Elmira Saunders was born in Halifax County, N.C. on January 5, 1921. Her parents died when she was very young so she was raised by her grandfather on his farm. Elmira recalls hating farm work and while she did little work on the farm she did have to work in the house, as well as pick cotton. As a girl of 16, Elmira moved to Washington, DC, where she baby sat for her sister's children, worked as a waitress and attended night school.
Elmira and her husband Russell worked for the last family owner of Cliveden, Samuel Chew, beginning in April 1966. Russell's job consisted of "whatever came to hand;" he ran errands, took the children to school, served dinners, and occasionally helped with the gardening. Elmira cooked the family dinner, prepared breakfast for the children and did some cleaning and other housekeeping. Like most "couples" in large households, Russell and Elmira worked a six-day week with every other weekend off. In their free time, they visited friends and family and devoted time to their church. On weekends off, they traveled to Washington, D.C. to visit relatives. Sam Chew's children and step-children remember watching TV with Russell and Elmira in the living room of their apartment in the Kitchen Dependency and eating meals with them at the table next to the kitchen.
After the property was turned over to the National Trust in 1972, the Saunders' remained at Cliveden as caretakers until August 1981.
– Carolyn Wallace