Friday, April 14, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 070

Seedling 070A is maybe a little more pink than the usual orange/pink, and looks to have suffered more thrips damage, but it's otherwise unremarkable.

I had four name finalists this time around, just like usual, but once I started to write about the first name, I realized that the other three were kind of irrelevant: I want seedling 070A to be Delia Webster.

So who was Delia Webster?

Delia Webster was a Kentucky art teacher and abolitionist who was part of the Underground Railroad, helping fugitive slaves escape to free states in the 1840s. She was arrested, tried, and sentenced to two years hard labor in the Kentucky Penitentiary, the first woman to be imprisoned for assisting escaped slaves.

(Webster was also the only woman in the penitentiary; she was housed in a small wooden cottage in the center of the prison yard, which isn't really relevant to why she was a badass but I think it's interesting.) Anyway. So the penitentiary warden, Newton Craig, liked her. It's unclear to me whether there was a sexual relationship or not; one source says he was tempted into a compromising relationship with her, which presumably means they did, but is vague enough that I'm not positive. In any case, Craig urged the Governor of Kentucky to pardon her. Which he did (Webster only served five weeks of her sentence), though she did have to say she wasn't an abolitionist, as one of the conditions for her release.

(And then Webster had the nerve not to contact Craig right after her release, so he was pissed that she'd "tricked" him -- which, come on, dude, you were the warden and she was a prisoner, she wasn't exactly in a position to say no to you about anything.)

All the sources agree that she traveled around a bit after that; Wikipedia says she was governess for Craig's family for a while in the early 1850s, too, though I'm not clear how that worked. In any case, eventually she returned to Kentucky and bought a 600-acre farm there for $9000 with help from investors, Northern abolitionists, and Newton Craig of all people (to the tune of $1100, which in 2017 dollars is at least $27,0001). She employed freed slaves, and then farms in the area started to have a problem with missing slaves again, so naturally (and correctly) everybody assumed that Webster was responsible.

So they cut down her trees, burned her buildings, threatened her life, and so on. As you do. She was re-arrested in 1854 and released on a technicality. Then they indicted her again in 1854, for charges related to her 1844 arrest, but she managed to escape before they could arrest her. She hid in Indiana for a while, but they eventually found her, took her to Kentucky to stand trial for the 1844 charges, released her again on a technicality, and then she came home to find about $9000 in damages and theft to her farm.2 Abolitionists from Boston gave her enough money to enable her to keep making her loan payments, and she planned to build a school on the property, but arsonists started setting her buildings (and the materials for the school) on fire in November 1866, and she eventually lost the farm in 1869.

Webster never married. She returned to Indiana and taught African-American children in Madison, IN for a while,3 then lived with her sister Martha Goodrich in Wisconsin briefly, then they both moved to Iowa;4 after Martha died, Webster lived with her niece, Alice Goodrich,5 in Des Moines, where she died in 1904, at the age of 86.

So. Yeah. It just kinda has to be 070A Delia Webster.

Refs.: (recommended)


1 For reasons I didn't have time to look into, the inflation calculators on-line won't go any earlier than 1913.
2 At least $220,000 in 2017 dollars.
3 (Significant because African-American children weren't permitted to attend public school at the time.)
4 First to Le Grand, Iowa, then to La Porte, Iowa.
5 Who is interesting in her own right: Goodrich was the first woman to graduate the University of Iowa's medical school.

1 comment:

Diana said...

Awesome post. I always enjoy it when I learn something new here.