Monday, January 24, 2011

2nd Marriage

On this day, January 24, in 1884, Frederick Douglass married his second wife, Helen Pitts. The two went to work at the Recorder of Deeds office, where he was Recorder and she was a secretary working, at one point, under the supervision of Rosetta Douglass, Frederick's daughter. At the end of the day, they proceeded to the 15th Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., where they were married by the Rev. Francis Grimke' (the black nephew, incidentally, of the white sisters Sarah and Angelina Grimke'). Outrage issued from both black and white corners, including both of their families; and he seems not to have been entirely forgiven for this to this day. As for her, in the lawsuit-ridden aftermath of his death, I've notice a struggle for the position of the real Mrs. Douglass in the efforts to commemorate Douglass. More on that as I research it.

Interesting tidbits from the newspapers in the wake of their wedding:
  • The New York Globe reported that Helen wore a "garnet velvet and silk" dress -- yes, red! -- while "the groom wore a full suit of black." 
  • The Washington D.C. Grit headlined the wedding announcement as "The Mistake of His Life," saying "It is not only a surprise, but a national calamity," adding, "But he suited himself; so we leave him in his glory (?)."
  • Columnist Africanus in the Cleveland Gazette accused Douglass of attempting to "bleach out the race" through miscegenation.
  • The Louisiana Standard exaggerated their age difference, saying "We must say that marriages between septuagenarians and young ladies in their thirties are not according to our idea of the fitness of things." Still, the editors, "wish the venerable old man a happy evening of his eventful life." Douglass was on the eve of his 66th birthday. Helen Pitts was forty-six.
  • Not in a newspaper, but Elizabeth Cady Stanton turned a congratulatory letter into a plea for woman's suffrage.

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