Tuesday 16 April 2024


Anna Murray Douglass (1813 – August 4, 1882) was an American abolitionist, member of the Underground Railroad, and the first wife of American social reformer and statesman Frederick Douglass, from 1838 to her death.

Anna Murray was born in Denton, Maryland, to Bambar(r)aa and Mary Murray. Unlike her seven older brothers and sisters, who were born in slavery, Anna Murray and her younger four siblings were born free, her parents having been manumitted just a month before her birth. A resourceful young woman, by the age of 17 she had established herself as a laundress and housekeeper. Her laundry work took her to the docks, where she met Frederick Douglass,b who was then working as a caulker.

Murray's freedom made Douglass believe in the possibility of his own. When he decided to escape slavery in 1838, Murray encouraged and helped him by providing Douglass with some sailor's clothing her laundry work gave her access to. She also gave him part of her savings, which she augmented by selling one of her feather beds. After Douglass had made his way to Philadelphia and then New York, Murray followed him, bringing enough goods with her to be able to start a household. They were married on 15 September 1838. At first, they took Johnson as their name, but upon moving to New Bedford, Massachusetts, they adopted Douglass as their married name.

Murray Douglass had five children within the first ten years of the marriage: Rosetta Douglass, Lewis Henry Douglass, Frederick Douglass, Jr., Charles Remond Douglass, and Annie Douglass (who died at the age of 10). She helped support the family financially, working as a laundress and learning to make shoes, as Douglass's income from his speeches was sporadic, and the family was struggling. She also took an active role in the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society and later prevailed upon her husband to train their sons as typesetters for his abolitionist newspaper, North Star.  After the family moved to Ro.

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