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Waddles, Charleszetta "Mother"locked

(07 October 1912–12 July 2001)
  • Dennis Wepman


Waddles, Charleszetta "Mother" (07 October 1912–12 July 2001), African-American activist and Pentecostal church minister, was born Charleszetta Lena Campbell in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Henry Campbell, a barber, and Ella Brown. Her father was successful in his work, serving only white customers at a time when barbershops were generally segregated, but when one of his customers contracted a scalp disease, Campbell's business was ruined. Charleszetta assumed much of the responsibility for the household, which included six younger siblings. Her father died when she was twelve years old, and she left school, in which she had been a very successful student through the eighth grade, to take a job as a housemaid. At the age of thirteen she got a job as a sorter in a rag factory; that year she became pregnant by her twenty-three-year-old boyfriend, who deserted her, and the next year she married Clifford Walker, from whom she was divorced within months. She went on to work as a dishwasher and, at the age of eighteen, a restaurant cook. In 1933 she married LeRoy Wash, a thirty-seven-year-old truck driver; the couple had six children. When Wash lost his job in 1936, the family moved to Detroit, and while she always stayed employed, her husband failed to find work and went on welfare. They divorced in 1945, and soon afterward Charleszetta, unable to remarry without losing her welfare support, entered into a common-law relationship with Roosevelt Sturkey, a low-paid laborer. They lived together for several years and had three children before separating in the late 1940s. In 1950 she married Payton Waddles, an employee of the Ford Motor Company, with whom she lived until his death in 1980....

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