Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Alison Reed

Committee Director

Delores Phillips

Committee Member

Bridget Anderson

Committee Member

Marvin Chiles


When Elleanor Eldridge’s home at 22 Spring Street in the city of Providence is illegally auctioned due to rumors that she was deceased, a decade-long legal battle ensued which not only illuminated and reprised racial tensions within the city but also highlighted what would seem to be the benevolence of well-meaning White women of the community. Frances Harriet Whipple publishes Memoirs of Elleanor Eldridge in 1838 in an effort to aid Eldridge in raising the funds to reclaim her property and follows up with Elleanor’s Second Book (ESB) in 1842. However, within each text, Eldridge is largely invisible and incredibly silent. Whipple speaks as the amanuensis and relegates Eldridge to the margins for the sake of establishing her own place within the literary community of antebellum New England.

Eldridge’s story and legacy as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Rhode Island has appeared in several collections as early as the 1950s; however, there has never been an academic study to navigate and analyze the politics which contribute to the unconventionality of either of Whipple’s texts about, and regarding, Eldridge. This project will investigate Whipple’s texts by consulting the archival and legal records concerning Eldridge and her family in an effort to clarify moments within both Memoirs and ESB that are not made clear by Whipple. Further, this dissertation will investigate the politics of narration as it considers a story written by a White woman about a Black woman and question the politics of interracial collaboration, a burgeoning feminism, as well as the culture of benevolence as it related to free African Americans in New England in the antebellum epoch. Finally, this dissertation will investigate the ways in which Whipple purposely composes the narrative in each text in ways that obscure, constrain, and silence the Black female narrative subject—Elleanor.


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