Photo by P. Kevin Morley, Richmond Times-Dispatch.
"Maymont really presents the most complete interpretation of the domestic service in the South in this pivotal period, this turbulent period of Jim Crow segregation laws,” said Dale Wheary, curator and director of historical collections for the estate. “I think people will find, if they really absorb what we have there, it’s accurate as well as moving, to consider what individuals who worked in service were facing during a turbulent time.“
Wheary said the refurbished lower floor, which opened in 2005, was the result of more than a decade’s worth of work tracking down descendants of Maymont’s domestic workers, including Woodson, and painstakingly acquiring furnishings lost during the city’s custodianship of the mansion, which lasted until 1975. The Dooleys employed up to 10 maids, butlers and cooks at the 12,000-square-foot, 33-room house, finished in 1893, as well as groundskeepers, stablehands and other workers.
Elizabeth O’Leary, the retired associate curator of American art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, served as a guest curator in establishing the exhibit and did much of the research to compile the stories of the staff. The exhibit underscores the importance of domestic work in supporting black communities during that era, when Jim Crow laws severely curtailed employment opportunities, said O’Leary, who chronicled Maymont’s household workers in her book “From Morning to Night: Domestic Service at Maymont and the Gilded-Age South.” - Richmond Times-Dispatch, Feb. 6, 2015.
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Order Elizabeth O'Leary's book From Morning To Night: Domestic Service at Maymont and the Gilded-Age South, published in 2003.