July 17, 1865
"Sue & myself are taking in sewing to assist in paying for our washing."
"It certainly won't be much more than [paying for laundry], for I've always considered seamstresses as a dreadfully ill-paid class & always declared I would never take sewing as my means of livelihood, for it would soon kill me or at least make me feel like committing suicide.
"For with closest application, a very quick workwoman could barely finish one chemise a day, that is putting really good work upon it.
"Those we are doing are quite plain, save four rows of cord stitched into the band & three little tucks in the sleeve, & I know it would take me two days of steady work to make one."
Well, it turns out they had nothing else to do as they had no fabric to make their own clothing...and they really didn't earn money for the work. They traded for scarce commodities---perhaps to a contractor who supplied the fabric.
"But as we have very little work of our own, save mending, in which Nina [probably a now-hired former slave] assists, we work together mother assisting...We lighten our labor by reading aloud.... We are to be paid in sugar and soap at 50 cents a garment. Of course, we should much prefer money, but, that being scarce, barter is the order of the day."
Emma Holmes tale is told in her published diary:
Diary of Miss Emma Holmes, 1861--1866, edited by John F. Marszalek