Two letters were brought to our attention yesterday by our volunteer, Raquel, who is processing the Rowland Family letters, 1764-1860 (Ms 66917). The collection measures 1.5 linear feet (3 boxes) and contains correspondence to and from several members of the family.
In November 1827, Mary Elizabeth Rowland (1805-1845), living in Exeter, New Hampshire, wrote a letter to her cousin Frances “Fanny” Bliss Rowland in Windsor, Connecticut. Mary Elizabeth started off apologizing for the length of time between letters. It had been a long summer. She was having trouble attracting and keeping household help, and lamented being stuck in the house as much as she had been. The situation, though, was starting to improve.
We had a day or two ago a little boy + little girl added to our family in the capacity of servants. The damsel is a genuine blackey. She is nine years old and we take such a fancy to her we think of changing her name (Maria) to Rosetta. She is sprightly + we are most in love with her and if our patience is not spent soon we intend to educate her to suit us.
Apparently Mary Elizabeth’s patience did not run out. Thirteen years later Fanny received a letter from Rosetta, then attending Rev. Hiram H. Kellogg’s Young Ladies’ Domestic Seminary in Clinton, New York. These two letters do not provide any indication as to how Fanny and Rosetta met, though, Rosetta had just spent some time at Fanny’s and felt comfortable addressing the letter, “Affectionate friend.”
Rosetta wrote of learning to play the piano.
Miss A[ddington] is the young lady that gave me lessons on the piano forte. If you should have happen to have been there, you might have thought it strange to see white, and [colored] in the parlor [together]without the least controversy. My Dear Miss A. I shall always love, ‘while memory lives in the heart.’ She has done much for me and I trust I shall ever be [grateful] for it. The further we go, we meet with different people. But, O!! when will this monster sin: prejudice be done away with.
Rosetta has encountered prejudice in both Connecticut and New York and, understandably, did not enjoy it in either state.
The letter ends with Rosetta writing that while she had been considering moving to the west, she had finally decided against it. “I cannot go where I have to get free papers. If I cannot live in free air, I do not wish to live at all.”