Carrie Crawford Smith’s “Back Door Leadership”. . .

Shorefront Journal

. . . and the Smith Employment Agency, 1918-1954; Connecting Domestic Help with Chicago’s North Shore’s Wealthiest Clientele

by Doria Dee Johnson—

A wealthy white woman phoned the Smith Employment Agency frustrated that none of her “help” worked out—the domestic labor she hired seemed to turnover after short stays. Her well appointed home needed staff to run efficiently, and only those laborers of specific backgrounds and ethnicities would suffice. The employer, who preferred only very particular “white” help, demanded Carrie Crawford Smith, the agency’s owner, provide her with someone who was “. . .not British, German, French or Scandinavian, none of them are any good.” Although Smith, an African American migrant from Tennessee, did employ white domestic laborers, she tactfully convinced the employer to consider an option that many of her neighbors had already exercised—a Negro woman. Smith promised to guarantee the employee’s success and indeed, the African American woman…

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