Main House, Carriage House:
African-American Domestic Employees at the
McFaddin-Ward House in Beaumont, Texas,
JUDITH W. LINSLEY*
It is highly important for the head of any domestic establishment to remember
that by her servants, their appearance and demeanor, her own temperament
and capacities are quickly estimated.1
T HE CYCLOPAEDIA OF SOCIAL USAGE HARDLY OVERSTATED THE CASE.
Most wealthy Americans of the early twentieth century subscribed to
sociologist Thorstein Veblen's doctrine of "conspicuous consumption."
Gentlemen acquired and administered wealth, while ladies ensured that
they, their children, and their homes served as proper testaments to
their husbands' prosperity. The success of this exalted lifestyle was made
possible by a largely unsung group: domestic employees. Not only did
they reflect a family's social position, they were also absolutely essential
to the operation of a prosperous turn-of-the-century household.2
Despite their vital dual roles, however, domestic employees in the late
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries remained near the bottom of
the social and economic ladder. Economic and legal power rested firmly
* Judith W. Linsley received her B.A. in Spanish and M.A. in history from Lamar University in
Beaumont. She is currently employed as Research Assistant at the McFaddln-Ward House Muse-
um in Beaumont, Texas, where in addition to researching McFaddin and area history, she con-
ducts and processes oral interviews. She was formerly education coordinator for Tyrrell
Historical Library in Beaumont, editor of the Tyrrell Historical Library Association Journal, co-
editor of the Texas Gulf Historzcal and Biographical Record, and program content chairperson for
the Beaumont History Conference. With McFaddin-Ward House CuratorJessica Foy she wrote a
history of the McFaddmn-Ward House and the McFaddin family (a Texas State Historical Associa-
tion pubhcation). With Ellen Rienstra she co-authored a history of Beaumont and articles for the
Texas Gulf Historical and Biographical Record.
i Helen L. Roberts, The Cyclopaedia of Social Usage (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1913), 369.
2 Daniel E. Sutherland, Americans and Their Servants: Domestic Service in the United States from
I8oo to I920 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981), 10-15.
SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
VOL. CIII, NO. 1
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/. Accessed October 2, 2014.