We called her Mother Smith
the plump congenial woman
who was housemother
in the red brick Antebellum
sorority house.

As house manager for the sorority
I helped her in any number
of ways and was privy
to much of the business
of the house.

She was interviewing
for a new cook.
A neat woman in hat and gloves
a pocketbook over her arm
appeared at the kitchen door.
I admitted the woman
and went to tell Mother Smith
a Negro lady was here
to be interviewed.

Later Mother Smith
called me into her office
and instructed me on a bit
of protocol.

“Honey,” she said sweetly,
“Negro women are never
referred to as ‘lady.’”

Janet Taliaferro