When Ang Ee was in her 20s and married, she shared that she would clean the houses of British soldiers as they would usually come to Singapore for two years and then leave. “It also would sometimes be short-term if their amahs (housekeepers) have left and I would come in halfway.” She would sometimes do the cooking, but mainly the washing of the clothes, cleaning the floor, ironing and more.
The 85-year-old remembers, “I would have to polish the floor every two weeks with oil. There were no mops and I had to get down on the floor and clean. It was hard work.” She would start usually around 9am and leave around 5pm.
She shared of one of the soldiers’ wives was very difficult to a point where a lot of amahs left her employment. “She was very demanding and often insisted on having the floor washed only with hot water, however, I never used hot water and she later accepted it. I was the only amah that got along with her. She and her husband always treated me well.”
Ang Ee said that when she was pregnant with her first child and was suffering from morning sickness, the wife told her not to work until after she gave birth. She hired a replacement but still continued paying her for six months! “I really don’t know why she liked me so much.”
She also shared that the wife would often put coins on the floor for her daughter to play and Ang Ee would collect them and put them properly on the table. One day, the woman’s daughter wanted ice-cream and the wife said she had no money. “I remembered the coins and told her, no, there is money.”
After four years tolling as an amah and cleaned a total of four houses, Ang Ee decided to call it quits to look after her child. Even as a housewife, she continued to find ways to earn extra income to support her burgeoning household filled with 10 children. She made kueh-kueh like curry puffs, tapioca kueh, pau, yam kueh, prawn fritters and crispy beancurd, and got her children to sell them for S$0.05 a piece. One day she earned S$25! Looking back on her life, the grandmother of 30 and great-grandmother of nine smiled and said that she has no regrets.