Helen <I>Pitts</I> Douglass


Helen Pitts Douglass Famous memorial

Honeoye, Ontario County, New York, USA
Death 1 Dec 1903 (aged 65)
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA
Burial Rochester, Monroe County, New York, USA
Memorial ID 7407772 View Source

Suffragist, Abolitionist. Founder of the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association. Born in Honeoye, NY, Helen was the daughter of Gideon Pitts, Jr. and Jane Wells. She attended school at the Genesee Wesleyan Seminary in Lima, NY and graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1859. She taught for several years at the Hampton Institute in Virginia until controversy and bad health forced her to return home. She moved to Washington, DC in 1882, where she co-edited the feminist publication "The Alpha" with Caroline Winslow. She was hired by Frederick Douglass, who had recently been appointed Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia, to be his clerk. After Douglass' first wife Anna died in 1882, it was Helen that brought new meaning to the depressed Douglass' life. They were married in 1884. The marriage was surrounded by controversy; Helen Pitts was not only white, but also 20 years younger than her husband. Despite the fact that her family were ardent abolitionists and colleagues of Douglass, they were outraged at the marriage and refused to speak to Helen. Douglass' children also scorned the marriage. Helen defended herself saying, "Love came to me, and I was not afraid to marry the man I loved because of his color." Douglass said ""This proves I am impartial. My first wife was the color of my mother and the second, the color of my father." Their happy marriage lasted for 11 years. After Douglass' death in 1895, Helen asked for this children's support in turning their home, Cedar Hills, into a memorial. They declined, wishing to sell the home and divide the proceeds. Helen borrowed money and bought the house, dedicating herself to the establishment of the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association. Up until the last year of her life, Helen toured the country, lecturing and tirelessly raising money for the Association. Helen Pitts Douglas died at the age of 65, and her wish was to be buried on the grounds of Cedar Hill. Unfortunately laws prevented this. There was no funeral service, and she was quietly buried beside her husband in Rochester.

Bio by: Kristen Conrad

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 2 May 2003
  • Find a Grave Memorial ID: 7407772
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Helen Pitts Douglass (14 Oct 1838–1 Dec 1903), Find a Grave Memorial ID 7407772, citing Mount Hope Cemetery, Rochester, Monroe County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .