Saturday, June 27, 2015

Lewis Douglass "thrown into the shade" by Frederick, Jr.

Lewis Douglass to Amelia Loguen, Rochester, 6 June 1861, Walter O. Evans Collection (private)
My Dear Amelia,
Your letter bearing date May 29, but unfortunately for me, not mailed until the 31st reached me last evening, finding me well. Ever since you apprised me that it was not your intention to poke fun at me by that Kiss I have ceased to fancy that you so intended. If by that Kiss you intended to ameliorate my feelings towards you, let me apprise you that you have triumphantly succeeded in your Amelia – rating. Just at the present moment I would be glad to receive another Amelia ration, as I shall hereafter call your love inspiring kiss, they now are rations which I will always be glad to receive.  That cold “good evening” when we met at our house the time of your visit on returning from the falls, I am excusable for though I had seen you on four occasions before I never had an introduction to you. The time you were at our home in 1857 I did not even speak to you, in fact I was completely thrown into the shade by a younger brother who I remember staid away from the office for the purpose of entertaining you, you will no doubt remember the circumstance. The next time I saw you was the 2nd of Oct. 1857 at 6 ½ o’clock p.m. at your home, then I  did not speak to you, and the next time I saw you was in June 1858, father and myself were on our way to McGrawville, then I had no introduction to you and nothing but a “cold good afternoon” escaped either of us, it was on that occasion, that you were dressed in that near approach to masculine unmentionables, bloomers, and sang ‘I’ll never see my darling any [nivey?],’ you will also remember this occasion, again, the next time we met was in Geneva, August 1, 1859, then I had no introduction to you but I believe we exchanged nods as we were walking down to the park, this time you will remember as you were waited upon by a highly interesting (to say the least) ‘dark’ from Syracuse I believe, on the discovery of which I ‘sloped,’ leaving you and Miss Douglass in the enjoy

[letter incomplete]

Lewis, Frederick Douglass's oldest son, was not yet twenty-one when he wrote this, working for his father as. Amelia Loguen was one of the daughters of Jermain Loguen and Caroline Storum Loguen of Syracuse. A Rite-Aid now sits on the site of their home at the corner of Genesee and Pine.

Clearly, Amelia had entranced Lewis's younger brother, Frederick, Jr., who was a mere fifteen in 1857. Poor Lewis was an elderly seventeen at the time, with many more responsibilities in his father's office.

When Lewis saw her the second time he and his father were in Syracuse for a celebration of the Jerry Rescue, which had taken place when he was eleven.

In June 1858, the elder Douglass spoke at New York Central College. Frederick Douglass' Paper had been advertising the school, which billed itself as teaching "Radical Anti-Slavery and the Equality of the Sexes." She may have been visiting Rochester because father Douglass had no speaking engagements in Syracuse that month, and Syracuse was not in their path from Rochester to McGrawville. Clearly, Lewis was not a fan of the Bloomer dress, which was on its way out of fashion at the time. That Amelia, a black woman, wore a dress so reviled in polite society suggests her commitment to that area of reform.

Their Geneva meeting took place at a West Indian Emancipation Day celebration. The "dark," which was probably an insult, seems to have been a young man interested in Amelia, who appeared to have been accompanied by Rosetta, Lewis's sister. 

Unfortunately, the rest of this letter was missing. I would like to know how these early, distant exchanges became the flirtation in which she "poked fun" of him with kisses. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

"Articles" for the Bazaar

From Frederick Douglass' Paper, 10 July 1857:
Some of the articles mentioned in the Bazaar Report as commanding a ready sale, are as follows: -- materials for children's dresses unmade; aprons and pinafores of all kinds made up; baby linen, with the exception of caps; hosiery, worked collars, and cuffs; crochet work of all kinds, tatting, and knitted edgings; cambric handkerchiefs; fine Irish linens; boxes of tapes; white crochet mats and doyleys; purses and balls; needle-books and pin-cushions of superior quality; knitted and embroidered slippers; sofa cushions, and carriage bags; Honiton lace; papier machie ornaments; Irish bog oak ornaments; fancy stationary, and water colored drawings.
Antislavery women, "were forced to defer to the men and to sit home expending their energy on handicraft monstrosities to send to Maria Chapman for her antislavery bazaars in Boston," wrote William McFeely in his biography of Frederick Douglass (p. 142). Granted, the volume came out in 1991, when historians were only beginning to scratch the surface of women's roles and work in the antislavery movement. Still, this passage makes me cringe. 

The excerpt from Frederick Douglass' Paper above, shows the types of items that these women made and which ones sold well. "Children's dresses," "aprons and pinafores," "baby linen," "slippers," "carriage bags," "hosiery" and so forth were all useful items that could take time to make and not available ready-made. Nicer items, such as the lace, drawing, and stationary all made nice gifts. As the two types of "ornaments" indicate, even then people purchased items for Christmas, a holiday gaining popularity in a form that we would recognize, with Christmas trees and presents, even if the whole celebration would shock today's celebrants with its modesty. 

As for the bazaar, mentioned in such passing as to suggest its irrelevance, Chapman could bring in a thousand dollars or more each year. That kept antislavery lecturers on the road and the Liberator and National Anti-Slavery Standard in print. 

Don't underestimate the knitters!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

More Love Advice

More advice on love from Frederick Douglass' Paper, 7 July 1857:

Never shrink from a woman of strong sense. If she becomes attached to you, it will be from seeing similar qualities in yourself. You may trust her, for she knows the value of your confidence, you may consult her, for she is able to advise, and does so at once, with the firmness of reason, and the consideration of affection. -- Her love will be lasting, for it will not have been lightly won; it will be strong and ardent, for weak minds are not capable of the loftier grades of passion. If you prefer attaching yourself to a woman of feeble understanding, it must be either from fearing to encounter a superior person; or from the poor vanity of preferring that admiration which springs from ignorance, to that which approaches to appreciation.

If this did not come from another paper, I suspect that the author was Julia Griffiths. Of course, Frederick Douglass would not have objected. He had a thing for women "of strong sense," both as wives and as friends.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Issues of Frederick Douglass' Paper

I've been meaning to post this for maybe two or three years. I'm a bit slow. I've also realized only last week that this blog's time zone was still set to Irish Summer Time, such as Ireland has a summer time.

Anyway, here is the point of the post:

No known full runs of the North Star or Frederick Douglass' Paper exist in any repository, microfilm edition, or database. Readex's America's Historical Newspapers  and African American Newspapers databases have some, but your library has to have a subscription. St. John Fisher College in Rochester has a few, which they have kindly digitized through New York Heritage Digital Collections, which is accessible to the public. You can find them here.They also include issues of Douglass' Monthly, full runs of which are available through academic libraries in print facsimiles, and the New National Era, full runs of which are available in microfilm through academic libraries.

Their collection also includes several other antislavery papers. One, The Radical Abolitionist, was edited by William Goodell, who was minister of the church in Honeoye (not that he was actually that was ordained) attended by Helen Pitts' family.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Frederick Douglass in the News

"'Mount Misery': Frederick Douglass Confronts Donald Rumsfeld," from the Daily Beast, review of a play in which Douglass meets Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld, you know, owns the property where Edward Covey, the slave breaker in Douglass' Narrative, once lived.

"Famed Abolitionist Frederick Douglass 'Visits' Darlington During Annual Community Celebration," from the New Castle News (Pennsylvania).

"New York City's Juneteenth: Remembering Frederick Douglass's Eulogy to Abraham Lincoln at a Pivotal Moment in the City's Racial History," from the New York Daily News. (Yes, Texans, Juneteenth is celebrated everywhere.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

"Miss Rosa Douglass"

In the "Gleanings of News" column of Frederick Douglass' Paper, 13 January 1854:

    Miss Rosa Douglass has been holden in 
$500 at Norfolk, for assisting her mother, 
who has absconded, to teach negroes to read 
and write.
This is not Rosetta Douglass, Frederick daughter, however, but another woman with a similar name. Because Rosetta was working at the paper at that time, perhaps she saw this item in another paper and both she and her father thought it amusing and, perhaps, ironic. Her own mother, Anna, had "absconded" back in 1838 to marry Frederick Bailey (aka Johnson, aka Douglass), and Frederick had taught slaves, including himself, to read and write. Anna could not read, but perhaps Rosetta tried to help her learn at some point. Rosetta, after all, was the one who said her mother could read "a little," but she was also the one tied to both parents as her mother's amanuensis.

As for Norfolk, ten years after this notice, a future Douglass taught hundreds of former slaves to read and write. At the time, she was Helen Pitts, working for the American Missionary Association among the freedpeople at the epicenter of emancipation.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Some Days I Have No Idea What He's Talking About

At the 1858 National Woman's Rights Convention in New York City, Douglass made this uncharacteristically short speech:
Loud calls were made for “Douglass,” when Fred. Douglass took the stand, and delivered a speech in behalf of woman’s rights. Having experienced slavery in his own person, it was impossible that he could be indifferent to any call for freedom. He based the rights of woman to freedom and to equality with man upon the same grounds on which he advocated the right of the slave to freedom and equality with the white race. The only difficulty that, in his opinion, existed anywhere in relation to this question was on that arose less out of the idea of rights than out of the idea of duties, or the idea of the possibilities of woman. What could woman do? Had been asked and answered generally, but he was inclined to think that woman herself was uneducated in a fuller notion of what she could do. He believed a woman could do anything a man could do, and by so doing could assimilate herself to man. If she handled the grubbing hoe instead of the needle her hands would become large and horny just as men’s hands do. There was no inherent principle of beauty in woman more than in man, for if they were to change places man would assume all that delicate texture of skin and beauty which woman has in her present position. He advocated the carrying out of the woman’s rights idea among the poorer classes, and instanced the fact of a man now building a house who was assisted by his wife in laying the bricks, splitting the wood, &c., and in such cases he saw the same hard features, hands, &c., both in man and woman.  On the plantation a woman was expected to hoe as many rows in a day as a man, and in consequence acquired physical strength and health; therefore a woman need not be afraid to go out West, for nature would furnish her with gloves of steel as well as the man. Let women go out there and do as in England, where the finest women, in his estimation, were working in the field.
The New York Times printed this variation:
Mr. Fred Douglass said he had never had the slightest difficulty with this question of woman's rights. On all the principles upon which he asserted the right of Slavery to freedom, he found that woman's rights could be based and would be based. The only difficulty in his opinion, existed anywhere in relation to this question was one that arose less out of the idea of rights than out of the idea of duties, or the idea of the possibilities of woman. What could woman do? had been asked and answered generally, but he was inclined to think that woman herself was uneducated in a fuller notion of what she could do. He believed that she could do anything that man could do, and by doing everything that man can do she would assimilate herself to man. if women could do as  men did they would look just about like what men did, and be able to do what men did. 
I suspect that he did not plan to make this speech or to speak at all at this convention. He had not appeared at a woman's rights convention since 1853, just before he and William Lloyd Garrison had a spectacular falling out (a longer story for another time -- or, as I call it, Chapters 4 and 5). Most of the women and men who attended the national and state conventions fell in line with Garrison, including Garrison himself. So, women's rights conventions were not something Douglass went out of his way to attend.

This one, however, took place for the first time during "Anniversary Week" in New York City, when and where Douglass was participating in two other meetings. My theory is that, as long as he was in town, he would slip into this one. Someone spotted him, hence "loud calls were made for Douglass," so he was obliged to say something.

But what on earth is he trying to say? This appears to be the outline of his speech:
1) I'm for women's rights.
2) The basis for women's rights and the emancipation of slaves is the same.
3) What can women do? That is the question.
4) Women can do anything a man can do, like physical labor, they just don't know it, yet.
5) In doing so, women assimilate to men. (Like the Borg? Is resistance futile?)

He seems to be intentionally uncontroversial here, but then he seldom said controversial things at women's rights conventions, as far as I can tell. At the American Equal Rights Association in the late 1860s, yes, but not at these antebellum conventions or at later woman suffrage conventions. His emphasis on physical labor is unusual, since he tended to focus on intellectual work. I'd like to think that this, as well as his mention of enslaved women, was his way of needling the largely white and middle class women's rights activists, who struggled to incorporate those groups into their national conventions.

I'd partly like to chalk this up to his being unprepared to speak, but he had always spoken extemporaneously.  Indeed, in later years, some of his old fans complained that they preferred his improvised speeches over his prepared ones. Of course, they may have been speaking more from nostalgia than from evidence. By 1858, he was making more prepared speeches, such as his "What to the American Slave is the Fourth of July?" So, he could have been rusty. Another possibility is that the transcription was rubbish.

The assimilation piece (joking aside) appears to be the key to fitting this speech in with his larger philosophy, once I figure it all out. Then, again, I'm not sure if he ever figured it all out. That actually makes me feel like he and I are puzzling through his ideas about women together. If only I could just turn to him and ask "really: what the heck do you mean here?"  Alas! A Ouija board is not a scholarly source, and he would never stop laughing disdainfully at the idea.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Elaboration on the Woman's Protective Union Advertised in the North Star

I found the "Woman's Protection Union" in the North Star when browsing for items about women, woman suffrage, or women's rights. The Union shows up only three more times, in notices for its meetings on October 3, 13, and 17, 1848, all three times called the "Woman's Protective Union."  They met at 3:00 in the Protection Hall, "corner of Main and St. Paul Streets," and "All interested in raising woman from her present state of degradation" and "friends of reform" were "respectfully invited to attend."

Not that I'm an expert on woman's rights organizations, but I had not come across this group before. They aren't in Rochester History, nor are they in Nancy Hewitt's Women's Activism and Social Change: Rochester, New York, 1822-1872, which is probably the best and most comprehensive book on the subject, or her published work on Amy Post. Obviously, this Union was short-lived and did not generate many records. 

According to Lisa Tetrault (among others), woman's rights activists resisted forming organization -- or at least national organizations -- in the antebellum era, working through temperance or antislavery societies. Also, in 1848, a woman's rights movement as such really did not exist. There was a sense of woman's rights, and women advocated for their own rights, but this took place within or in tandem with those other types of organizations. Even the Seneca Falls meeting was considered a blip rather than the beginning of something momentous. Although they knew of that convention, the woman's rights activists tended to date the beginning of the national movement to the 1850 Worcester Convention. 

So, this Woman's Protection Union is an anomaly. The members formed it on 18 Aug 1848, almost exactly a month after the Seneca Falls Woman's Rights Convention and two weeks after the more publicized (at the time) Rochester Woman's Rights Convention. Of its founders, Amy Post attended both conventions, signing the Seneca Falls "Declaration of Sentiments," and Sarah Owens and "Mrs. Roberts" spoke at the Rochester meeting. (I still have to do some investigation into "Mrs. Cavan") Both Owens and Roberts were concerned with discrimination against working women, which was clearly an important issue with the Woman's Protection Union given that they planned to continue their schedule of lower dues for women until "the time shall arrive that woman receive and equality of remuneration for the same labor performed as men." The meeting place, too, seems to have been a union hall, with the full name, "Hall of the Mechanics' Protection." 

This is also an attempt to form a reform society focused specifically on gender discrimination, placing it among the first -- if not the actual first -- explicitly woman's rights organizations in America. But, since I am not an expert on early organization, perhaps this last point can be debated.

Of course, Frederick Douglass was connected to it.