Madam and Her Madam – Summary, Analysis and Question Answer

Madam and Her Madam 

I worked for a woman, 

She wasn’t mean 

But she had a twelve-room 

House to clean. 

Had to get breakfast, 

Dinner, and supper, too 

Then take care of her children 

When I got through. 

Wash, iron, and scrub, 

Walk the dog around 

It was too much, 

Nearly broke me down. 

I said, Madam, 

Can it be You trying to make a

Pack-horse out of me?

She opened her mouth. 

She cried, Oh, no! 

You know, Alberta, 

I love you so! I said, Madam, 

That may be true 

But I’ll be dogged 

If I love you!

-Langston Hughes 

A. Match the following words/phrases in column ‘A’ with their meanings in column ‘B’. 

Column ‘A’

Column ‘B’

a. mean

i. not giving up easily 

b. get through

ii. a horse that is used to carry heavy loads

c. dinner

iii. cease to function; collapse

d. break down

iv. unkind 

e. pack-horse

v. a formal and polite way of speaking to a woman

f. Madam

vi. to manage to do or complete something

g. dogged

vii. the main meal of the day


B. Answer the following questions. 

a. Was the Madam not really mean? Why does the speaker say ‘she wasn’t mean’? 

b. Make a list of works that the maid had to do. 

c. What made her nearly break down? 

d. How did the Madam respond to the maid’s question? 

e. What will the maid do if she loves her Madam? 

C. What kinds of discriminations are in existence in your society? Discuss.


Like all Langston Hughes’ “Madam” poems, he has caught the reader’s eye once again. “Madam and Her Madam” comes off as a simple poem, but its true meaning is insightful and packs a punch of emotion. The whole poem is narrated by a black woman, confined to being a slave to a rich white woman. The slave is trying to explain the harsh labour she must go through. But she would be fine with it all, only if she could get respect from her employer. The poem starts off with the slave attempting to explain her employer.

“I worked for a woman,

She wasn’t mean,

But she had a twelve-room

House to clean.”

In this stanza, what the slave is really trying to say is that she doesn’t mind her employer, as much as she does the extensive work.

The tone of this poem is set to be comical and fun, but the true meaning is spiteful and angered. Hughes wrote “Madam and Her Madam” to show his view of the relationship between slave and slave-owner. His outlook on this topic is, obviously, one of, mainly, resentment, sprinkled with a little entertainment and humor.

The poem “Madam and Her Madam” is an astounding poem to share with the class. It helps the students have just that much more of an understanding of the time period of slavery. Many people don’t really understand the actual severity slavery had on America. The genuine relationships between employer and employee stand clear in this deep and endearing poem.

Slavery wasn’t only working for low pay. It was, actually, a demeaning and awful time that brought injustice and destroyed the black’s hope forever regaining their pride. That is why Hughes wrote this poem in the first place. He was fed up with people thinking they knew it wasn’t that bad for blacks. But with all murders and hate towards blacks, being a slave was as great as it could be.

The title of this poem is “Madam and Her Madam”. This title is supposed to show the reader that the woman is worked to death because she is not respected even though her boss says she loves her. This shows that she is pretty much still treated as less than a person.