, post-office address No. 3 O’Keefe St., Norfolk, Va. …
“The said soldier died on Sunday morning April 1, 1888 at No. 27 Jefferson St. Norfolk, Va. of rheumatism, consumption and asthma.

“I was married to the soldier by the Rev. B.G. Lloyd of the Bute St. AME Church, in my house on Faulkland St., Norfolk, Va. on Sept. 30, 1879. I have a marriage certificate which has been to Washington.

“I was a slave before the war and belonged to Miss Leutherberry [?] who married Robt Mapp. They are both dead. I was married on their place near Eastville, Va., a long time before the war to Henry Winder according to slave custom. He died while a servant for his master John Winder of Eastville in the army. I was told of his death by Mr. Winder the night he came home when the war closed. I was married the second time to Hezekiah Allen in Norfolk, Va. in Sept about 3 years after the war closed. No, his name was not Patrick but Hezekiah. He died about 4 years before I married William Teemer. His death took place in the fall of the year, but don’t know what month in year. No sir I was not married more than 3 times. The soldier was also married twice before he married me. His first wife was named Elizabeth and I think she was a Makey before he married Sarah Collins who was dead about 4 years when I married the soldier.

“The soldier left no child or children surviving him except one girl who was 28 years old at that time. I became acquainted with the soldier about 1870, he was a member of my church.

“He was sick in bed 3 or 4 times before his last illness.

Philip Bagnall & Willis Quickmore were with him in the army. After his discharge he came back to Norfolk and lived here continuously until he died. He worked in a cook shop with Thornton McCoy (dead) when he got back from the army. Afterwards for Mr. Walke, druggist, & Mr. Davis, fruit dealer. Phillip Bagnall, Willlis Quickmore, Boston Hopper & Mr. Tate knew him from discharge to the date of his death. Drs. Tunstall & Barber were the only Drs. who treated him since discharge. … Yes sir he was in the navy don’t know when or what ship. Magness Riggs also know him well.”


Letter from John G. Teicher, Special Commissioner, to William Lochren, 20 July 1894
“The soldier it would appear, also served in the Navy in 1869 and 70, on the ‘USS Countercook’ [sp?] or similar name. the name of said vessel it is claimed was afterwards changed to the ‘Albany.'”

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