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Anna Murray Douglass

(1813–1882) Anna Murray 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 was a member of the Anti-Slavery Society as well as a regular donor. Like her husband Frederick, she was committed to the emancipation of her people. In Rochester, she was also an agent on the Underground Railroad – where she provided food, clean clothes, and a safe place for fugitive enslaved people to stay on their journeys to freedom in Canada. 

An early advocate of Women’s Suffrage, Anna Murray's husband Frederick Douglass is often called a Suffragent. His enlightenment was said to be influenced by relationships with some of the movement’s founders. But the example of his wife Anna Murray Douglass must have also been a major and earlier influence. She was among the most fearless and independent women in his life and had been so even before they met. 

The records of Caroline County, Maryland, held at the state archives show that 17-year-old Anna and three of her siblings requested official "Certificates of Freedom" from the county court on 29 May 1832 attesting to their free status. The certificates enabled them to travel freely in Maryland, because the law required they provide proof that they were free people, or risk being enslaved. It is likely that Anna and her brother and sisters were planning to move to Baltimore, where Anna eventually met Frederick Bailey [Douglass] and helped him escape. A resourceful young woman, she established herself as a laundress and housekeeper and became financially secure. Murray's freedom made Douglass believe in the possibility of his own. When he decided to escape enslavement 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.

Anna's daughter Rosetta reminded those who admired her father that his "was a story made possible by the unswerving loyalty of Anna Murray."


Mt. Hope Cemetery

Section T, Lot 26

1133 Mt Hope Ave, Rochester, NY 14620

Monroe County

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