Eliza Benson with mixing bowl
View of Eliza Benson (1836-1921) holding a mixing bowl in the kitchen of Baltimore, Maryland, photographer Emily Spencer Hayden.
With the deaths of Emily's parents A. C. Bradford "Braddie" Harrison Spencer (1841–1882) and Edward Spencer (1834–1883) in the early 1880s, care of the younger Spencer children was left to Benson. A formerly enslaved African American, Benson had worked for the Harrison and Spencer families for many years by the time Emily's parents died, and would live with Emily after she married and had children of her own.
Earlier descriptions of Eliza Benson also named her as “Mammy,” a term once used in the United States to describe a Black nursemaid or nanny who cared for white children or who was otherwise a servant for a white family.