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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • GEORGE WASHINGTON CROSSING THE PIES

Cooking Class: c. 1899

Cooking Class: c. 1899

Ten women in a cooking class at the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Va. Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston, c. 1899. View full size.

 

Not the "Help"?

I don't see any indication that the young women in this picture were being trained as household cooks. The aprons and caps are simply the school uniforms. They are all black because VA schools were segregated at the time.

[The Hampton Institute, now Hampton University, started out as a Negro college. These girls were in the domestic service program, training to be maids, laundresses and housekeepers. Which were the main employment opportunities for black women at the time. - Dave]

How about some perspective

How about some perspective here. These women are barely a generation out of the fields. They are dressed well (for the period) and are being taught a trade that their mothers and grandmothers could only have dreamed about. Being the "help" would seem to be a pretty fair leap from being a slave, given the times. Social change of that magnitude doesn't happen overnight.

Cooks

Perhaps it's not so gussied-up when you are the "help"

They look so good, though --

They look so good, though -- their aprons are spotless! You can see all the tiny details of lace . . . I could never cook in such beautiful clothes.

Cooking class

Sure glad that I don't have to get gussied up to cook!

 
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