Elsie Mae Boyd worked as a domestic worker, cleaning white people’s houses, through the 1950s and ’60s in Pittsburgh. When I was born in 1970, my biological mother struggled to take care of me so Elsie — the woman I call Mom — informally adopted my older brother and me, with my younger brother joining us a few years later. Mom only had an eighth-grade education, so to make money, she and her daughter Mary “watched,” aka took in or babysat, about a dozen other kids for a nominal fee while she reared us. Mom and Mary used their social security and disability checks to provide financially for our family. While they…

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