In her article, Cooper analyzed the changing perceptions and roles of black working women by considering four significant points. She first brought to light current Atlanta University research revealing that of 1,137 black families, 650 or 57.17 percent were supported wholly or in part by women and that since women were already principle wage earners, they ere entitled to the rights of all other workers (Cooper, "Wage-Earners" 295). The second and longest section of the piece is an argument for a broader definition of the term "wage-earner" that would clearly include women working in the home. Cooper claimed that women should be considered the "indoor manager," and as a contributor, the woman was entitled to a share of the wages. Anticipating the objection that perhaps one should not attach a price tag to a mothering and homemaking, Cooper countered that as noble as this work is, the woman should not have to ask for doles; her partner should remember that she "earns a definite part of the wage that he draws; and that, though she has never figured it out and presented the bill, his account is greatly in arrears for simple wages" (292). In the third section, Cooper also argued for women wage earners outside the home, stressing the importance of providing them with as much education as possible. Cooper, while opposed to what she called the "woman with elbows," pointed out that black women needed to demand fair compensation. Speaking generally of black workers, she defined the disadvantages of a 250-year lag in educational opportunities. Finally, to make up the deficit, Cooper discouraged contemporary efforts by some black families to imitate middle-class white society with costly weddings, funerals, clothing, and other material objects. She returned to her opening claim that women are invaluable wage earners, whether working in the home or outside, and that a "prudent marriage is the very best investment that a working man can make" (298). Cooper argued here, as she did in A Voice from the South, for woman's difference as a special advantage.

     In Lucy Craft Laney's 1899 opening address to the Woman's Conference of the third Hampton Negro Conference, she called this challenge of racial uplift a "burden," not resentfully but with despair that the times had created in fact a triple burden of "shame and crime and prejudice" ("Burden" 341).

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August 1999