Biographical Sketches
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18 r The following biographical sketches list the important people in the lives of Louisa Matilda Jacobs (1833–1917) and Eugenie “Genie” Webb (1856–1919), in alphabetical order by their nicknames. These sketches provide essential backstory and help to fill gaps in this collection. Louisa and Harriet Jacobs (ca. 1815– 1897) appear as “Lulu” and “Mother” on this list. “Annie” Harriet Ann “Annie” Purvis (1848–1917) wrote thirteen of the letters in this collection. She was the daughter of gentleman farmer Joseph Purvis (1812–1857) and antislavery poet Sarah Louise Forten (1814–1884), the niece of abolitionist Robert Purvis (1810–1898), and the granddaughter of wealthy black activists James Forten (1766–1842) and Charlotte Vandine (Forten, 1785–1884) of Philadelphia . Her father was born free in Charleston, South Carolina, to Britishborn cotton broker William Purvis (1762–1826) and his freeborn mixed-race wife, Harriet Judah (Purvis, Miller, 1783–1869). Annie received her earliest education privately at the Purvis family estate, “Fairview,” in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in a chaotic home plagued by debt and her father’s alcoholism.1 After Joseph Purvis died intestate in 1857, Annie’s teacher-aunt, Margaretta Forten (1806–1875), assumed guardianship of some of the eight Purvis children, and Annie, nine years old, moved back to her Grandmother Forten’s home in Philadelphia. Annie considered herself a cousin of Eugenie “Genie” Webb (1856–1919) through their mutual upbringing and cousinship with Charlotte “Lottie” Louise Forten (Grimké, 1837–1914).2 Biographical Sketches Antislavery and equal rights activist, head of the 1830s Vigilance Committee of Philadelphia, and the “father of the Underground Railroad,” Robert Purvis was Annie Purvis’s uncle. (Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society) 20 Biographical Sketches In 1875, Annie, her mother, and her brother William (1838–1914) lost their Bucks County family farm to debt. Annie worked during the early 1880s in the federal Agricultural Department in Washington, DC, and at the office of Recorder of Deeds Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) in 1884, and then, in late 1884, she returned to the old Lombard Street home to care for her aging mother and grandmother. Both died during the course of this correspondence. After her mother’s and grandmother’s deaths, Annie worked in a Philadelphia shop making artificial flowers. She and her brother, inventor William B. Purvis, both unmarried, continued to live at the Forten home until 1893, when they moved to a small Philadelphia apartment.3 “Delie” The death of Cordelia “Delie” Sanders (Chew, ca. 1843–1879) precipitated the correspondence between Louisa Jacobs and Genie Webb that is included in this collection. Cordelia died of consumption on November 5, 1879, with Genie Webb by her side. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of wellto -do British businessperson Richard Walpole Cogdell (1787–1866) and his enslaved common-law wife, Sarah Martha Sanders (1815–1850), Delie and her family arrived in Philadelphia in 1858, where they were befriended by John Chew (1818–1870) and Charlotte Henson (Chew, 1819–1884), Annie Elizabeth Wood (Webb, 1831–1879) and her niece Charlotte Forten (Grimké), and Louisa and Harriet Jacobs. The Sanderses associated with other well-to-do mixed-race families who had moved from Charleston to Philadelphia, such as the Browns, Joneses, Purvises, Humphreys, Adgers, Vennings, Le Counts, Farbeauxs, and Cattos. During one social gathering at the Sanderses’ residence in the spring of 1858, Charlotte Forten remarked, “All were Southerners, save me.”4 Delie taught in Colored School Number 1 in Brooklyn in the mid-1860s, along with colleague Georgiana F. Putnam (1832–1912) of Salem, Massachusetts, under principal Charles A. Dorsey (1836–1907) of Philadelphia. She may have received at least part of her education in Salem, where she accompanied Charlotte Forten (Grimké) in the summer of 1862. Before she married William “Willie” Herbert Chew (1847–1892) in 1870, she was romantically involved with equal rights activist Octavius Catto (1839–1871), who was later assassinated on his way to vote. She was the mother of two boys, Richard Sanders Chew (1871–1962) and Charles Sanders Chew (1873–1954). During 1875 and 1876, Delie visited Louisa Jacobs in Cambridge, and the two traveled together to Herkimer County, New York, to see Louisa’s old friends. Delie invited Louisa to Cordelia “Delie” Sanders (Chew), 1866, taught school after the Civil War in Brooklyn, New York. Delie was Louisa Jacobs’s closest friend. Her death in 1879 precipitated the nearly forty-year correspondence between Genie Webb and Louisa Jacobs. (AWWP) 22 Biographical Sketches spend at least one Christmas with her...



Subject Headings

  • Jacobs, Louisa Matilda, 1833-1917 -- Correspondence.
  • Purvis, Annie (Harriet Ann), 1848-1917 -- Correspondence.
  • Webb, Eugenie, 1856-1919 -- Correspondence.
  • African American women -- Correspondence.
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