Growing up, actor Octavia Spencer remembers being inspired by the story of Madam C.J. Walker, one of America's first black, female, self-made millionaires. Born on a plantation in 1867, Walker eked out a living washing clothes for white families before building an empire selling hair care and makeup products to women of color.
Essayist and feminist journalist Barbara Ehrenreich. For three weeks last year Ehrenreich worked for a cleaning service in Portland, Maine. She writes about her experience, and the politics of house cleaning in this month's issue of Harper's magazine. The article is called "Maid to Order: The politics of other women's work" (April 2000). She is a contributing editor of Harper's. Her articles, reviews, essays and humor have appeared in Time, The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, and The Wall Street Journal.
Novelist and professor Valerie Martin. She's been called the "heir apparent to Edgar Allen Poe." She's taken the Robert Louis Stevenson classic tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and given it a new twist. Her new historical novel, "Mary Reilly," tells the story of Jekyll's descent into madness from the point of view of Mary, a Victorian maid in Jekyll's household. Mary escaped the squalor and brutality of the slums to become a servant. As she becomes Jekyll's confidant she's once again drawn into the underworld she sought to escape.