This Issue's Character feature

This issue features: Addy, Samantha, and Molly
(Kit was not yet introduced when the Handbook was published.)

From the American Girls Club Handbook:

Addy Walker
Addy Walker and her family escaped slavery in 1864. They came to Philadelphia to begin new lives as free people.

Addy woke up each morning in the room she and her parents rented in Mrs. Golden's boarding house in Philadelphia. The Walkers' room had two beds, a chest of drawers, a wash bowl and pitcher, and a small cast-iron stove for heat. Several families rented rooms in the boarding house. All the boarders shared the parlor downstairs, and part of their rent paid for their meals. Mrs. Golden did all the cooking, and all the boarders ate together in her dining room.

In cities like Philadelphia, not many families had their own homes. In 1864, northern cities were filling up with people. Some came from the countryside, hoping to find factory jobs. Others came from faraway countries like Ireland, where food was scarce and people were starving. And many African-Americans came to northern cities to escape a terrible life of slavery in the South.

There was no slavery in Philadelphia, but some white people still treated black people poorly. Addy couldn't get a dish of ice cream at Natkin's Confectionery Shop because it was segregated. That meant Mr. Natkin served only white people. Other shopkeepers treated Addy rudely, like the clerk at the drugstore who ignored Addy and then spoke to her harsly. In some northern cities, if a black person wanted to get on a streetcar, the white people on the car took a vote. If even only one white person objected. the black person could not ride.

African-Americans who escaped to northern cities weren't always safe from their old masters, either. Sometimes plantation owners came north to find the former slaves who had run away from them. The community of African-Americans protected these runaways and wouldn't tell plantation owners anything. Some runaways chose not to hide. One fearless man named J. W. Loguen spoke these brave words at a public assembly: "I am a fugitive slave from Tennessee. My master is Manasseth Loguen. The letter of the law gives him a title to my person--and let him come and take it. I'll not run, nor will I give him a penny for my freedom."

Freedom was not everything Addy dreamed it would be, but she and her family made the most of the opportunities they had. Momma and Poppa were paid for their work for the first time in their lives. One escaped slave named Jourdan Anderson received a letter from his old master, asking him to com back to work on his plantation. Jourdan wrote back to his master and said, "Here [in freedom] I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any payday for the Negroes any more than for the horses and cows."

For Addy, one of the best things about living in Philadelphia was being able to go to school. But public schools for black children were separate from the schools for white children and often had few supplies and crowded buildings. Some black children were taught by tutors or went to small schools set up in homes or churches.

No matter what the setting, newly freed people were hungry to learn. Education meant opportunity--the chance to learn to read and write, and to learn about the world. As soon as they could read and write, schoolchildren taught family members and others who could not attend school. Even children like Sarah, who stopped going to school so she could help her family earn money, found ways to keep learning. One girl who worked as a laundress fastened her text book to the fence behind her washtub so she could study her lessons while she washed laundry.

As soon as Addy learned to write, she began writing letters ot aid societies, hoping they might be able to find Esther, Sam, Auntie Lula, and Uncle Solomon. In Philadelphia, African-Americans organized more than 100 aid socieities that helped thousands of families each year find food, clothing, shelter, and jobs. The black community also printed its own newspapers and organized its own libraries, schools, and churches. Church members gave money and clothes to help freed slaves start new lives. And families like Addy's hosted potluck suppers at church to welcome newcomers to freedom with warm food and friendship.

Samantha Parkington
Samantha Parkington was an orphan raised by Grandmary, her proper Victorian grandmother, in 1904.

In Samantha's day, there were lots of rules of etiquette, or proper behavior. In 1904, a ten-year-old girl wrote this her her diary: "Etiquette is what you are doing and saying when people are looking and listening. What you are thinking . . . is your business. Thinking is not etiquette." --Virginia Carey Hudson

There were whole books written to tell girls what the proper etiquette was for every situation. A girl like Samantha would never just tumble out of bed and come to the breakfast table in her pajamas. Each morning, Samantha had to dress in a clean, freshly pressed dress, tie a fluffy hairbow in her neatly brushed hair, and walk, not run, downstairs to breakfast with Grandmary.

Samantha spent the morning and part of the afternoon at Miss Crampton's Academy for Young Ladies. She studied subjects like arithmetic, history, and spelling, but she also learned how to be a proper young lady. Samantha practiced walking with books balanced on her head so she would learn to move smoothly and gracefully.

In the late afternoon, Samantha spent time with Grandmary in the parlor. Samantha made sure she looked presentable--no floppy hairbow, droopy stockings, or scuffy shoes allowed! When Samantha entered the parlor, she curtsied to Grandmary and quietly sat down to practice her needlework, and important accomplishment for fine young ladies. People also encouraged girls to take piano lessons because they believed these lessons taught them to sit up straight and pay attention to details.

One of the most improper things a well-bred young lady could do was work--even in her own home. A girl like Samantha never had to set a table or dry a dish or make a bed. Servants did all those things, and much more. Cleaning a house in Samantha's time was more work than it is today. People used fireplaces for heat and gas or oil lamps for light. Ash and soot settled everywhere, and smoke marks covered walls and ceilings. Maids scrubbed the smoke marks and swept the carpets with a carpet sweeper, if their employer had one. If not they got down on their knees and brushed the carpets by hand.

Where did all these ideas about what was proper come from? In the early 1900s, England was a powerful empire, ruling many countries all over the world. Americans admired the success of the English, and wanted ot be just like them. Wealthy Americans paid close attention to what wealthy English people wore, what they ate, and, most importantly, how they behaved. Upper-class English manners became the model for what was proper in American society. Fashionable Americans dressed elegantly for dinner each evening, served tea in the afternoon, and went calling, or visiting friends, just as people did in England.

Molly McIntire
Molly McIntire and her family were learning to live with war.

When America began fighting in World War Two, Molly McIntire's world began to change. Molly's father joined the army and was ent overseas to help wounded soldiers in England. Her mother left early each morning to go to her wartime job at the Red Cross headquarters, and she often didn't get home until after supper. When Molly came downstairs for breakfast, it was Mrs. Gilford, the housekeeper, not her mother, who stood at the stove cooking the family's oatmeal.

Mrs. Gilford couldn't allow Molly or her brothers and sister to put sugar on their oatmeal or to use very much butter on their toast. Much of America's sugar, butter, coffee, meat, and cheese was shipped to faraway places where United States troops were fighting. On the home front, these foods were rationed. Families like Molly's could buy only small amounts of these items so that the soldiers would have what they needed.

Other materials, like rubber and metal, were rationed because they were needed to make war supplies. Factories made jeeps and tanks instead of cars and toys. Girls like Molly had to do without things like new sneakers and bicycles. One girl who was in third grade when the war began remembered, "My father had promised me that I could get a large two-wheel bicycle. When they stopped making them, I was heartbroken. When the war ended, I finally got a two-wheeler, but by then I was in eighth grade!"

Home-front children tried substitutes for treats that were in short supply. One girl remembered trying a no-sugar version of ice cream that was "full of ice crystals and crunched as you ate it." Bubble gum was scarce because chicle, the ingredient that makes gum rubbery, was being used to make soldiers' hats and rubber tires for war machines. Companies tried making bubble gum with a different ingredient, but it was too thin for blowing bubbles, and it tasted awful without sugar.

There were changes at school, too. Tanks and planes needed gasoline, so on the home front, gas was rationed. To save on gas, there were fewer school buses and shorter bus routes. Children who lived in the country sometimes had to walk several miles to catch a school bus. Factories stopped making metal lunchboxes, so children often carried their lunches to school in paper bags or lunch boxes made of heavy cardboard. Pencils sometimes came without erasers because of the rubber shortage.

There were shortages of teachers, too. Some teachers left to go to war. Others left to take jobs in factories, where they could make more money for their families. In 1942, two thousand schools could not open because there weren't enough teachers. Schools had to hire emergency teachers--parents, retired teachers, even high school students. In one school, the school secretary took over teaching the sixth grade when the teacher was drafted.

Helping the war effort was a big part of children's lives, both at school and at home. In school, children knit squares that were made into blankets for soldiers. One girl remembered, "Our teacher set aside time in the school week--knitting time--and the girls taught the boys to knit. It was really fun even though some of the boys couldn't get the hang of knitting."

Children made important personal sacrifices, too. They gave up their metal toys so they could be made into war equipment, and some children even volunteered their pet dogs for war service. Children showed their support for soldiers by collecting books, magazines, and crossword puzzles to send to patients in veterans' hospitals. They waved flags and welcomed troops home with parades. And they entertained wounded soldiers with special performances like Molly's "Hurray for the U.S.A." variety show.