[Green, Frances Harriet Whipple]. Memoirs of Elleanor Eldridge. Providence: B.T. Albro, 1841. 16mo (13.5 cm, 5.25"). 128 pp. [with] Elleanor’s second book. Providence: B.T. Albro, 1841. 128 pp.
Rare pairing of both parts of the Eldridge story, uniformly and attractively bound. These are early editions (fourth and second, respectively) of each, following the first printings in 1838 of the Memoirs and 1839 of the Second Book: Together, being the tale of a hardworking but long-suffering free Northern black woman, whose grandmother was a Native American of the Narragansett tribe and whose African-American family members had been enslaved prior to the war. These two volumes describe how Eldridge made use of her profits from working as a dairy woman and as a maid to purchase real estate, but came close to losing everything through some questionable legal shenanigans before successfully defending her rights in court. The second book, which is particularly uncommon, recaps Eldridge’s life before offering a series of fanciful tales as told by Eldridge’s friends; the book was meant to continue the fundraising effort begun with the first volume.
It is unclear how much of Eldridge’s biography has here been romanticized (there now seems to be little available evidence regarding her career), but the story nonetheless provides an important perspective on the lives of African-American women prior to the Civil War. Also of interest is the group of women described as helping to rescue Eldridge by way of this literary endeavor, undertaken through the auspices of Green, a Rhode Island–born author, reformer, and spiritualist who went on to publish several abolitionist works.
A woodcut frontispiece, used in both volumes, depicts Eldridge in cleaning-woman guise, holding a small broom.
Sabin 22102. On Green, see: Dictionary of American Biography, 542. Contemporary half morocco with marbled paper–covered sides, spines with gilt-stamped volume information; leather moderately rubbed. Front fly-leaf of vol. I with gift inscription dated December, 1901 (“To Annie, with loving remembrances from her Father.” A few instances of light staining to pages, mostly in the second book. An attractive pair, with all edges gilt.
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