WILD RIVER BOOKS
There’s Always Another Side to A Church Lady
As a child living in a small African American community, I was always fascinated by the church ladies. I would see them on Sunday mornings or at church dinners holding it down with a pecking order that many who are familiar with Black culture know about. The main criterion for becoming a church lady was purely from their longstanding history and service to the church. It didn’t matter if they sang in the choir; served on the Missionary, Usher, or Deacon Boards; or headed up the kitchen—church ladies grew into their clout organically. We called them Miss Helen, Miss Sadie, Miss Agnes, and Miss Bertie, whatever their first name may be. We never used the prefix Missus; there was no need.
When you think about the church ladies you can almost liken them to the mafia, each having a “head” along with soldiers or underlings who fell under their charge. In the case of church ladies, the Church Mother held the top position with the remaining church ladies falling in line, each holding down their respective church duties. And like the mafia you knew how to show proper respect—you wouldn’t dare challenge a church lady for any reason. There have been times that a young woman took the chance of wearing an outfit to church the church ladies would consider inappropriate. Be it too short, too tight, or cut too low, one side-eyed look from a church lady would speak volumes. You’d never do it again.
Again, just like the mafia the church ladies had weapons at their disposal; in this case it was their hands. How many times have I witnessed Black hands raised high in worship only to see those same hands simultaneously slap an unruly child upside the head. And if you think a church lady wasn’t allowed to do that, you’d have another thought coming.
So when we design E&B Aprons, we like to make them as different as the church ladies we remember. We’d like to present to you the apron we have affectionately named the Sara, an apron inspired by a particular church lady who had a special style. She would have known how to rock this apron while “switchin’ in the kitchen.” She was a born looker who had an infectious laugh. And don’t think this church lady wasn’t shy about coloring her hair or putting a fresh shade of red on her lips. Her loyalty to the church matched her devotion to her cigarettes and beer. She told her sister that she saw nothing wrong with “having a few on Saturday night and loving the Lord!” Oh yes, this church lady was always the life of the party and was able get up on Sunday mornings perfumed and impeccably dressed, ready for church.
There’s always another side to a church lady.
Through decades of research, examination of records, and a collection of verbal testimonies, Beverly Mills and Elaine Buck are writing If These Stones Could Talk with the editorial consultation and expertise of Wild River Books. If These Stones Could Talk will provide a clearer understanding of the African American experience and accomplishments in Hopewell Valley, New Jersey (and surrounding areas), and will add an important resource about the history of slavery in the state of New Jersey. If These Stones Could Talk will remedy the little-known missing Black history facts left out of our family histories and local histories as well as our textbooks and libraries. The goal is to engage readers—and educate students—not only in New Jersey but also across America and beyond.