Recognizing Some of the Hardest Workers in Piedmont
Most of the historical publications about Piedmont talk about the bourgeoisie of Piedmont, while not recognizing the proletariats.
Here are just a few of many deserved stories.
Oral History Interview with Frederick S. Farr, Publication date 1987:
FARR: I think so. I lived in a WASP [White Anglo-Saxon Protestant] city, Piedmont. I didn’t know any blacks; there were a few orientals who went to school there that were working as servants.
In 1910, 51 persons (3 percent of Piedmont's population) were of a race other than White. Based on the racial categories used in the 1910 census, this included 28 Japanese, 20 Chinese, and 3 Blacks. All were household employees except for three of the Chinese, who were reported as boarders.
• There were 214 live-in household employees in Piedmont in 1910, representing
12 percent of the city's population.
• The majority of household employees were reported by respondents to the census
as servants (124).
• While most household employees had occupations usually associated with
domestic service (such as servant, maid or housekeeper), some of these
employees had other occupations, such as nurse, cook or gardener.
• Of the 397 households in Piedmont in 1910, 135 households, or 34 percent, had
one or more live-in household employees.
• Of these 135 households, 96 had one household employee, 23 had two, 8 had
three, 3 had four, and 5 had five or more household employees.
• Of the 214 household employees, about two-thirds were female (146) and twothirds of these women were classified as servants (96).
• Among household employees, the occupations with both males and females
represented were servant, cook and laundress/laundryman
The Daily Telegram - Thu - May 11, 1922
(Pattiani’s) neighbors, she says, “had an alarm system on an even more elaborate scale.” In the Requa family’s case, the alarm system was staffed. “The butler, George Washington, a tall, courteous mulatto, was delegated to check the location of any alarm signal.”
Letters from my Nephew Slim, by Carl S. Smith 1965
Let's go all the way back to the days with the Thorntons. I worked as chauffeur, butler, and assistant cook. I was cook when the maid was off, or quit. I started going up to the Bohemian Grove, the Bohemians consisting of very wealthy gentlemen all across the nation.
Oakland Tribune - Mon - Mar. 15, 1920
It was not until 2:30 o'clock this morning that the absence of Ulla Carlson, murdered Piedmont domestic, from the home of her employer. Willard Brown, at 1225 Ashmorit avenue, was discovered. Then it was Mrs. Hilda Nelson, the cook, who made the discovery. Other occupants in the house had retired before Miss Carlson went with Miss
Marie Carlson; her visitor to the car.
A program called the "Bay Area Outing Program" from 1918-1942 that placed over a thousand Native women from US Indian boarding schools to work as live-in housemaids in affluent homes in the Bay ARea. "Positions were concentrated in the East Bay, especially in the affluent city of Piedmont." (p. 87)
Introduction In 1922, the Thursday evening edition of the Berkeley Daily Gazette declared, “Indian Girls Prefer Park to Housework.” Reportedly “…[t]he call of the open was stronger than the city home for four Piute [sic] girls...” Allegedly, these young Native women camped out at Oakland’s Lakeside Park before they were discovered by a police officer and “turned over.” The last words of the article explain that the girls were “placed” in Berkeley and Piedmont homes for summer work, under the care of Indian Matron Mrs. B. V. Royce.
Employees similarly coveted Kathryn Jones, a Paiute and Shoshone girl from Owyhee, Nevada. Jones was fourteen years old when she started outing and worked at six homes intermittently from 1926 – 1935 in Alameda, Berkeley, Oakland, Piedmont and San Francisco. Her record notes Jones was “very dependable and an excellent worker.” In the summer of 1930, Jones worked for Lettie Holland in Brookdale, California, and had to leave to return to Stewart Indian School. In August Holland wrote to Matron Royce explaining that she was sad she could not keep Katie through the summer, “I am hoping you will bring me a nice girl as a helper for the three more months we expect to remain down here after we return to Oakland. I would like a thirty dollar girl if possible.” As girls transferred homes and left to return to school, they were often treated as material goods—replaceable and exchangeable.
. And so what's kind of unique about the Bay Area Outing Program, what I research, is it started down the street on Prince Street here in Berkeley. So it's literally, it's got its roots right here in Berkeley, in the East Bay Area.
"And what it does is it runs independently from any specific boarding school. It starts funneling girls from Western-based boarding schools. So, a lot of the girls first came from Stewart Indian school in Carson City, Nevada. A lot of them came from Sherman. Girls also came from Chemawa, which is another boarding school in Oregon. It was this whole process of funneling girls, specifically to work as living housemates in the area."
These girls came from Oregon, Nevada, and Southern California to live and work in the Bay Area and do a physically demanding job. We didn’t have washers and dryers at the time, so these young girls, some as young as 14, are coming into the homes of these fairly affluent white families, and they’re doing back-breaking work—basically they’re servants. And it’s important to remember that this is a racialized and gendered program just for Native women. For about 20 years, this program brought well over 1,000 Indian girls and women to do this work in Piedmont, Oakland, Alameda, Walnut Creek, and the greater Bay Area. Typically, they were sent for the summer, but often they stayed and continued to live and work in the Bay Area. Often, these outing programs are defined as forms of assimilation, but I see them as labor programs.
One thing I found remarkable was that even though the girls were isolated—literally in the homes of their employers—they started to build community. These Native women in the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s began to organize through the Four Winds Club and create community (pictured at right from the Oakland Tribune, 1944). Ultimately their efforts became the foundation for the Intertribal Friendship House in Oakland.
San Francisco Chronicle - Sun - Aug. 27, 1922
Oakland Tribune - Tue - Mar. 25, 1930
Oakland Tribune - Sat - Oct. 22, 1927