March is Women’s History Month, and as Frederick Douglass received his share of notoriety recently, it seems only fair to spotlight the distaff side. Cherished but overshadowed, Anna Murray Douglass represents the many dutiful wives overlooked by history, a worthy woman who definitely earned her place.

Mrs. Frederick Douglass was actually born Anna Murray in Baltimore, a free black woman and member of the Underground Railroad who helped Douglass escape slavery after he’d failed to do so by himself twice before. She provided him with the appropriate papers, a sailor’s uniform and much of her own money so that he finally attained freedom. Mr. Douglass subsequently went on to be recognized more and more as an intellectual, a presidential adviser — notably to both Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson — author of several autobiographies detailing his life in slavery, orator, publisher of abolitionist newspapers, consul-general to the Republic of Haiti and, in 1872, the first African American to appear on a presidential ballot.

During this time, Anna Murray Douglass raised their five children, cleaned house and kept the home fires burning. She remained Frederick’s loyal supporter throughout their 44 years together, even after her husband championed women’s suffrage to such a degree that his dalliances strained the couple’s marriage.

Not long after Anna died, Douglass married a young white feminist named Helen Pitts, 20 years his junior, and in 1895, after attending a meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C., Frederick Douglass returned home and died of a massive stroke or possible coronary; history’s not quite sure.

Only to prove behind every great man there’s a woman.

Or two.

OK, sometimes more than that.


Patricia Gannon covers society for The Acadiana Advocate. She can be reached at pgannon@theadvocate.com

King’s Breakfast

Always a stylish event, but this year the King’s Breakfast drew away from the pack. City Club laid it on thick for Gabriel LXXVIII Thomas Chance, three layers deep, as a matter of fact. Tablecloths in purple, green and gold topped the tables with matching Mardi Gras feather centerpieces, while jazz tote bags, custom cookies and flashing necklaces formed the favors. Fresh despite the endless revelry was Greater Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association President Rick Chappuis, Gabriel Commodore Albert Guilliot, past monarch P.J. Voorhies, Tommy Hightower, king’s mother Joretta Chance, Mary K. Hamilton and nephew Charles Fenstermaker III, and of course, His Majesty and the missus. Our favorites? The kingly caricatures and the bobblehead Gabriel dolls. Throw us one of those, mister.

Allons à Mardi Gras

The Advocate office on Johnston has the good fortune to be on the parade route Mardi Gras Day. Getting there can be a chore, and while it may not quite be business as usual, enjoying the ringside seat were Angie Scopes, Brian and Stacey Thompson, Celeste Morvant and daughter Cheyenne, Don Allen and yours truly, who received a blessing from King Gabriel himself, but not the beads with the gold alligator heads.

Gabriel Backstage

Easily our favorite part of Mardi Gras, a glimpse backstage at the grand finale, the culmination of the Carnival season. Dukes, maids and more gathered at the Heymann Center for the Grand Ball, courtesy of the Greater Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras Association. Queen Evangeline Christine Beaullieu was early and on time, the maids were ready to go in their pristine white dresses, and the energy was electric. Especially handsome were Robert Foard, Gene Lognion, Jimmy Zehnder, Bill Stagg, Darren Guidry and royal father Paul Beaullieu.