Ellen, a pre-Civil War African/Native American

Newly acquired:

Memoirs of Elleanor Eldridge by Francis Harriet Green (Providence, 1847).

According to the late great Sidney Rider (1833-1917), bookseller and antiquarian of Providence, Francis Harriet Whipple Green (1805-1878) always chose “the unpopular side of every question in Rhode Island.” From 1830 on she supported one cause after another–temperance, labor, suffrage, abolition, spiritualism, etc.

Her most popular work was the Memoirs of Elleanor Eldridge (1838) followed by Elleanor’s Second Book (1839), the actual story of the sufferings of a mixed-race woman:

“She was born at Warwick, R.I., March 26, 1785. Her paternal grandfather was a native African. He was indeed, with his family, to come on board and American slaver, under pretence of trade.”

Tricked into slavery, the man, his wife, and four children suffer the “middle passage” and are sold on the auction block. Elleanor’s father, Robin, becomes Robin Eldridge, who later enlists to fight in the American Revolution (and therefore gain his freedom). Before enlisting he marries Hannah Prophet, daughter of Mary Fuller, a Native American of the Narragansett tribe, who dies at 102 in the year 1780.

Elleanor eventually became a resourceful and pioneering Rhode Island entrepreneur who used the proceeds of her successful cleaning business to buy real estate. However, during a serious illness much of her property was essentially stolen from her. Representing herself in court she reached an out-of-court settlement and was able to reclaim her properties at an expense subsidized in part by this memoir, originally printed in two parts in 1838 & 1839. Eldridge’s memoir is one of the few narratives of the life of pre-Civil War free black women.

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