We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide.

Print Price: $32.95

400 pp.
28 halftones, 6.125" x 9.25"


Publication date:
April 2017

Imprint: OUP US

Women in the World of Frederick Douglass

Leigh Fought

In his extensive writings, Frederick Douglass revealed little about his private life. His famous autobiographies present him overcoming unimaginable trials to gain his freedom and establish his identity - all in service to his public role as an abolitionist. But in both the public and domestic spheres, Douglass relied on a complicated array of relationships with women: white and black, slave-mistresses and family, political collaborators and intellectual companions, wives and daughters. And the great man needed them throughout a turbulent life that was never so linear and self-made as he often wished to portray it.

In Women in the World of Frederick Douglass, Leigh Fought illuminates the life of the famed abolitionist off the public stage. She begins with the women he knew during his life as a slave: his mother, from whom he was separated; his grandmother, who raised him; his slave mistresses, including the one who taught him how to read; and his first wife, Anna Murray, a free woman who helped him escape to freedom and managed the household that allowed him to build his career. Fought examines Douglass's varied relationships with white women - including Maria Weston Chapman, Julia Griffiths, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Ottilie Assing - who were crucial to the success of his newspapers, were active in the antislavery and women's movements, and promoted his work nationally and internationally. She also considers Douglass's relationship with his daughter Rosetta, who symbolized her parents' middle class prominence but was caught navigating between their public and private worlds. Late in life, Douglass remarried to a white woman, Helen Pitts, who preserved his papers, home, and legacy for history.

By examining the circle of women around Frederick Douglass, this work brings these figures into sharper focus and reveals a fuller and more complex image of the self-proclaimed "woman's rights man."

Readership : Sutiable for those interested in the history of slavery, abolition, biography, women's history, suffrage history.

1. "A True Mother's Heart"
2. Anna Murray, Mrs. Frederick Douglass, 1810-1848
3. "The Cause of the Slave Has Been Peculiarly Woman's Cause," 1841-1847
4. "The Pecuniary Burdens," 1847-1853
5. "I Wont Have Her in My House," 1848-1858
6. The Woman's Rights Man and his Daughter, 1848-1861
7. Principle and Expediency, 1861-1870
8. Her True Worth, 1866-1883
9. Helen Pitts, Mrs. Frederick Douglass, 1837-1890
10. Legacies, 1891-1895
Epilogue: Afterlife, 1895-1903
Appendix: Family Trees

There are no Instructor/Student Resources available at this time.

Leigh Fought is Assistant Professor of History at LeMoyne College. She is the author of Southern Womanhood and Slavery: A Biography of Louisa S. McCord and an editor of Frederick Douglass's Correspondence.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave - Frederick Douglass
Edited with an introduction by Deborah E. McDowell
The Oxford Frederick Douglass Reader - Edited with an Introduction by William L. Andrews
Fighting Chance - Faye E. Dudden

Special Features

  • A readable biographical study of the life of the great abolitionist through his relationships with women, from his grandmother and mother, to his wives, daughter, and female collaborators.
  • Fleshes out female figures in Douglass's life - including his grandmother Betsey, mother Harriet, wives Anna Murray and Helen Pitts - despite there being few records in their own words.
  • Highlights Douglass's complicated relationships with family and a range of female activists, friends, admirers, and adversaries.