On January 1, 1898, Alice Ruth Moore wrote to her fiancé Paul Laurence Dunbar about their future together. She was in West Medford, Massachusetts, spending the holidays with her family, while Paul was at his home in Washington, D. C. Although they had not yet decided on a wedding date, Alice was already thinking about the lifestyle they would lead as a married couple.
One thing let me beg of you. Do not run too much counter to Washington society, please. It will make it hard for me when I come, and I want that our home shall have the highest possible position, the respect and admiration of all the powers that be. We owe it to ourselves to create and maintain an unquestioned, looked-up to social position. Don't you think so? And so much depends upon your attitude now.
Alice Ruth Moore to Paul Laurence Dunbar, January 1, 1898. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
Paul wrote back to Alice about her concern for their social status in Washington. He referred to her as his wife, though they were not yet married.
Little wife o' mine, I don't believe we need fear our social position here. Just at present, mine is unexceptional, though I am lax in my social duties and rather free with my snubs. Yesterday the house was alive with people. Dear, there are many good friends waiting for you here with open arms. Everyone wants to know when I am going to bring you.
Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, January 3, 1898. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
Not long afterward, Alice said she was willing to postpone their wedding so Paul could improve his finances and therefore make a better impression on the public.
Do you know why I insist upon waiting so long? Not that I love you less, but that I love your future more. For you to take me now would mean an added responsibility that would strain you too much. Later on, you will be more ready and I shall be able to make a better appearance before the public, personally. I am a bit ambitious for us both I guess, and you must not blame me.
Alice Ruth Moore to Paul Laurence Dunbar, January 12, 1898. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).
Paul and Alice got married two months later. After living in Washington for a while, Alice seemed less concerned about how well they fit into society.
I am looking forward to a pleasant little coterie of us next winter. Congenial souls -- if there are any -- who can meet and talk books without making anyone feel uncomfortable, as is generally the case when more than two people meet in Washington. We want just us, and we'll play whist and eat oysters and drink beer and turn up our noses at "sassiety" and enjoy ourselves in our own way regardless of anybody else. Oh, I have so many plans to make our little home so jolly and homey and nice, and I hope they'll all be successful.
Alice Moore Dunbar to Paul Laurence Dunbar, September 3, 1898. Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).