Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Mary Smith's Sad Tale


Caroline Healey Dall tells us one more tale of the heartbreak of slavery in her diary in December, 1842.
Caroline from Massachusetts had taken a position as Assistant Principal at Miss Lydia English's Female Seminary in Washington City, a Southern town that permitted slavery, an economic cruelty Miss English embraced.

Massachusetts Historical Society
Caroline Healey (later Dall) (1822-1812)
About the time she took a teaching position in Washington due to family financial troubles.

Caroline, always self-confident, broke many Washington rules, teaching one of the enslaved servants at the school to read and helping another write a difficult letter. Caroline tried opening a sewing school for free Black women but found no place that would host it.

A sympathetic New Englander must have been a welcome
staff member for the enslaved servants. Lydia S. English was
enough of a believer in slavery and secession that her
school was confiscated for a Union hospital when the Civil War broke out.

Miss English's school building still stands although
its last "restoration" as the Colonial Apartments in 1953 is a bit dated.

One evening servant 18-year-old Mary Smith knocked at the teacher's door asking her to write a letter. Caroline prepared to take dictation but Mary did not know how to compose a letter. She told Caroline her tale and between them they wrote an eloquent refusal of marriage to a suitor James.

Eastman Johnson's 1859 glimpse of a courtship
in a Washington courtyard.

They addressed the letter:

And that is all we know. We can't follow up on Mary Smith, her name is too common, and James Everinboro' (might be Everingborough) is a name that doesn't seem to exist in either form.

 This may be Mary listed at 27 eight years later in the 
1850 Slave Schedule under L. English's name. 
The census's Slave Schedule did not list slaves' names.

Miss English's Female Seminary occupied as a Union hospital
during the Civil War.

Daughter of Boston: The Extraordinary Diary of a Nineteenth-century 
Woman, edited by Helen Deese

See Mary's story by clicking here on the preview of Caroline Healey Dall's published diary:

Mary's story part 1

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