UPDATE: The winner is…Debra Guyette!
Harriet was born Harriet Adams on March 15, 1825 of mixed-race heritage in Milford New Hampshire. Her mother was an Irish washerwoman. Her father was of African-American and Indian heritage and made barrels. Orphaned by her mother after her father’s death the courts made Harriet an indentured servant to the Hayward family until she was eighteen. In 1851, she married a sailor, named Thomas Wilson and bore a son named George. Wilson died at sea and Harriet and her son went to live on the county Poor Farm.
Not without resources, in 1857 she produced and sold a line of hair care products which her ads claimed to be the real thing for anyone looking to have good hair. Unlike Annie Malone and Madame C.J. Walker, Harriet’s products weren’t targeted only to African-Americans. From 1860 to 1861 she was able to distribute along the east coast by partnering with a white druggist.
Two years later, she wrote an autobiographical novel, Our Nig, in order to make money for her sick son’s health care. He died in 1860. With the advent of the Civil War, her sales dwindled when her partner sold his business.
By 1867, she had become known in Spiritualist circles as “the colored medium. The Boston Spiritualist newspaper, “Banner of Light,” called Harriet “Boston’s earnest and eloquent colored medium.” From 1867 through the 1880s, she spoke all throughout New England at camp meetings, spiritualist conventions, in theaters, meeting houses and in private homes throughout New England. Her speaking engagements often placed her on programs alongside other medium/spiritualists like Cora L.V. Scott and Andrew Jackson Davis. Harriet also made house calls and held medical consultations as a Spiritualist nurse and healer (“clairvoyant physician”).
She married again in 1870, this time to a pharmacist named John Gallatin Robinson. The marriage ended in 1877 although no divorce has been recorded. From 1879 to 1897, Harriet worked as the housekeeper of a boardinghouse in the South End of Boston where she rented out rooms, collected rents and provided basic maintenance.
On June 28, 1900, Hattie E. Wilson died in Quincy Massachusetts at the Quincy Hospital.
Today, Harriet is best known for “Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black,” published in September 5, 1859 anonymously by a firm in Boston. The cover page of Our Nig reads “Our Nig, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black in a two-story white house, North, showing that slavery’s shadow falls even there.” It was felt because of her critique of Northern racism the book did not do well as Uncle Tom’s Cabin published in 1852. The rediscovery of Our Nig by author/historian Henry Louis Gates brought Harriet into prominence in 1981. He declared hers was the first novel written by an African-American woman. This has been debated because Our Nig is said to be more autobiographical than fiction. The novel is in the public domain and can be read for free here: https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/584/pg584.html
In any case, once again I learned another woman proved she would not be hemmed in by the limitations placed on her by society because of her race and gender.
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“Take Me to the Water”
by Michal Scott from Silver Soldiers
SILVER SOLDIERS: A BOYS BEHAVING BADLY ANTHOLOGY will satisfy the reader who craves stories with older alpha male heroes—those salt-and-pepper hotties with crow’s feet earned through rugged training and years of combat. Former soldiers finding their footing after their first careers, or current soldiers nearing the end of their military careers. They’re ready to find the right partner to put down roots, ones who aren’t afraid of scars and rough edges.
Excerpt from “Take Me to the Water”…
Weeksville Third Baptist Church glistened and glittered in 1880’s homemade Christmas regalia. Beribboned holly swags and fragrant pine cones infused the sanctuary with seasonal joy. Seasonal joy that missed the mark with Ambrose Stewart.
He remained ramrod-straight in the last pew despite the minister’s personal invitation for Ambrose to come forward for prayer. He refused the offer with a smile and a shake of his head.
The choir sang the hymn of invitation.
Take me to the water to be baptized.
He winced as the song took him back to that night when he and Hephzibah had sung those words to each other in a wonder-filled coupling of cock and pussy.
Several penitents came forward and stood before the smiling minister as the song continued.
None but the righteous shall see God.
Grumbling and gasping parishioners glared at Ambrose with get-on-with-it-stupid expectation.
“What’s he waiting on?”
“You’d think a disgraced, court-martialed soldier would be the first to go forward for forgiveness.”
Ambrose ignored them. He knew how not to be worn down by peer pressure. He’d only come to church hoping to find Hephzibah.
Her name meant “my delight is in her.”
His delight had always been in her. Of all days, he’d felt sure she would come to church the Sunday after Christmas.
But she hadn’t.