Federal Writers' Project – Life Histories/2020/Fall/105/Section003/Corrie Wingard

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Corrie Wingard
BornOctober 1907
Dutch Fork, Lexington County, Georgia
Other namesDaisy White
EthnicityAfrican American
OccupationDomestic Servant

Overview[edit | edit source]

Corrie Wingard was an African American domestic servant during the time of the Great Depression. Wingard was interviewed for the Federal Writer's Project in December of 1938.[1]

Biography[edit | edit source]

Early Life[edit | edit source]

Corrie Wingard was born and raised in Lexington County, South Carolina. Wingard was the oldest of nine siblings and grew up working with her family for a man named Mr. Younginer. She worked with her siblings and her father in the field picking cotton, while her mother cooked. Corrie did not gain much of an education while working. She was taught to read and write, but nothing further.[1] She occasionally went by the name "Daisy White," but had no reason as to why.

Adult Life and Career[edit | edit source]

When Wingard became an adult, she married a man named Issac and together they moved to Columbia, South Carolina. Soon after, she gave birth to two daughters and they began renting a two-bedroom house for two dollars a week. Even though Wingard did not have much education, she believed that it was necessary for a good life, and therefore ensured that her children received an education.

Wingard first worked for Mr. Younginer's sister where she was paid three dollars a week to cook two meals a day. However, Mr. Younginer’s sister moved which caused Wingard to struggle to secure regular work. Issac's work was sporadic as well as he helped build houses, so some days they were unsure if they would be able to make ends meet.[1] During the Great Depression, both Wingard and Issac tried to get relief jobs and while Wingard was denied, Issac was promised a position in one of these jobs, yet he never received it.

Historical Context[edit | edit source]

South Carolina and the Great Depression[edit | edit source]

Many states, along with its residents, suffered greatly during the 1930s. South Carolina had, arguably, one of the worst experiences during this time. South Carolina’s economy was already depressed during the mid-late 1920’s and the the stock market crash sent the economy into further mayhem.[2] The cotton and textile industry drove South Carolina's economy, and the downfall of these industries during this time lead to thirty percent of South Carolina's workforce becoming unemployed.[3] In Columbia alone, more than half a million free meals were given to those in need. These meals were organized by the community, usually churches, as no aid from the government was provided. To put this into perspective, in 1931 the population of Columbia, South Carolina was about fifty-two thousand. Churches, and other local charities, served over seven-hundred thousand meals.[4]

Another big problem in South Carolina was the ability to pay for education. Specifically, universities. These institutions struggled to stay open due to the issues with having to pay professors, feed students, and house students. Additionally, students were unable to pay tuition. They resorted to trying to pay for their education with bales of cotton or with crops. Students basically paid with whatever they had, and if they had nothing to give, they could no longer continue with their education. Both students and universities struggled to scrounge up resources that would aid them during this time. This issue was another cause for the further downfall of the economy because money that used to come in from these institutions was no longer present.[4]

The mayor of Columbia in 1930, Lawrence B. Owens, expressed that while unemployment had risen, there was “no crisis.”[2] Even though the information provided proves otherwise. In addition, the city declined setting up a municipal unemployment agency. Therefore, the people of South Carolina had to fend for themselves with resources they did not have.

Domestic Servants[edit | edit source]

From 1910-1930 the number of domestic servants, or Domestic workers, grew from 189,273 to 256,746. This increase can be attributed to middle-class housewives, beginning in the 1920s, wanting to embrace the domestic lifestyle and therefore, desired servants. In addition, with increased urbanization more women were going into the labor force and needed someone to watch their children and keep up with their housework.

Typically, African American and immigrant women dominated this line of work due to a multitude of factors. These groups usually lacked the educational and social requirements that most commercial jobs called for. Social stigma surrounded this occupation, as servants were looked down upon, so many people felt this would be a "step down." Also, most jobs had discriminatory views towards these groups, which made it so they could only secure jobs that did not pay as much, jobs that were more dangerous, or jobs that no one else wanted.

Domestic servants were responsible for the housekeeping of an individual's residence. Including tasks such as sweeping, moping, vacuuming, laundry, dishes, cooking, and acting as a caregiver for children.[5] As a result of unskilled workers maintaining these jobs, many were exploited by employers. The average weekly pay for these servants was $3.23[6] and there was no job protection. At any time they could be asked to leave and be left unemployed.[5]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Lea, interview.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mielnik, New Deal, 2-3.
  3. Greatest Generation, video.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Edgar, Between Wars, podcast.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bloom, Domestic Help.
  6. Stigler, Domestic Servants, 1-9.

References[edit | edit source]