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Although she is "just" the housekeeper to the Finch family, Calpurnia also serves as the surrogate mother to Jem and Scout. Since their mother died of a heart attack shortly after Scout's birth, Cal is the only adult female in the home. Atticus gives her free rein in disciplining and teaching the kids right from wrong--an unusual thing for a black women in a white home in Depression-era Alabama. When Aunt Alexandra arrives to take over as female head of the household at the beginning of the Tom Robinson trial, she tries to convince Atticus to fire Calpurnia, believing that she will no longer be needed. But Atticus knows differently: He stands up to his sister and declares firmly that Cal is a necessary and loved member of the family. Aside from teaching the children manners, she strictly rules the home and keeps them (especially Scout) on their toes. She also helps to educate them. It is Calpurnia who teaches Scout to write in cursive, an act that she regrets after Miss Caroline condemns her for not printing her work on the first day of first grade.
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