Women’s History Month, Part III

Rachel Eddington letter, 1858

Rachel Eddington letter, 1858

“This is not the Country that was recommended to me,” mourned Rachel Eddington.  Rachel, her husband Sandy, and their seven children had been the property of Charlotte Belt, an Ohio County, Kentucky widow.  In 1857, however, the family found themselves in Liberia, the subjects of a decades-old movement to free American slaves and recolonize them in Africa.  After her emancipation, we might have known nothing more of Rachel, but she was determined to hold Mrs. Belt to a promise to correspond with her.  The result was a unique and heartbreaking story that is preserved in WKU’s Special Collections Library.

Rachel had much to tell her former mistress, as she and her family quickly fell on hard times in Liberia.  Like many newcomers, they became ill with fever and suffered from skin wounds that would not heal.  They had no horses or cattle, and insufficient land and implements for farming.  They were chronically short of work and food.  Over the next several years, Rachel sent letters to Charlotte Belt and Charlotte’s brother, Henry Stevens, pleading for everything from meat, lard and butter to thread, soap, candles and nails.  Her situation became even more dire when her husband, making a return visit to America, abandoned her, then three of her children died.  “I want to come back to my old home for this is a poor place,” she declared; still, she expressed her resolve to do all she could to provide for her family.  Here, unfortunately, after six years, is where the fate of Rachel Eddington is lost to history.

Click here for a finding aid to Rachel’s collection of letters.

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One Response to Women’s History Month, Part III

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