Douglass' Women by Jewell Parker Rhodes
A Novel

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The critically acclaimed author of Voodoo Dreams delivers an inspired work of historical fiction about the warring passions that drove the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass and two women -- one black, one white -- who loved him.

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.

In her finest novel to date, Jewell Parker Rhodes vividly resurrects these two extraordinary women from history, portraying the life they led together under the same roof of the Douglass home. Here, fiery emotions of passion, jealousy, and resentment churn as the women discover an uneasy solidarity in shared love for an exceptional and powerful man. Douglass' Women fills the gaps and silences that history has left in an unforgettable epic full of heartache and triumph.

About Jewell Parker Rhodes

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Jewell Parker Rhodes is the Piper Endowed Chair and founding artistic director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University. She has won numerous awards for her books for children and adults. Ninth Ward, her first novel for young readers, was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, a Notable Book for a Global Society, and a Today show Al's Book Club for Kids selection. You can visit Jewell online at
Published June 10, 2010 by Atria Books. 358 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Romance. Fiction

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Douglass traveled widely, and then, fleeing his would-be captors, went to England with the beautiful and idealistic Ottilie, who became his personal assistant and lover, “the wife of his spirit.” As Douglass became famous, Anna, aware of the affair with Ottilie, was often alone as she bore more c...

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Publishers Weekly

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Frederick Douglass's love life was nearly as tumultuous as his political career—or so Rhodes (Voodoo Dreams;

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APOOO Bookclub

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.

Oct 25 2009 | Read Full Review of Douglass' Women : A Novel

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