What an emotionally fraught and ambiguous place they hold in American life! Once the Victorian live-in maid was replaced by the once-a-week cleaning girl of the 1950’s things got even more complicated.
Consider Carla’s role in the Draper household.
Betty never refers to her as a nanny — but as a housekeeper. Not that Betty carries any maternal burden about it, after all, she was raised with a live-in nanny and turned out just fine. She’s just being historically accurate about the role of The Help. Betty, as was common, had no consternation about what bond or influnce Carla was building with the children. Even though Carla just came by in the afternoons, it was she who stepped in multiple times to serve surrogate mother to Sally and Bobby when Betty was striken with (rightly filled) parania and melancholy about Don.
It is Carla who enables Betty is able to 6 ‘divorcation’ in Reno. “To make an omelette you need not only broken eggs ” Joan Didion wrote in her essay on the Women’s Movement, “but someone ‘oppressed’ to break them.” Though she may be one of the unintentional forbearers of the Woman’s movement, it would have been impossible for a woman like Betty leap into emancipation if she didn’t have Carla’s back to do it off of.
The nanny-mommy relationship would grow increasingly tense as black women, after centuries of servitude, were leaving domestic work en masse during the late Sixties.
Luckily for Betty —and Henry Francis— that’s still years away.