Black women slaves had to wash out their masters menstrual rags…by hand. Menstrual rags were used similar to the way Kotex are used today but menstrual rags were not disposable, they had to soak and be washed by hand.
In novel/films like, “The Help” gory truths are masked in loving friendship’s that reflect the potential not-so-bad side of slavery.
In reality, no matter how loving and kind an employer is, just having to pick up a boss’ suits from the cleaners would seem just a tad demeaning…imagine being friendly with someone whose menstrual rags you wash…
Facts about slavery are shared not to demean any one on any level but to reflect upon the true atmosphere in which slaves had to live.
Being treated as a “helper” as a slave was a mind game all its own.
After slavery, Blacks struggled to find and maintain employment that kept their dignity in tact. Washing menstrual rags was still on the “to-do” list up and through the 50’s.
Sacramento resident whose initials are L.B. is a woman just under 60 years old who recalls filling in on her mother’s job as a maid when she came across the duty and refused to execute the grotesque task.
In the book, Ar’n’t I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South By Soujourner Truth (Revised Edition), by Deborah Gray White, such troubles in defining suitable employment after slavery are mentioned.
On page 46 of Ar’n’t I a Woman, the following is described:
“In defining their new status as free workers, women and men rejected
slavery’s brutal hours and refused to work under former drivers and
overseer’s. By taking their children with them and caring for them
during the workday, household workers avoided the slave-like
conditions that kept them separated from their children for long hours.”
On page 45 of White’s book (which is revision of the actual author, Sojourner Truth’s book), reference to menstrual rags is mentioned saying:
“Freedwomen also rejected particularly demeaning work like washing
White women’s menstrual rags and especially arduous work like
ditch digging and repair in knee deep mud.“
Many persons take offense to the mentioning of such acts but, many more people whose great grandparents, grand parents, maybe even great-great-great parents had to endure such treatment are offended by minimization of slavery.
Lights are always trying to be shed on “good masters” who allowed for this or refuse to use certain forms of punishment but all levels of abuse were still evident.
Mental abuse, social abuse, emotional abuse…such ancestral endurance of abuse is relevant in the healing of Blacks worldwide and especially in America.
We honor Black ancestors who had to perform such grotesque acts laboriously. We reflect to heal and acknowledge the strength it took to survive, even just mentally in historical America.
Thoughts and opinions are always welcome. Please share yours below or in email.