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Elizabeth and Irvin McDuffie Papers
3 linear feet
Irvin “Mac” Henry McDuffie (b. 1882 d. 1946) and his wife Elizabeth “Lizzie” Hall McDuffie (b. 1881 d. 1966) were domestics in their hometown of Atlanta and later in the employ of Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his presidency. Born in Elberton, Georgia, Irvin moved to Atlanta to be a barber and eventually manage the “McDuffie-Herndon Barbershop,” financed by Alonzo Herndon of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. Upon the recommendation of a customer, Roosevelt interviewed McDuffie to be his valet at his retreat at Warm Springs, Georgia. McDuffie continued on with Roosevelt through his governorship in New York and his presidency, until McDuffie suffered a nervous breakdown in 1939. Elizabeth worked for 23 years as a maid with the prominent Atlanta family of Edward H. Inman. In 1933 she moved to Washington, D.C. to join her husband and became a maid in the White House where she remained until Roosevelt’s death in 1945.
This collection consists of the papers of Elizabeth McDuffie from 1911 to 1965. It includes correspondence, photographs, clippings, and publications. The bulk of the materials are Elizabeth’s, most from the years after she left the White House. The correspondence is mainly from friends, family, and acquaintances during the years 1933-1962. Among the correspondence are brief missives from such notable correspondents as Margaret Mitchell, Eleanor Roosevelt, Walter White of the N.A.A.C.P., and philanthropist Robert W. Woodruff. Of note are the letters from Irvin to Elizabeth, especially his account describing his travels to the Port of Spain, Trinidad with President Roosevelt aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis in December 1936. Of special interest is Elizabeth’s memoir of her experiences while working for the Roosevelts titled “The Back Door of the White House.” In addition to her reminiscences of White House guests and events, she writes of her own life, including her memories of the Atlanta Riot of 1906 and her 1938 audition for the part of “Mammy” in Gone With the Wind. Also included in this collection are a few papers of Hazel Dixon Payne, Elizabeth’s godchild, who worked for the American Red Cross during World War II. Her essay “Life on the Alcan Highway” consists of only the first two pages, but details her duties setting up a Red Cross Recreation Club.