Racial Segregation and Consciousness--In both stories, the women (Delia and Cora) do manual labor for white women (laundry, cleaning, etc.). They are allowed in the houses of white women, touch some of their most valuable things, and influence their children, but at the end of the day, they return to their segregated sections of town. In regards to racial consciousness, both women are well aware of how others view them. Delia from "Sweat" struggles more with her identification within the black community as "poor Delia" whom Sykes cheats on. Cora struggles more with her role as a black woman in a white community. When she loses her own child, she begins to see little white Jessie Studevant as her child, but this causes her more pain because of Jessie's fate and her inability to save her.
Both women are in conflict with the stereotypes that others have of them. They feel that they are expected to take whatever is dealt with them, but neither does so. Instead of allowing herself to the be the poor black woman whose husband goes around town cheating on her, Delia finally has enough and gets even with Sykes. Similarly, when Cora finds herself an unmarried mother of a multi-racial baby, she continues her normal life without shame and demonstrates that she has something of worth to teach Jessie Studevant despite how others stereotype her.