Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Widow Douglass at the National League of Colored Women

Helen Douglass, Frederick's second wife, attempted to carry on the work of her husband. In 1896, she attended the National League of Colored Women's convention in Washington, D.C. The Indianapolis Freeman, a black newspaper, described the meeting as attended by "some of the brainiest women of the race."

They reported this about Douglass:
Mrs. Helen Douglass, widow of the late Frederick Douglass, read a paper. She called particular attention to the [illegible] life of the cities of the Union, and urged that they should unite and bring about a reform in this matter. If the colored women of Washington would unite, she said, they could put an end to living in alleys, and no longer would come from them a steady stream for the workhouse and almshouse.
She spoke of the police court. They ought to find means to keep as many as possible from the place. But there seemed to be a prejudice, and the policeman would pick up a poor old man who sad down weary for a moment in some forbidden place in a park or some thoughtless boy who might pick a magnolia blossom. They would be sent to prison from court the next day. When leniency was to be exercised it was reserved for those who had recklessly taken human life. This was greeted with applause.

Later, Helen invited all of the women up to Cedar Hill on a pilgrimage to view the home of Frederick Douglass. She already had a plan to turn the house into a memorial museum, and these ladies were the key people to court in that regard.

If you've been to the Frederick Douglass National Historic Park in Anacostia, D.C., you have seen that she succeeded.