In the letter, Cary expressed her annoyance with "the death-like silence of colored women" who fail to speak out in support of trades "to get the boys started properly in life," later adding, "I want our poor tongue-tied, hobbled and 'scart' colored let the nation know how they stand (Cary, "Trades" 177). Although writing nearly twenty-five years earlier, Shadd, in her typically direct style, proposed a more aggressive way to assure meaningful employment for sons. Laney challenged the women to consider children "with the spirit of the true and loving mother" (57). For Lucy Laney the chief racial uplift work for women was the work of motherhood.

     Georgia Swift King expressed this same opinion of the importance of motherhood in her brief remarks to the women. King was one of several black women active in the Women's Christian Temperance Union in Atlanta. King opened with the rhetorical syllogism that if home has the greatest influence on individual development and mothers have the larger share in making the home, "then it follows that the destiny of the Negro race is largely in the hands of its mothers" (61). Sustaining a strong rational appeal, King cited statistics showing that the birthrate barely exceeded the death rate, with infant deaths increasing among the literate and the illiterate. As a solution to the absence of informed homemaking, King proposed a series of "mothers' meetings," during which knowledge would be dispensed on such subjects as "care of infants," "economic cooking," "Proper and wholesome dress," and "the laws of sanitation" (62).

     In Selena Sloan Butler's address, "Need of Day Nurseries," she described a scenario played out in many homes today, 100 years later, of a tired parent coming home at the end of a long day to children who have practically been tending themselves -- except that in 1897, few support systems had been established.  Butler herself established a kindergarten in her own Atlanta home to accommodate her son and his peers.  She remained an advocate for parental involvement in early education, establishing in 1926 the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers. In the speech, Butler pointed out that in many deprived circumstances, mothers die early, leaving orphaned children to be brought up on the streets.

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August 1999