Thursday, May 8, 2008

So this was, ahem, unexpected

In March I went to DC on a research trip and spent hours at Cedar Hill, the home in Anacostia in which Frederick and Helen Douglass lived. Helen spent the last part of her life fighting to have the home chartered as a national landmark and her efforts paid off. The home underwent a big restoration a few years back and now looks exactly as it did when FD lived there, down to the wallpaper and carpeting.

Since so much of my book takes place within its walls I badgered the poor docent with questions and took a lot of photos, which I'm referring back to every day when I write. One question which the otherwise very knowledgeable docent could not answer: What was up with the hand embroidered pillow shams in Frederick Douglass' bedroom?

As was the style at the time, Frederick and Helen had separate rooms, just across the hall from each other. You can just make out in this photo the pillows on Frederick's bed but I can describe them. Embroidered in red thread were three owls on tree branches, two tucked close together and the third owl on the lower branch. Underneath it says,

"Two's company, three's a crowd." On the bed. In red.

Who made these for him? Helen? What was she telling him? Was it his daughter Rosetta who really couldn't forgive Helen for marrying her widowed father? Was Helen the top owl, or the owl on the bottom? Have I been researching this subject too long? Probably.

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