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In Their Own Words

October 01, 1880

Teaching to Supplement Income

Financial troubles continued long after Reconstruction for Gertrude Thomas and her family; finally she was forced to go to work herself to support her family:

“My prayer of yesterday is answered! My way is made clear for me, unmistakable, plain and direct. It is right that I should teach school. It is my duty and this is what decided me. A visit from Mr. Sibley the sheriff to serve me with a writ or paper from Franklin and Brothers. The amount is [left blank] with interest. What a poor business woman I am. I have read it over half a doz times and I only remember that it is $300 and something. Mr. Thomas went in town this morning. I had just signed an order on Howard and Sons for $150.00 conscious while I did so that the river swamp was mortgaged and that we would probably lose it when we tried to settle up at the end of the year. Mr. Thomas was annoyed, said I knew nothing of business and of this I am very conscious… .” [Despite these self deprecatory remarks, it was largely Mr. Thomas’s mismanagement of his family’s assets that perpetuated the family’s financial woes; Gertrude kept the family afloat with the income from her teaching.]

Source: Virginia Ingraham Burr (ed.), The Secret Eye: The Journal of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1848-1889 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), pp. 410-411.