Study Guide

Nanny Delany in Having Our Say

By Sarah and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth

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Nanny Delany

This character analysis goes out to all those mamas who profit dollars and all the honeys making money. Throw your hands up at us!

Independent Woman

Nanny Delany lived the life of an independent woman well before Queen 'Yonce ever graced us with her greatness. Her own mother was an inspiration: a freewoman who ran her own business, acted as an equal with her husband, and—oh yeah—accidentally invented pasteurization. Not too shabby, right? With an early influence like that, it's no wonder that Nanny was able to get an education, raise a butt-load of children, and work a busy job all at the same time.

Nanny, in turn, provides a great female role model for Sadie and Bessie. Sadie herself even says that "as a grown woman, forty years old or more, [she] was still something of a mama's child," and we see that in action when Nanny moves up to New York (5.24.1). Bessie, on the other hand, inherits her mother's fiery nature and unwillingness to back down in the face of prejudice. Although each daughter takes on different aspects of their mother, it's impossible to deny how strong of an influence she is on both of them.

Old Ladies Gone Wild

But it's not until Henry dies that we truly get to know who Nanny is. You might expect that she wants to chill out after a life spent working hard, but you'd be as wrong as an absentminded contestant on Family Feud. Nanny wants to live it up, taking trips to Russia ("a most interesting country"), Los Angeles ("sunny and clean"), and even a plane ride over Niagara Falls ("the time of her life") (5.24.7-8,18). When was the last time you went on so many adventures?

In a way, this experience prepares the sisters for their own inevitable aging. Like good ol' mom, Sadie and Bessie realize that you shouldn't take old age lying down—you have to get up and get moving! That works out pretty well for them. In the end, it's just another of the many ways that Nanny helps her children better themselves through her example.

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