The Help

The Help, the movie based on the Kathryn Stockett novel about African American maids working for white households in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s, recently joined an elite – and short – list of films that have topped the box office for 25 consecutive days.

Many African American women from across the country, who lived during that time period and served as domestic workers in other people's homes, died in the last few weeks. Among them are:

Onger Mae Taylor (Mansfield Journal)Onger Mae Taylor, 83, the mother of nine children, who “spent over 40 years working as a Domestic engineer serving in the homes of local entrepreneurs assisting and caring for their personal families,” according to the obituary in the Mansfield (Ohio) Journal. “She also worked at the Board of Education in the Janitorial Dept.”

“She was fun loving and very young at heart. She always had a word of encouragement for everyone. She loved children and was a firm believer in discipline and not sparing the rod according to the word of God. She liked to stay young and identify and keep up with the youth and knew all the current good slang that the youth often used. She was always thoughtful and knew exactly what her children wanted and liked.”

Beulah Abrams (The State)Beulah Rickard Abrams, 88, “worked at home ‘doing hair’ for many of the ladies in the community,” according to the obituary in The State in Columbia, South Carolina. She also “worked in the cafeteria at Rosewood Elementary for several years, but the majority of her life was spent as a domestic. She worked as a housekeeper until she retired due to her age and declining health in 1996.”

Geneva Guess (The Herald Democrat)Geneva Guess, known as Mama Ge or GeGe, 94, of Sherman, Texas, “pursued a domestic occupation for prominent families in the Grayson County area,” according to the obituary in The Herald Democrat. “She was employed by the late Dr. Harold and Dorothy Scott for many years before retiring.”

Lib Hill (NewsZapDE)Mary Elizabeth Louise Riley Hill (known as Lib), 82, of Lewes, Delaware, worked at Sport Kraft- Dressco factory for 26 years, according to the obituary in NewsZapDE. “After its closing, she worked as a domestic in Lewes, and local surrounding areas. In her later years she became employed at the former Lewes Convalescent Center as a dietary aide.”


This post was contributed by Alana Baranick, a freelance obituary writer. She is director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers and chief author of Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers.