Clara Clarke Steele arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, in the immediate wake of the hurricane. She carried with her an infant son, a few contacts, and a desperate need to find work. Able and determined, she quickly found employment with Atlanta’s first families. Sometime after 1928 May Patterson Goodrum hired Clara as a caregiver for May’s aging mother, Mollie. Clara had found her last home.
In 1930 May, Clara, and Mollie moved to their newly built house at 256 West Paces Ferry Road. The Regency home, formal grounds gardens were charming, and perhaps reminded the English expatriate of the country and aristocratic legacies she had fled six years earlier. Soon after taking up residence, May promoted Clara to housekeeper. For the next fifteen years “Miss Clara” presided over a staff that included butlers, maids, nurses, gardeners and a night watchman. On the property she was ubiquitous, agile and beloved. The relationship with her empathetic employer, who also hailed from the working class, took on a complexion of sibling love. At times it was difficult to determine where May left off and Clara began. Clara took her meals at the dining room table with the lady of the manor, enjoyed free access to the household automobiles, and likely had ready use of May’s credit around town. Her sense of style was intoxicating. How many Atlanta housekeepers wore furs and white gloves?