Hours Are Golden Links: 1890–1911
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144 r Although it is likely that Lulu and Genie visited each other between 1890 and 1894, there is only one extant letter from Lulu. In it she tries to comfort Genie with thoughts of God’s love. This lacuna coincides with Harriet Jacobs’s health problems—pneumonia, breast cancer, lameness, and senile dementia—and with Louisa’s difficulty in finding work during the Panic of 1893–1894. Letters from her Texas cousin Frank J. Webb Jr. (1865–1901), a medical student in Washington, both support and urge against her inclination toward self-sacrifice. By 1895 Genie is living in Philadelphia and has mortgaged the Franklinville, New Jersey, farm that she had possibly purchased from her father. Just as Lulu did, she is managing a canning business. She sends farm vegetables to Lulu and appears to be in better health, although all of them—Genie, Lulu, and Annie Purvis—are in dire financial straits. There are no letters from 1896 until 1900— after Harriet Jacobs has died and Lulu has obtained a position as matron at the National Home for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children. In 1901 Lulu travels to North Carolina to try to settle a nearly fifty-year dispute over the property that had once belonged to her great-grandmother Molly Horniblow, who died in 1853. That property had been subsequently occupied, and was presumed to be owned, by Molly’s son Mark Ramsey, who died in 1858. Mark’s wife, Ann Ramsey, continued to live in Molly’s house but the white executors Molly had appointed legally owned it: Josiah Collins (1808–1863) and Dr. William C. Warren (1800–1871). In 1859 Harriet Jacobs had asked Josiah Collins about the legal status of her grandmother’s property, and he responded that he and Warren would renounce any “copper” of the estate and that he believed that Molly had intended her property, now encumbered with debt, to go to her son. Collins mentioned the “question of an unadjusted exchange of Land” that might require “some interference ” on his part. Molly Horniblow’s will would not actually be proved until Hours Are Golden Links 1890–1911 Hours Are Golden Links: 1890–1911 145 the fog of war was lifting in December 1865. Harriet Jacobs visited Edenton in the fall of that year and visited once again in April 1867, presumably both times to establish ownership of Molly Horniblow’s property. Harriet described her grandmother’s place to Ednah Dow Cheney: “I felt I would like to write you a line from my old home. I am sitting under the old roof, twelve feet from the spot where I suffered all the crushing weight of slavery.” Six months later she told her friend Julia Wilbur that she owned the Edenton property but had “no desire to make her home there.” In 1870, in a murky transaction with no record of a dated deed, the property was purchased in the names of the three older children of Robert G. Mitchell (1835–1904). In late 1888 a new deed was issued to the Mitchell children. Harriet and Louisa Jacobs returned to Edenton in early 1889, perhaps pursuing their interest in the property. In 1890 an undated deed to the Mitchell children was discovered and offered for probate and registration, and then in 1901 the Mitchell family moved from Edenton to Elizabeth City, North Carolina. The 1901 divestment of the Mitchells’ Edenton assets might have precipitated Louisa’s final visit to Edenton and her last effort to recover her great-grandmother’s property. In her late sixties by now, Louisa’s bitter indictment of the white South is all the more scathing considering that she had lived her beliefs with tolerance, faith, and hope. The woman that the Willis family had always known—that “peaceful, quiet, cheerful, sweet, refined, intelligent” lady who passed “simply on without a murmer at the injustice of man”—returns from Jim Crow Edenton feeling the full force of the South’s injustice.1 In 1903 Lulu changes jobs and becomes matron at Miner Hall at Howard University. She spends summers with the Willis family in New England, and after her retirement at the age of seventy-five, she moves to Brookline, Massachusetts , to live out her final years with her dear friend Edith Willis (Grinnell). [From Louisa.] 1900 R St.2 Washington, April 4, 1890 My dear Genie Why is it you never send me a line nowaday? I do not look for long letters...



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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