Mr. and Mrs. Leefolt
would like to announce the birth of their baby
Mae Mobley Leefolt
August 7th, 1960
at 4:30 am
8 pounds, 14 ounces
Female help good with children
Willing to work long hours
Good at cooking and cleaning
Respectful and polite
Must know how to serve tea
Must work at minimum pay
Contact Mr. and Mrs. Leefolt at 601-451-1115 if interested.
I've just been hired on as the help for the Leefolt family, down on Jefferson Way. They have a brand new baby girl, Mae Mobley, and they don't know what to do with her. Mr. Leefolt is out of the house working all day, and Mrs. Leefolt can't handle running around after Mae Mobley, according to her. I got the impression that Mrs. Leefolt doesn't want her baby very much; just the way she looks at Mae Mobley and talks about her makes my heart sad. I remember when I had my boy, Treelore, God rest his soul, all I ever wanted to do was cuddle with him and kiss his chubby cheeks. Mrs. Leefolt gets annoyed when the baby started crying during my interview, and turned her right on over to me, saying "I don't know what to do with it." She called her own child "it". I hope I can show this little babe more love than her momma ever will.
May 14, 1962
Out of all my years at Ole Miss, senior year is everything I dreamed it would be! I love all the classes I'm taking, especially my journalism class. My professor says I have 'potential' and he's looking forward to seeing more. Maybe one day, I'll be able to write something for the New York Times or some kind of publishing company! I love that I have more opportunity to write now that I'm not helping out on the plantation, although I do sometimes miss those long days with Daddy out in the field. My professors give the class thoughtful story and essay prompts that I feel really stimulate my creativity. Wouldn't it be great to see your daughter's name on the front of a best seller?
The Chi Omega sorority had its senior banquet just last week, where they honored all the girls who were graduating in just a couple weeks. I've really made some strong friendships with these girls, and will be sad to leave them. Hopefully, we can continue to communicate through letters.
Has Constantine acknowledged she's getting my letters? I've sent her a couple since the last time I heard from her in the beginning of April, and she hasn't written back. She helped me so much to become an amazing writer, and I've used some of the stories she told me as the foundation for short stories I've written. She was my favorite of all the help who work on the plantation, and I miss her dearly. Will you tell her I've been asking about her?
I miss you and Daddy so much, and I'm looking forward to seeing you at graduation!
All my love,
your daughter Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan
May 20, 1962
I do hope that you aren't just letting your classes prevent you from going out and meeting new people. I've heard college can be a nice place for meeting a nice man that may one day make a good husband.
When you get home, I'm going to try this new product on your hair. It's called "Magic Soft & Silky Shinalator", and it guarantees flat and silky hair within two hours! Your old friend, Hilly, stopped by and told me that she has a fine young fellow for you to meet when you get home. We can certainly use it before then. You know I've been trying to tame your frizzy hair since you were a child, and if this works, it will do wonders!
And please, Eugenia, stay away from high heels. You know it makes you look too tall and seems to highlight your long, thin arms and legs. I've been trying to tell you to make yourself shorter, but you just don't seem to listen!
I have enclosed 35 dollars. Please use it at the hair salon, or on a new dress, not on writing materials.
"I was wondering if you could help me."
"Would you like a Coca-Cola?"
"Excuse me? Oh, yes, that's fine."
"Why do you want me to help you?"
"Well, I've been thinking about all the maids that my friends have, and realized that they do not have the opportunity, especially in Jackson, to share what they think of the people who employ them."
"And I was just thinking that maybe I could put together a book of interviews from you and all your friends about what you think of Jackson and the people in it."
"I don't know if that's such a good idea, Miss Skeeter."
"I know, but I would put you all under different names. Everyone listed would have a different name, so it wouldn't be easy to identify anyone at all!"
"I still don't know, Miss Skeeter."
"Aibileen, I would be so grateful if you would just give it a shot. We can do it at night at your house, so no one will really be able to see anyone coming or going."
"I'll give it some thought, Miss Skeeter. The thing that you don't see is that while you may not be punished if your name is leaked after the 'book' is published, all my friends and I will."
"I understand, Aibileen, and I will make sure that no one will be able to identify you."
"Give me some time to think this through please, Miss Skeeter."
I started my new job today working for Miss Celia Rae Foote down at the big, gray brick mansion outside of town. Lord, that lady does not know how to do squat. I walked in today in the middle of her burning an upside-down cake, and discovered her house is covered in dust. Then, she told me to sit down while she brought me a drink! No white woman has ever told me to sit down so she could serve me a drink in my whole life!
The house has five bedrooms and five bathrooms, with another pool house in the back. Plus, the silver cabinet is the size of my living room, and has windows that seem to stretch on to heaven. My heart was beating out of my chest when I saw it.
After driving out to kingdom come, Miss Celia starts going on like I said I did not want the job! I put my foot down right there and said I was perfectly capable of cleaning her house whenever she wanted me to. I told her about my Sunday to Friday hours that I had at Miss Walters' house, but she got all shifty-like and told me I wasn't to go there on the weekends. I tell her I can do Monday to Friday and leave at four, and she tells me that's fine, but then gets all shifty again when I ask her about pay. She drops the bomb and tells me that her husband doesn't know she's hiring help! Good Lord, trying to clean her big house and help her with the cooking is going to be one heck of a job if I'm trying to avoid getting caught by her husband, Mr. Johnny.
After finishing the rest of the day helping Miss Celia clean, I get home and have a phone call from Aibileen telling me about some book that Miss Skeeter is writing. Apparently, she wants to interview all the help and then make that into a book! Is she outside her mind? That's like telling the white people of Jackson, Mississippi to hold a gun to the heads of the help and pull the trigger! Miss Skeeter wouldn't understand how dangerous it is! And to add to all that, Aibileen said she was thinking on it! Lord, the world seems to have lost its mind.
People who may be interested in Miss Skeeter's book and their response
Kiki Brown (no)
Plantain Fidelia (no)
Yule May (maybe)
Shirley Boon (no)
Remember that last entry I wrote? The one about who would be willing to be interviewed for Miss Skeeter's book? Well, no one wanted to do it. But within the last two weeks, once everyone heard that Minny Jackson, fireball Minny Jackson, had agreed, my phone was ringing like crazy from all the help that wanted to be interviewed and share their thoughts. Lord, I was smiling for hours on end. And you should've seen Miss Skeeter. She was thrilled! I think she's just glad that she can make a difference, even just a small one, in Jackson. I really hope that this book will.
The first person to be interviewed, after Minny and me, was Pascagoula, Miss Skeeter's own family maid! She didn't speak much on Mr. and Mrs. Phelan, but she did talk about her other bosses. She was crying by the end, but they seemed like good tears, the kind you cry when you're relived that people will hear your story.
The lady at the company that is publishing our book said it has to be in by December 1963! That only gives us about 4 months to finish, compared to the five that we thought at first. Let's hope it gets finished in time!
April 6, 1964
Help by Anonymous –
A book review by Dennis James
Help by Anonymous is quickly spreading to bookshelves across America. What started as a small book about a few African-American maids and their experiences has turned into a country-wide read.
The book discusses the hardships over "the help" all over America, and sheds new light on those who clean our houses or cook our meals. We all had someone, or currently do have someone, who acted like a nanny, or even a servant, to our families. Although some may call the stories in this non-fiction book "untruthful" and claim that they are over exaggerated lies, many are calling this book one of the best books in the last decade. Bookstores say they are flying off shelves, unsurprisingly.
I know that I read this book and developed a whole new respect for my own maid, Bessie Mae. I never thought until now how hard she works to make sure that my wife and I have a clean house and home cooked meal to come home to. After reading the last story, I discovered that if you are not kind to your maid, you never know what they will do to your house or food to get back at you. I know for a fact that if someone treated me as harshly as some people treat their maids, Lord knows what I would do to them.
I recommend this book to everyone, and hope that you will take good advice from it.
August 24, 1964
Dear Miss Eugenia Phelan,
I am pleased to inform you that we have a place available for you at Harper & Row publishing company as a copy editor's assistant. Your work in the book Help was not only admirable, but an excellent example of writing. We would be delighted to have you work in our prestigious publishing company and hopefully see what kind of writer you may develop into.
You may report to the Harper & Row publishing company on 33rd Street in Manhattan on September 10, 1964 at 10 o'clock sharp for a formal interview. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at any time during the work week.
Elaine Stein, Senior Editor, Adult Book Division
October 14, 1964
I just want to thank you for everything you helped me to accomplish over the past two years or so. Without your help, I would have never been able to complete the book. You were such a wonderful help to me throughout all the time.
I have started my job at Harper & Row and I adore it. All my life, I have known that I have wanted to write, and now I finally get the chance. My boss is fantastic, and encourages me to work for a position that is higher up in the company. All because of our one book! Aibileen, I just wanted to thank you and tell you that I will always consider you a close friend of mine. I am going to continue to write to you, and really hope you will consider writing back.
I have enclosed 100 dollars for you. It's the least I can do for you after all you have done for me.
Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, Assistant to the Copy Editor
A/N: This is a project I had to do for English. It's a multi-genre project, where you take different types of writing and retell a story or the story's theme. I did The Help by Kathryn Stockett, which is a fantastic book that you should read if you haven't already. I hope you liked it! Reviews would be darling :)