Sinks and Laundry: The Soiled Reputation of the Atlanta Washerwomen

Authors: Valerie Prince*,
Topics: Cultural Geography, Ethnicity and Race, Historical Geography
Keywords: water management, race and class, topography
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 30
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The 1881 Atlanta Washerwomen’s Strike demonstrates the effectiveness of African American laborers to exert agency over their economic role. However, in order to understand what these workers were really up against, one needs to understand the water ways—in particular, the Chattahoochee and the South rivers and their relative distance from the city that would become Atlanta. By the early 1880s, Atlanta had emerged from the ashes of the Civil War as one of the South’s most formidable cities. Yet, Atlantans had an uneasy relationship with water. The city’s poor management of water directly impacted those who were required to do the work of cleaning. This talk explores the development of Atlanta as a modern city from the perspective of the washerwomen.

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