Maid Narratives (van Wormer)

Discussion Questions
1. How were the situations different for black maids who worked in Mississippi versus those in the Louisiana / New Orleans area?

2. What, if anything, surprised you about the stories of the women of the Great Migration?

3. Compare the work conditions as described in the book of sharecropping versus domestic service?

4. Consider the power dynamics in the 1950s and earlier as experienced by the white woman who ran the home and by her servant. How were  they alike and different?

5. What did the black narrator (Annie Victoria Johnson) mean by her statement that if the black men kept their women from working in the white homes, when they needed help, there was no one to help?

6. From the black narratives viewed as a whole, how did domestic service in the North differ from domestic service in the South?

7. What did you learn about the norms of segregation from reading these stories?

8. How did the whites who were raised by black maids describe their relationship with them? Choose some examples of differences among the whites referring to the final chapter with the themes.

9. Did you find that whites who were nurtured by black maids were more comfortable around black people when they grew up and moved out in the world?

10. What did you learn of the mistress/maid relationships from the descriptions provided by the white narrators?

11. One of the authors whose mother worked as a maid has described her response to reading The Maid Narratives as a healing experience. What do you think she meant? How about resilience and resistance as revealed in some of the stories?

12. If you were making a movie of this book, which of the episodes described in this book might you use?

13. If you read The Help or saw the movie, how did the real situations described in The Maid Narratives compare with those in the fictional account? (Questions courtesy of authors.)

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