Fifty-five-year-old Elizabeth Macklin died this date, September 18th, in 1848 of an abdominal disease and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Ms. Macklin was married to Moses Macklin who would die two months later in November at sixty-one-years-old of a viral disease, likely pneumonia or influenza. Elizabeth and Moses were interred together at Bethel Burying Ground.
Elizabeth Macklin was a self-employed washerwoman. It was backbreaking work that had to be done in the sub-freezing winter and the heat and humidity of a Philadelphia summer day. She also would be expected to labor when pregnant, take care of children, shop for groceries, and cook. Ms. Macklin’s work week may have looked like the following:
Monday: Deliver clean laundry to clients from the previous week. Gather dirty laundry from clients, look for new clients, and shop for work supplies.
Tuesday and Wednesday: Gather buckets of water from the spigot or hydrant outside and carry them upstairs, making multiple trips, gather firewood to boil water while soaking, washing and wringing out clothes and bed sheets. She would have to carry the heavy wet items outside to hang on clotheslines. On freezing and rainy days, she would have to hang them inside.
Thursday and Friday: Iron for hours until completed. Deliver clean laundry. Repeat Tuesday and Wednesday.
Saturday: Iron all day “finishing late at night or early the next morning” (3)
Depending on how many clients she had, and if there were any helpers, Ms. Macklin would make anywhere from $0.50 to $2.00 for her week of labor.
Ms. Macklin died on a clear day in September where the temperature rose to sixty-eight degrees in the afternoon. She was buried, with dignity, at Bethel Burying Ground by her adult children and with financial assistance from a beneficial society at Bethel A.M.E. Church, according to census records.
2. Sharon Hartley, “Northern Black Female Workers,” p.7 in “Unknown Tongues” by Gayle T. Tate, p. 98.
3. Tate, p, 114-115.