Sunday, May 31, 2015

A View Into the Office of Frederick Douglass' Paper, 1853

In a letter from "Communipaw" (James McCune Smith) to Frederick Douglass, printed in Frederick Douglass' Paper, 25 November 1853:
I certainly wish that our purse-proud brethren, who lazily sigh for the ease of England or Germany, or the oblivion of the steppes of Russia, in order to escape the duties which God has imposed on colored men in this land, could visit your home and your office for an hour, and witness the devotion of all your family to the success of your paper -- which is the success of the cause also -- one lad setting type, then folding, another feeding your new press, and Miss R.D. just budding into womanhood, laboring with pen in hand, by the side of our earnest and most efficient English benefactress - and the editor himself so selfishly proud and so superbly ambitious, in his shirt-sleeves, driving the press!

"Miss R.D." is, of course, Rosetta Douglass, Frederick's oldest daughter, who was fourteen at this point. He had a younger daughter, Annie, who was at home with her mother and Aunt Charlotte Murray, being only four.  The young men working the press were Lewis and Frederick, Jr., ages twelve and ten respectively. Charles, who was eight at this time, remembered that he joined them when he turned ten. The "most efficient English benefactress" was Julia Griffths, who was most important in ensuring that this paper continued production. 

This scenario fits with the reminiscences of all of the Douglass children, and one of the sons did mention that their father, at the urging of Anna, trained the boys in printing.  Frederick had begun his business with just such a goal in mind, not just for his own children but also to apprentice young black men who would have no other opportunities to learn the printing trade. In doing so, he would also help develop the black press. 

Little evidence exists about Rosetta during this period. I found entries concerning her aid to fugitive slaves in the Rochester Ladies' Antislavery Society account books in 1854 and 1857. Between 1855 and 1856, she attended Oberlin's Preparatory School, probably to gain enough education to become a teacher, which did not require a college degree at the time. She taught in Rochester in the 1858-1859 school year, a change that coincided with Frederick Douglass' Paper's conversion from a weekly to a monthly publication. In late 1858, too, she worked on a convention to protest the execution of Ira Stout, and she almost went to Haiti with her father in 1861. The war kept them both in the U.S. 

She asked her father to look out for an opportunity for a teaching position for her while he was on speaking tours, an ultimately went to Philadelphia in search of a job there in 1862, and found one in Salem, New Jersey later that year. When her brothers Lewis and Charles went off to war, she returned to Rochester. Then she married in 1864. 

There is much more to her story, but this excerpt from this letter as well as its context show that she did more than prepare delivery, as she said in her own memoir.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Frederick Douglass's Relationship Advice

Frederick Douglass to Harriet Bailey (aka Ruth Cox), London, 18 Aug 1846, Addition II, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress. Written upon hearing of Harriet's engagement, when he was not aware that she had an intended.
I can not do any thing that looks like favoring a thing which I know nothing about especially a thing involving so grave a matter as that of marriage. It is a solemn matter. I wish I had time to write you such a letter as the solemn importance of the subject demands. Marriage is one act of our lives once performed it cannot be undone -- It is not a think which may be entered into to day and given up to morrow -- but must last so long as live continues -- I therefore counsel that you seriously consider before you take the step -- it may lead to a life of misery and wretchedness for which you alone must be responsible...I should rejoice to see you married tomorrow if I felt you were marrying some one worthy of you. It would in deed spread a dark cloud over my soul to see you marry some ignorant idle worthless person unable to take care of you or himself either -- I would rather follow you to your grave than to do that. You ought not to marry any ignorant and unlearned person -- you might as well tie yourself to a log of wood as to do so...

From the North Star, 20 October 1848:
A Word to the Ladies -- Is not much of the folly and dissipation of the times chargeable to the ladies? Do they not give their sweet smiles and pleasant voices to those who dress the best and are the most extravagant? Will a lady be so particular to stop in the street and talk with a mechanic as she will to a well dressed gentleman? -- pauper we were about to say.
                We can point to many a woman, who gave her heart and hand to a mealy-mouthed, delicate skinned, oily haired, fashionable young man, who has bitterly rued the day of her choice. A man who has but little business except to curl his hair, consult the tailor and talk insipidly, is not fit for a husband -- we care not how much money he may count.
                So long as young women are so unwise as to smile on such, there will be folly and dissipation among our young men. Ladies should be wise and consult their duty and future happiness. Young women, will you not reflect upon this subject?

Frederick Douglass to Rosetta Douglass Sprague, Port au Prince, Haiti, 23 Jan 1891, Addition 1, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress.  Charles Morris was a young journalist in Washington, D.C.. Annie was Rosetta Sprague's eldest daughter and Douglass's granddaughter.

...If Morris and Annie are going to make a match, I hope they will not delay the matter. These long delays only bring trouble. None of my business I know it but one will think. I have known a good deal and among other things I have known young me to keep company with a lady and then keep all others at a distance and when the lady was no longer young leave her – I do not say that any such fate awaits our Annie – I hope otherwise....

And two months later:  Frederick Douglass to Rosetta Douglass Sprague, Port au Prince, Haiti, 6 March 1891, Addition 1, Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress. Nathan was Annie's father, Rosetta's husband, and was generally in and out of Douglass's favor.

...I meant all I implied in my reference to the case of Morris and our dear Annie. He should declare his purposes of keeping company with her or leave her course in clear in the world, and Nathan should tell him so – Annie is no longer a child to be trifled with, and I hope Morris is not trifling with her or trifling with himself. The life of a young woman is a solemn concern: One mistak step and her life is spoiled – If after keeping her company two or three years she is not married but all at once dropt – people draw conclusions unfavorable to her Now my dear Ros, Do not hurt the feelings of either Mr Morris or dear Annie, but I charge you as you value the future of your Daughter, to have a decision in the matter. Depend upon it I am right. Talk it over with Nathan. Tell him of the serious face I put upon it. He has strong good sense and I think he will see the matter in the same light as I see it in....

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Document: "Woman's Protection Union," North Star, 15 Sept 1848

(Don't sign into your account for a few months and they go and change things up and you end up spending an hour just trying to muddle your way back in. Lesson learned.)

From the North Star,15 September 1848:

Woman's Protection Union
    At meeting held August 18th, 1848, a the Hall of the Mechanic’ Protection the following Preamble and Constitution were adopted, viz:
     Whereas, These truths are self-evident, that all women as well as men, are created equal -- that they are endowed alike with inherent and inalienable rights -- that the laws of nature and nature’s God, entitle them equally with men to the products of their labor or its equivalent; and Whereas, the usages and customs of society are such at the present day as to exert a prejudicial influence on woman as a class -- having a tendency to oppress and injure, rather than elevate and benefit -- to degrade and impoverish, rather than enrich and enlighten -- to encroach upon their rights and privileges -- to subvert their best interests, making them subservient to the will of man -- to obstruct, if not entirely to close all avenues leading to those stations of honor and respectability to which nature and right of equality so justly entitle them -- and whereas, individual effort is found insufficient to correct the existing evils of society in this respect:
     Therefore, We whose names are hereunto annexed, do agree to associate ourselves together for the purpose of our individual and collective benefit and protection -- and for the purpose of securing harmonious actions, we do adopt the following.
                 Article 1. The name of this Society shall be “Woman’s Protection Union,” of the city of Rochester, and shall be composed of such persons as will sign this Constitution.
                Article 2. The officers shall be a President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer, who shall hold their offices for the term of six months.
                Article 3. Each woman on becoming a member, shall pay the sum of five cents; each man, the sum of twenty-five cents; but when the time shall arrive that woman receive an equality of remuneration for the same labor performed as men -- then this inequality of assessment shall cease.
                Article 4. The weekly dues shall be one cent for women and two cents for men.
                Article 5. The regular Meetings of the Society, shall be held on Friday, semi-monthly -- and ten members may form a quorum.
                The officers of the Society for the present term, are,
Mrs. ROBERTS, President
Mrs. Cavan, Vice-President.
Miss. S.C. Owens, Secretary.
Mrs. Amy Post, Treasurer.
The Regular Meeting will be held on Friday, September 15th, at half past 6 P.M., at the Hall of Mechanics’ Protection, where the friends of the movement are respectfully invited to attend and give such counsel, assistance and support, as may be in their power.
                SARAH C. OWENS, Secretary.