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Hailed as a masterpiece of historical fiction, this classic by Jewel Parker Rhodes, the bestselling author of Voodoo Dreams, examines the role of the women in Frederick Douglass' life. Hailed as a masterpiece of historical fiction, this classic by Jewel Parker Rhodes, the bestselling author of Voodoo Dreams, examines the role of the women in Frederick Douglass' life.


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Hailed as a masterpiece of historical fiction, this classic by Jewel Parker Rhodes, the bestselling author of Voodoo Dreams, examines the role of the women in Frederick Douglass' life. Hailed as a masterpiece of historical fiction, this classic by Jewel Parker Rhodes, the bestselling author of Voodoo Dreams, examines the role of the women in Frederick Douglass' life.

30 review for Douglass' Women

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maya B

    Loved it! Outstanding fictional read! Even though this was fiction, the author did an amazing job. I only knew of Frederick Douglass as an abolitionist and a runaway slave. I like how the author focused on 2 women in his life at the time, his wife and his mistress. this book gives readers a glimpse into Mr. Douglass' personal life. The story felt so real. The fact is Frederick Douglass did have a mistress, but the way the author tells the story was mostly fiction. This book will definitely leave Loved it! Outstanding fictional read! Even though this was fiction, the author did an amazing job. I only knew of Frederick Douglass as an abolitionist and a runaway slave. I like how the author focused on 2 women in his life at the time, his wife and his mistress. this book gives readers a glimpse into Mr. Douglass' personal life. The story felt so real. The fact is Frederick Douglass did have a mistress, but the way the author tells the story was mostly fiction. This book will definitely leave you feeling some type of way about a man that is a great historical figure.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mocha Girl

    In her latest novel, Douglass’ Women, Jewel Parker Rhodes travels back in history to the antebellum and Civil War era to examine the loves of Frederick Douglass. She stretches the imagination by exploring the psyche of Anna, a free woman of color, who loves Douglass almost to a fault and Ottilie Assing, a European, free-spirit who is attracted to the polished and principled Douglass. The novel, told in chronological alternating chapter format, provides the reader a glimpse into the character and In her latest novel, Douglass’ Women, Jewel Parker Rhodes travels back in history to the antebellum and Civil War era to examine the loves of Frederick Douglass. She stretches the imagination by exploring the psyche of Anna, a free woman of color, who loves Douglass almost to a fault and Ottilie Assing, a European, free-spirit who is attracted to the polished and principled Douglass. The novel, told in chronological alternating chapter format, provides the reader a glimpse into the character and upbringing of each woman. Anna is a quiet, hardworking homemaker, devoted wife and mother who clings to the belief that love conquers all. She has a strong sense of family and has witnessed unconditional love between her parents and siblings. Her one wish is to have the same love returned to her from Douglass. Unfortunately, Douglass, a self-taught ex-slave, has been elevated to a level of celebrity and lifestyle that pushes Anna to the background where she reluctantly finds comfort. While her husband is recognized as a skilled orator and accomplished author, Anna is regarded as a recluse and intentionally remains illiterate (despite Douglass’ urging otherwise) which creates an erudite chasm between them that widens as the years progress. Ottilie Assing, a genteel woman of German-Jewish ancestry, works as Douglass’ interpreter. She fills the intellectual void and accompanies Douglass on many engagements. They grow fond of each other and a lifetime love affair begins. Rhodes writes very vividly so the reader clearly understands the similarities, differences, jealousy, envy, and anger each woman feels toward each other and Douglass. Rhodes also parallels the societal prejudices of Jews in Europe to Africans in America which justifies Ottilie’s attraction to Abolitionist views. She also subtly touches the issues surrounding interracial relationships through her character’s dialogue and thoughts. Although this is a work of historical fiction, she carefully follows the actual timeframe of events to effortlessly blend in factual people, places, and excerpts from speeches, which lends credibility to the novel. From a literary standpoint, her use of the “water-death-freedom” symbolism was handled expertly and was used as the unifying thread for both women’s tales. This reader believes that fans of Rhodes will not be disappointed; this is a good story from an accomplished author!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lois

    This was such a good read. I found I could not put it down. I'm familiar with Frederick Douglass. I read the autobiography he wrote in high school. I also learned in college that he supported the suffragettes in their ideals of universal suffrage. So, I felt like I was familiar with his character. This novel exposed a side of him I was totally unfamiliar with. A much less savory, less honorable side. I strongly support fleshing out and adding a touch of realism to historical characters but this This was such a good read. I found I could not put it down. I'm familiar with Frederick Douglass. I read the autobiography he wrote in high school. I also learned in college that he supported the suffragettes in their ideals of universal suffrage. So, I felt like I was familiar with his character. This novel exposed a side of him I was totally unfamiliar with. A much less savory, less honorable side. I strongly support fleshing out and adding a touch of realism to historical characters but this felt almost too much. Mostly he was self absorbed and embarrassed by his dark, illiterate wife. I had read that Douglass and his wife worked on the Underground Railroad but that was not included in the book. Ultimately this was well written, well handled and well researched. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Trudy

    Wow! Amazing, compelling, and facinating story of two women who deeply love the same man. Unfortunately his heart belongs to politics and power. Hmmmmm! Sounds familiar. This story takes place in the 1800's, but why does it make me think of many of our recent past and current leaders? Wow! Amazing, compelling, and facinating story of two women who deeply love the same man. Unfortunately his heart belongs to politics and power. Hmmmmm! Sounds familiar. This story takes place in the 1800's, but why does it make me think of many of our recent past and current leaders?

  5. 4 out of 5

    R.K. Johnson

    What a wonderful book. Ms. Rhodes managed to capture two heroine's unique voices in a single book. I am enamored with this story; never want it to end. I'll sip slowly like a sweet hot cup of tea... I finished and it is clear, Rhodes took time studying the life of each of these women and how they related to Douglass. I enjoyed how rich each character was, and in the end found the women were very similar in so many ways. From their loves of their mothers, beliefs in the supernatural and spirit wo What a wonderful book. Ms. Rhodes managed to capture two heroine's unique voices in a single book. I am enamored with this story; never want it to end. I'll sip slowly like a sweet hot cup of tea... I finished and it is clear, Rhodes took time studying the life of each of these women and how they related to Douglass. I enjoyed how rich each character was, and in the end found the women were very similar in so many ways. From their loves of their mothers, beliefs in the supernatural and spirit worlds, and also their love for Douglass and the children he and Anna had together. It also goes to show that no one is perfect and some people cannot just make a choice and stick with it for life. They are forever wanting more. Is that wrong? This is a wonderful book. I loved it and highly recommend to others.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Greer

    Although, this is fiction..My understanding is that is based on some true aspects of Frederick Douglas life. I have always been fond of Frederick Douglas work, but never knew the dual life he led and the relationship he had with the white women while his wife who was barely literate was home having his children. Ms. Rhodes writes this story in a way that catches the readers attention where you don't really hate anyone, but feel sorry for both women. Both women gave something to Mr. Douglas and y Although, this is fiction..My understanding is that is based on some true aspects of Frederick Douglas life. I have always been fond of Frederick Douglas work, but never knew the dual life he led and the relationship he had with the white women while his wife who was barely literate was home having his children. Ms. Rhodes writes this story in a way that catches the readers attention where you don't really hate anyone, but feel sorry for both women. Both women gave something to Mr. Douglas and you as the reader are not sure that they got back what they lost. Neither women alone was enough for Mr. Douglas. That in theory is a sad scenario for any woman. Very good read.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Wilhelmina Jenkins

    I was reluctant to read this book and I think I should have followed my instincts. Historical fiction which deals with the intimate lives of well-known people is difficult for me. It is clearly impossible for most of the book to be accurate, but,more importantly, it just didn't ring true to me. It was very well written and, once the author established the characters' voices and personalities, she maintained them very well. I'm going to have to read a more historical account of Douglass' personal I was reluctant to read this book and I think I should have followed my instincts. Historical fiction which deals with the intimate lives of well-known people is difficult for me. It is clearly impossible for most of the book to be accurate, but,more importantly, it just didn't ring true to me. It was very well written and, once the author established the characters' voices and personalities, she maintained them very well. I'm going to have to read a more historical account of Douglass' personal life to get over the uneasy feeling this book gave me.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brenda

    The best book I've read in a long time. Excellent piece of historical fiction. Characters were real, believable, engaging. Time period and events alive and challenging. Wonderful group discussion after this read. The best book I've read in a long time. Excellent piece of historical fiction. Characters were real, believable, engaging. Time period and events alive and challenging. Wonderful group discussion after this read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    This book was good. However, I did not like the way Frederick Bailey Douglass cheated on Anna Douglass with Ottilie. Douglas could have made Anna's life more easier, but no..... In the end, He didn't choose Ottilie either after the passing of Anna. He got to big for his britches! This book was good. However, I did not like the way Frederick Bailey Douglass cheated on Anna Douglass with Ottilie. Douglas could have made Anna's life more easier, but no..... In the end, He didn't choose Ottilie either after the passing of Anna. He got to big for his britches!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Minnie

    Douglass’ Women By Jewell Parker Rhodes Ms. Rhodes is an excellent writer. Her research is nearly flawless, attest to her citations at the end of the book. Her added fiction builds a passionate, emotional story. “Douglass’ Women” is about two very different women loving the same strong, ex-slave, abolitionist, a writer. I believe Ms. Rhodes knew Frederick Douglass had to be included in the story to understand his women. He is an escaped slave afraid of being enslaved again, even by the women in his Douglass’ Women By Jewell Parker Rhodes Ms. Rhodes is an excellent writer. Her research is nearly flawless, attest to her citations at the end of the book. Her added fiction builds a passionate, emotional story. “Douglass’ Women” is about two very different women loving the same strong, ex-slave, abolitionist, a writer. I believe Ms. Rhodes knew Frederick Douglass had to be included in the story to understand his women. He is an escaped slave afraid of being enslaved again, even by the women in his life. Consequently, he juggles them, accepting their love with little emotional return. Anna Murray Douglass is a free black woman. She’s the stronger of the two women, the realist. She gives her hard-earned money to Freddy to escape his slave master. He later marries her. Anna says Freddy is “Samson-man, standing, perched on the edge of his horizon.” She does not like the name Frederick Bailey Douglass, feels it beyond her as his mate. Anna is steadfast in her loyalty and self-confidence and suffers his infidelity. Ottilie Assing, a German-Jewish woman, teaches him to read and write, and uses his ego and hatred of bondage to keep him near. He becomes Frederick to Ottilie. She is indispensable with her money and time helping him pursue his career. She clearly has a way out of the mistress role, but is too much of a romantic in love to accept the reality of her situation. Both women suffer the pains of unreciprocated love, heartache from their “great man.” They learn Freddy/Frederick doesn’t tell either one he loves her. Anna says, “Freddy never really learned to love.” I can only conclude that Frederick, husband, lover, and abolitionist is mentally disturbed as a result of his years as a slave. Freedom is the only thing he seems to focus on. This proves to create both bad and good events in his life. Nevertheless, he needs sexual love, takes it wherever he can get it, when he wants it. Yet, it does not interfere with his plans, in spite of the fact that he fathers five children with Anna. His intimate relationship with Ottilie beats his subconscious. Frederick has no time for women’s suffrage — says that can come later. He refuses to admit that he is color conscious. He tells Rosetta “I’m married to an old black log. Would you repeat my mistake?” In speaking of his oldest daughter’s love interest, Lucius, he says, “We’re at war...Fighting for racial uplift. Not degradation.” And further says, “I raised you for better than this. Better than him.” Dear timid Lucius cannot read nor write, but loves Rosetta Douglass. Every page kept me immersed, kept me wondering what next. Jewell Parker Rhodes penned vivid pictures of strong fictional characters, which reflects her understanding of humankind. What an excellent read! Reviewed by Minnie Estelle Miller Author of “Whispers from the Mirror.” July 6, 2011

  11. 5 out of 5

    Trinika Abraham

    I first learned about Douglass’ Women by Jewell Parker Rhodes from a former college professor at Hampton University. I’d run into her at a play called The Greater Love presented at the 40th Street Stage in Norfolk (now closed) where a friend of mine was portraying the daughter of iconic abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. Having gone simply to support a friend, I had no previous knowledge of the private life of the iconic man who represented a symbol of pride and determination during a time when m I first learned about Douglass’ Women by Jewell Parker Rhodes from a former college professor at Hampton University. I’d run into her at a play called The Greater Love presented at the 40th Street Stage in Norfolk (now closed) where a friend of mine was portraying the daughter of iconic abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. Having gone simply to support a friend, I had no previous knowledge of the private life of the iconic man who represented a symbol of pride and determination during a time when most blacks were slaves. What little knowledge I did have was directly from Douglass’ autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, a profound account to the events that lead to a former slave becoming a world renowned activist in the fight to end slavery. Dr. Barnes, my English professor recommended that I read the book that inspired the play. Needless to say, I was shocked and enthralled by the narrative (no pun intended) of Rhodes’ account of Douglass’ personal life and purported love affair with 19th-century German feminist and abolitionist, Ottilie Assing. At times I even found it difficult to imagine such a respected historical figure having a personal life trifled with adultery and scandal all while dedicating his life to such a noble cause. However, after getting past the initial shock, I found that this book was not so such about Frederick Douglass’ alleged adultery but the powerful women in his life that not many people realize existed. Without the help from his first wife, Anna Murray, Douglass (or Bailey as he was then) may have never fled to freedom. Yet, without discrediting the prolific value of his work, Frederick Douglass still proved human. For Ottilie Assing, her love for the abolitionist was grounded in a commonality of interest and attraction. Still, there is no denying her overall efforts to end a horrendous era, not just in American history but the world’s. Douglass’ Women is a story not just for avid historical fiction readers, but an amazing read for anyone who loves a great plot with shocking twist! Simply put, this story is not about a hero but a human. Therefore, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books about real people with historical context and a bit of tragedy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    We read this book in anticipation of Parker Rhodes coming to work with us through the Loft's Mentorship program. I missed the discussion of this book as I am recovering from the birth of our son, and this would have been a good discussion to be a part of. The assessment, from what I understand in post-emails and whatnot, is a sequence of curiosities / ponderings regarding what is an author's duty in regards to historical figures. I only know bits and pieces about Fredrick Douglass, so I cannot be We read this book in anticipation of Parker Rhodes coming to work with us through the Loft's Mentorship program. I missed the discussion of this book as I am recovering from the birth of our son, and this would have been a good discussion to be a part of. The assessment, from what I understand in post-emails and whatnot, is a sequence of curiosities / ponderings regarding what is an author's duty in regards to historical figures. I only know bits and pieces about Fredrick Douglass, so I cannot be certain where the slips might be. I do understand the changes one makes to fit a new medium--from book to film, from history to book. But at the same time, when Anna gave birth for the first time and her milk came in immediately, I thought, "Erm. (And the days of colostrum?)" So I can see why the historical nonfiction writers might have qualms at inaccuracies. The concept of this book is good--the story of two women who played significant roles in Douglass' life. Anna is his wife, perhaps whom he married out of loyalty, who found family and heritage important, whose skills at homemaking were crucial. But I wanted more: more storytelling, more of the folklore, more along the lines of the bones she spoke to in the ocean of former slaves. More of the quilts. More tender moments with her children. Ottilie, his mistress, is the intellectual, though from her characterization, it seemed Ottilie was just interested in a cause for having a cause, until she met a man to ground her in the cause. The character's voice emphasized her family history of Jewish father and Christian mother, but left it at those simple facts. I wanted more of the women's passions outside of Douglass. What if Douglass were removed from the story entirely? What would be left? And other reviewers have noted Douglass was a bit of a ghostly character, which I could accept, if he weren't such a crucial figure within. His agency is thus removed in a book that has two voices, each declaring who Douglass is, which makes things a bit muddy. Parker Rhodes has given us homework that focuses on dialogue, and this was a strong point of her work: the pace of the book as a whole was good, and the conversations were tight, to the point.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sariah

    This is a historical fiction about two women who are extremely important and influential in the life of Frederick Douglass. The first is Anna, his first wife, who helps Douglass escape slavery and become a free man. She bears him 5 children, and stays home to raise the children while Douglass is off doing his speeches or running from slave catchers. The second woman is Ottila Assing, a German Jew abolitionist who is Douglass' mistress for 20 years. What is especially interesting about this book This is a historical fiction about two women who are extremely important and influential in the life of Frederick Douglass. The first is Anna, his first wife, who helps Douglass escape slavery and become a free man. She bears him 5 children, and stays home to raise the children while Douglass is off doing his speeches or running from slave catchers. The second woman is Ottila Assing, a German Jew abolitionist who is Douglass' mistress for 20 years. What is especially interesting about this book is that we get this view of Douglass from the women who love him. We don't see him just as the brilliant, ex-slave fighting for freedom for all slaves. We see him as an arrogant, very flawed man who doesn't actually know how to love another person. It was well written and I enjoyed the interview with the author (who lives in Arizona. Let's hear it for Arizona authors!) at the end as it gives more light on the subject. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. Be warned that a few of the sex scenes are more explicit than necessary, however.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    The book was an interesting read, but even though it was a work of fiction I found it somewhat hard not to take it as a work of non-fiction. Especially since the people portrayed in the book are real. I feel that though the Author tried not to remain loyal to one side or the other, in the end I really think that she was on Anna's side and made her out to be more of a likeable and pitiful person, but I supose that it is natural to lean on the side of the woman scorned. And though Ottlie had her s The book was an interesting read, but even though it was a work of fiction I found it somewhat hard not to take it as a work of non-fiction. Especially since the people portrayed in the book are real. I feel that though the Author tried not to remain loyal to one side or the other, in the end I really think that she was on Anna's side and made her out to be more of a likeable and pitiful person, but I supose that it is natural to lean on the side of the woman scorned. And though Ottlie had her side of the story I really could not find a good defense for her. Even in the end I was not really that sad for her--I thought she had a sad life and end, but I think it comes down to the old "you made the bed, now sleep in it" kind of thing. Both women do give a lot to Douglass but get very little in return to either woman, but again I think Anna is the one I think looses the most. Again, interseting read.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    I loved The Douglass Women, a historical fictional account of the two women romantically involved with Frederick Douglass. His black wife and his German white mistress have decidedly different needs for him and their relationships with him showcase various parts of his personality. I loved the spare, but effectively descriptive writing style of the author, Jewel Parker Rhodes. And I enjoyed the way she was able to make me sympathize with the characters, which she createed as complicated, believa I loved The Douglass Women, a historical fictional account of the two women romantically involved with Frederick Douglass. His black wife and his German white mistress have decidedly different needs for him and their relationships with him showcase various parts of his personality. I loved the spare, but effectively descriptive writing style of the author, Jewel Parker Rhodes. And I enjoyed the way she was able to make me sympathize with the characters, which she createed as complicated, believable and sensitive people.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Al-Leigh

    Please read my full review on MissAl-Leigh.com http://missal-leigh.com/2015/08/09/bo... Please read my full review on MissAl-Leigh.com http://missal-leigh.com/2015/08/09/bo...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Morgan

    I always thought it was weird that Douglass doesn't elaborate more on Anna, his first wife, in Narrative. Not much is known about her, but what we do know is that she was instrumental in Douglass' escape. Apparently he called her an "old black log" which is awful. This novel is a fictionalized account of their meeting, marriage, and relationship, as well as his relationship with a white German woman, Ottilie Assing. I'd never heard of her before, but she was integral to his work and apparently d I always thought it was weird that Douglass doesn't elaborate more on Anna, his first wife, in Narrative. Not much is known about her, but what we do know is that she was instrumental in Douglass' escape. Apparently he called her an "old black log" which is awful. This novel is a fictionalized account of their meeting, marriage, and relationship, as well as his relationship with a white German woman, Ottilie Assing. I'd never heard of her before, but she was integral to his work and apparently devastated when he didn't marry her (he instead married a different, much younger white woman after Anna's death). I thought this novel would be about his 2 wives, but Rhodes says in an afterword that she learned about Ottilie and decided to write about her instead. I'm fascinated by these women (and others that Douglass apparently had affairs with). Unfortunately, we don't know much about his relationships with them or how he felt; Anna was illiterate and Ottilie's letters were largely destroyed. But is does seem clear that although he was a great man, he was a garbage father and husband.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    This book completely shred my emotions all up. Rhodes did a great job bringing these two women to life. Anna and Ottilie both love Frederick Douglass but both are unsure of his love for them. I related more to Anna in every way. She was overlooked, underappreciated, and unloved by the only man she'd ever loved. I found Ottilie to be too selfish to feel sympathy for. The novel barely felt like historical fiction so I'd recommend this to any fiction lover. It'll make you feel things, mostly hatred This book completely shred my emotions all up. Rhodes did a great job bringing these two women to life. Anna and Ottilie both love Frederick Douglass but both are unsure of his love for them. I related more to Anna in every way. She was overlooked, underappreciated, and unloved by the only man she'd ever loved. I found Ottilie to be too selfish to feel sympathy for. The novel barely felt like historical fiction so I'd recommend this to any fiction lover. It'll make you feel things, mostly hatred towards the famous, great Douglass.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Doc Fabulous

    I really enjoyed this book. It was hard to put down. I liked her voice as both characters. I liked the focus on both women, but it may have been nice for a chapter or two from Douglass’ perspective. The book definitely has me over here side eyeing the elder. BUT I have to decided to remind myself that despite how we put people on hero pedestals they really are just flawed people. The world is full of amazing people who have done so much greatness but in some way, in some lane....they ain’t shit. I really enjoyed this book. It was hard to put down. I liked her voice as both characters. I liked the focus on both women, but it may have been nice for a chapter or two from Douglass’ perspective. The book definitely has me over here side eyeing the elder. BUT I have to decided to remind myself that despite how we put people on hero pedestals they really are just flawed people. The world is full of amazing people who have done so much greatness but in some way, in some lane....they ain’t shit. It’s just reality that we all have to except. Except the Obamas. They are perfect. Fight me.

  20. 4 out of 5

    T.tara Turk-Haynes

    I loved the writing but ugh was this hard on the patriarchy meter.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Darity

    4.0 stars for Douglass’ Women, by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Except from Synopsis: Douglass' Women reimagines the lives of an American hero, Frederick Douglass, and two women -- his wife and his mistress -- who loved him and lived in his shadow. Anna Douglass, a free woman of color, was Douglass' wife of forty-four years, who bore him five children. Ottilie Assing, a German-Jewish intellectual, provided him the companionship of the mind that he needed. Hurt by Douglass' infidelity, Anna rejected his n 4.0 stars for Douglass’ Women, by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Except from Synopsis: Douglass' Women reimagines the lives of an American hero, Frederick Douglass, and two women -- his wife and his mistress -- who loved him and lived in his shadow. Anna Douglass, a free woman of color, was Douglass' wife of forty-four years, who bore him five children. Ottilie Assing, a German-Jewish intellectual, provided him the companionship of the mind that he needed. Hurt by Douglass' infidelity, Anna rejected his notion that only literacy freed the mind. For her, familial love rivaled intellectual pursuits. Ottilie was raised by parents who embraced the ideal of free love, but found herself entrapped in an unfulfilling love triangle with America's most famous self-taught slave for nearly three decades. I really enjoyed this fictional reenactment of the love life of Frederick Douglass, for more reasons than one. The deeper I got into the story the more similarities I saw in the premise, between Parker Rhodes historical love triangle, and my modern day saga Love…Like Snow in Florida on a Hot Summer Day. What this tells me is that men, even in slavery, can capture the heart, mind, and soul of women who are willing to give their all for his love. I felt pity for Anna Douglass, whom Douglass seemed to love more out of gratitude than passion. Every time she bore him a child I cringed. The depiction of her gave a lot to be desired. Short, fat, black, plain, and willing to work like a mule to provide for her family while her husband was away for long periods of time. There was nothing soft about her. Yet Douglass remained committed to her even though he had his beautiful white mistress, and was being courted by rich, privileged women around the world. Ottilie, the mistress, annoyed me more than anything else. Although she devoted her life to Douglass, I believe she was more in love with being in love, than she was with the man himself. Even in the mid 1800’s when slavery was still in effect, I found it hard to believe that Douglass had the gall to have his mistress “vacation” in his home with his wife and children. Or that his wife, a black woman born free, would tolerate such foolishness; cooking and cleaning, and sleeping alone while her husband laid his mistress under their roof; but there it was. I kept thinking what a shame to live your entire life devoted to someone who is unable to devote themselves to you. Frederick Douglass was portrayed as a true Narcissist, like my main character, LaDamien Bryson. Everything was about him, and he never seemed capable of surrendering completely too either woman. In the end when they had both passed away, after having spent a lifetime devoted to his needs, and his happiness; he simply remarried. I guess he just wasn’t the type of man to be alone. Love transcends generations and even today there are women, sadly enough, dealing with these same issues, and living this same life. As long as women are willing to share for the sake of having a man, the man will continue to be greedy and selfish. People either loved this novel or hated it. Some simply couldn’t relate to the characters while others didn’t want to see an American hero in such a selfish light. Keeping in mind the book is supposedly a work of fiction, I am sure Parker Rhodes did enough research to have crafted a tale that probably accurately depicted the true lives of Frederick Douglass and the women he loved. Much Love, Tracy Tracy L. Darity is the author of the award winning novel He Loves Me He Loves Me Not! and Love…Like Snow in Florida on a Hot Summer Day. For more information please visit www.TracyLDarity.com.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ari

    The author states that her goal is not to diminish Frederick Douglass with this book, only to show that he was human. She succeeds in doing just that, but I admit I lost some respect for him as a person based on how he treated both women (but especially Anna) and his children. Anna and Ottilie are so different. Anna keeps the family whole, she cleans the house, feeds the children and makes sure Frederick (or Freddy as she calls him although he doesn't always like it) feels comfortable. She is ve The author states that her goal is not to diminish Frederick Douglass with this book, only to show that he was human. She succeeds in doing just that, but I admit I lost some respect for him as a person based on how he treated both women (but especially Anna) and his children. Anna and Ottilie are so different. Anna keeps the family whole, she cleans the house, feeds the children and makes sure Frederick (or Freddy as she calls him although he doesn't always like it) feels comfortable. She is very religious and would have been content if Frederick had simply become a Preacher. Anna has no real desire to learn to read and write, she only agrees to lessons so that Freddy will stop badgering her about her inability to read but Anna ends up never becoming literate. That is part of the reason Frederick turns to Ottilie who is more of his equal intellectually. With Ottilie, Douglass (Ottilie called him Herr Douglass for awhile and then affectionately just called him Douglass) could discuss politics, literature, art, philosophy, anything that came to mind. I had a hard time understanding why Anna wouldn't want to learn to read and write but I closed this book with a better understanding of why she was happy with who she was and I admired her for her spirit. Ottilie was young, slender, blonde. Anna was older than Frederick, curvy, black. Frederick insulted Anna by having an affair with another woman but he added insult to injury by giving Ottilie a room in his home, but Anna had her own way of asserting her quiet dominance over her home. Douglass was never physical (well one time but that was the only time noted in the book) but he was self-centered and a snob (it is fascinating how once Black people reached the upper class they forgot their roots, even our great abolitionists. Mr. Douglass fought avidly to free all slaves but he did not want his children marrying former slaves). Anna's view of love made me sad "I'd let him go 'cause it was best, Best for him. Worse for me. Ain't that love?" (pg. 38), to me that is love sometimes but not ALL the time. Plus it should be mutual, Frederick never did what was worst for him but better for Anna. In Douglass' Women the author does a skillful job of showing not just the physical differences between Anna and Ottilie but their different views on home, Douglass/Freddy and love. Neither woman is judged by the author, their stories are presented in a neutral tone, and both women have somewhat just claims on Frederick, who is both oblivious and blithely ignorant to all the pain he has caused. I like how the women never became friends, because while it is based on two very real people the author could have tried to make the story happier, instead she makes them grudgingly accepting of one another which is more authentic. The alternating points of view works well for this novel, but I do wish a timeline had been kept. I like being able to think about what other events were occurring around the world during the time this story took place (although any event pertaining to slavery was carefully noted through dialogue). I now want to know Frederick Douglass' side of the story (and to learn more about his eldest daughter, Rosetta Douglass, she seems like an exceptional woman). More than anything else this book taught me, it emphasized that love really makes no sense because although Douglass was a less than ideal family man and lover, Anna and Ottilie still loved and admired his noble bearing, his courage, and his intelligence. The funny thing is, I still do too. But they both should have left him and started a new life.

  23. 4 out of 5

    K AKUA GRAY

    The art of historical fiction is a form of creativity that lifts still photos and dated records into the light of the present for new life. Jewel Parker Rhodes is a fore-runner in her craft and has proven such in her novel Douglass’ Women. In the 21st century Frederick Douglass is just a name in history. Ask any person of the last three generations and at best they will tell you he was a writer and/or a speaker against slavery. Ask of the women in his life and the person is more likely to draw a The art of historical fiction is a form of creativity that lifts still photos and dated records into the light of the present for new life. Jewel Parker Rhodes is a fore-runner in her craft and has proven such in her novel Douglass’ Women. In the 21st century Frederick Douglass is just a name in history. Ask any person of the last three generations and at best they will tell you he was a writer and/or a speaker against slavery. Ask of the women in his life and the person is more likely to draw a blank. However, after reading Douglass’ Women, Anna Murray Douglass and Ottilie Assing will stand fast in the memory of time as two love crazy women who willingly suffered through decades of relationship illiteracy for one man who gave his heart to no one... Read more http://drakuabookreviews.blogspot.com...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diane Montondo

    I barely remember Frederick Douglass from the abolitionist movement. It was chosen for our book club because of black history month and Valentine's Day. So I don't know much about him or his life. To read about his first wife and his longtime mistress was heartbreaking. The author reiterated something I had somewhat known to be true, about men and women and their relationships. Attraction, action, support, betrayal, responsibility, courage, obligation, depression, anxiety, compromise, miscommunic I barely remember Frederick Douglass from the abolitionist movement. It was chosen for our book club because of black history month and Valentine's Day. So I don't know much about him or his life. To read about his first wife and his longtime mistress was heartbreaking. The author reiterated something I had somewhat known to be true, about men and women and their relationships. Attraction, action, support, betrayal, responsibility, courage, obligation, depression, anxiety, compromise, miscommunication, resolution. The Douglass' children despite their father's absenteeism did thrive under their mother's care. I admire Rosetta's pride and gentle spirit. Thank you, Mrs. Rhodes. A wonderful book to learn from.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tori

    2003- Frederick Douglass's love life was quite complicated. This account moves back and forth between his black wife and his white mistress. Anna Murray is Douglass's wife, a free Maryland woman of color who helps him escape the South. In exchange, his marries her. However, as Douglass' fame grows, he meets a German woman named Ottilie Assing. This book portrays Frederick as a scum-bag who just wanted women to be submissive to him. Anna is whiny and annoying, even as we DO feel a bit bad for her 2003- Frederick Douglass's love life was quite complicated. This account moves back and forth between his black wife and his white mistress. Anna Murray is Douglass's wife, a free Maryland woman of color who helps him escape the South. In exchange, his marries her. However, as Douglass' fame grows, he meets a German woman named Ottilie Assing. This book portrays Frederick as a scum-bag who just wanted women to be submissive to him. Anna is whiny and annoying, even as we DO feel a bit bad for her being left all alone (usually pregnant) while Frederick is away, many times with Ottilie. Ottilie is a stuck-up snob, so it's hard to care about her. I couldn't really connect with either woman. Nice use of putting quotes at the beginning of each chapter, but that couldn't save the book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joy

    Super quick read. Finished it in a day and a half by the pool! I'm a history buff and lover of pop culture/celebrity gossip so I thought this title was right up my alley. As an armchair historian, I wondered how much we really know about Frederick Douglass' relationship with his wife Anna much less his infidelities. The story is told from Anna's and Ottilie's (the other woman's) perspective in alternating chapters beginning with a quote from each. The chapters are short which helps make it a ver Super quick read. Finished it in a day and a half by the pool! I'm a history buff and lover of pop culture/celebrity gossip so I thought this title was right up my alley. As an armchair historian, I wondered how much we really know about Frederick Douglass' relationship with his wife Anna much less his infidelities. The story is told from Anna's and Ottilie's (the other woman's) perspective in alternating chapters beginning with a quote from each. The chapters are short which helps make it a very quick read. I would recommend this book to anyone who is not a purist when it comes to historical figures put in fictional settings.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    If you enjoy hating characters, this may be the book for you. The story of Anna Douglass, the wife of Frederick Douglass, the abolitionsit and the story of one of his mistresses, Ottilie Assing. I liked Anna. I disliked Ottilie, and I despised Douglass. He was portrayed as a self-centered (insert bad word), that was hungry for attention and made speeches to spread the word of what happens to slaves. It became more about him, than the cause. If this was the goal of the author she did a phenominal If you enjoy hating characters, this may be the book for you. The story of Anna Douglass, the wife of Frederick Douglass, the abolitionsit and the story of one of his mistresses, Ottilie Assing. I liked Anna. I disliked Ottilie, and I despised Douglass. He was portrayed as a self-centered (insert bad word), that was hungry for attention and made speeches to spread the word of what happens to slaves. It became more about him, than the cause. If this was the goal of the author she did a phenominal job and I need to change the rating.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eileen

    This was an amazing book and a fascinating fictional account of the women behind Frederick Douglass. The character development was excellent and it was easy to imagine it was all true. It was also hard to take sides as each of the three main characters, Douglass, his mistress and his wife, were so easy to understand. I loved how she wrote from each persons perspective, changing her voice as it happened.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I liked the premise of the story and enjoyed learning about an important historical figure and period from a very different perspective than anything I'd read in the past. The portrayal of Anna was wonderful- a three-dimentional character whose spirit and backbone really inspired my sympathy. However, I found the portayal of Ottilie unconvincing. Her character didn't seem fully fleshed out and she seemed more like a cariacature of a person than an actual person. I liked the premise of the story and enjoyed learning about an important historical figure and period from a very different perspective than anything I'd read in the past. The portrayal of Anna was wonderful- a three-dimentional character whose spirit and backbone really inspired my sympathy. However, I found the portayal of Ottilie unconvincing. Her character didn't seem fully fleshed out and she seemed more like a cariacature of a person than an actual person.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    While this book (written by a local author) was hailed as a "masterpiece of historical fiction" to me it was more of a romance novel set in an historical period played against a key historical figure. Nonetheless, it was quite readable, and compelling in a soap-opera kind of way. The characters and their roles in life were interesting. The historical setting revealing. There just was not much history in this "historical fiction". While this book (written by a local author) was hailed as a "masterpiece of historical fiction" to me it was more of a romance novel set in an historical period played against a key historical figure. Nonetheless, it was quite readable, and compelling in a soap-opera kind of way. The characters and their roles in life were interesting. The historical setting revealing. There just was not much history in this "historical fiction".

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