August 21 - A Woman Scorned

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On August 21, 1895, Rebekah Baldwin in Washington, D. C., wrote a jealous letter to Paul Laurence Dunbar in Dayton.  Rebekah was a schoolteacher in Washington and had been acquainted with Paul for about two years.  In her letter, she pretended to drop in for a visit, and then expressed her displeasure over Paul's interest in Alice Ruth Moore (whom he eventually married).


Do let me in, Paul:  are you asleep that you keep me waiting so long?  O dearest, how glad I am to see you!  I really could not resist the temptation -- you told me that you were all alone and so dull, so here I am to spend the evening with you!  Come now, sit here beside me and tell me all about yourself and what you have been doing.  Look me straight in the face, so have you dared to make love to any other girl?

"Yes" -- Why Paul, I am surprised at you!  I suppose, however, I should remember that you are a poet and it is their privilege to love the world of women.  Ah well, I forgive you.  I know you love me best, so I can afford to be generous.  Now Paul, please stop talking to me about Ruth Moore.  I am sure you needn't be throwing up to me all the time that you like her.  You mean you like her poetry -- well it's all the same -- you say poetry but you mean poetess!  I'm disagreeable!  Why Paul Dunbar how can you say such mean things to me after I have come all this long way to see you?

Of course I believe that you don't care anything about Ruth Moore.  You don't think I am disagreeable now, do you dear?  You don't seem to enjoy my conversation, Paul.  I don't believe you love me a bit.  You don't act like it.  I am going back home -- no, I won't stay another minute.  Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.  If I have been cross, it is because I am --


Rebekah Baldwin to Paul Laurence Dunbar, August 21, 1895.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 1).

As the romantic relationship between Paul and Alice developed, he remained friends with Rebekah.  When Paul went to Washington hoping to obtain a job at the Library of Congress, he visited Rebekah but did not tell her that he and Alice were engaged.

Tomorrow is the momentous day and I do not know what the outcome will be.  I am hoping for the best.  I have seen my friend Rebekah and she is also hopeful.  I think I had best not tell her of our engagement just yet.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Ruth Moore, September 26, 1897.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 5).

Later Paul and Alice married secretly and continued to live in distant cities.  Paul told a few close friends, but not Rebekah.

I have not told the many people you think, here -- only my friend and physician Dr. Williams, yes -- Ella, but not Rebekah and our chief clerk.  It was almost absolutely necessary to tell these.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Moore Dunbar, March 13, 1898.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

Rebekah informed me very dramatically the other evening that she was sure I would never marry you.  Well I won't.

Paul Laurence Dunbar to Alice Moore Dunbar, March 26, 1898.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 8).

Paul and Rebekah met at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, where Paul worked for Frederick Douglass at the Haitian Pavilion.  They both knew Douglass, and a man named Charles Mitchell from Washington.  Mitchell described an evening he spent playing cards with Rebekah when she talked nonstop about Paul.  Mitchell concluded that he can't compare to Paul ("I have not been up to the mark") ever since that summer at the Haitian Pavilion.

Paul, Ever Dear, Your letter was received in due course of mail and its early appearance was much appreciated I do assure you.  Your friend, Charlie Mitchell has not called since I have been ill, but when I see him I shall ask if Mr. Douglass has received your letter.  Write to me soon mon ami.

Rebekah Baldwin to Paul Laurence Dunbar, February 18, 1894.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 1).

Since my arrival in this city I have intended writing you a long letter telling you about the weather and also about Rebecca.  I know that either one of these important items would be interesting to a poet, especially the last.  I was out with her only a few evenings ago and she talked Paul from her door to the house where we were invited to play euchre and after making several attempts to get up to the head table we managed to get down to the booby table and there we stayed.  "Paul was not read and she could not play."  Since leaving Pavilion de la Republique D'Haiti a L'Exposition Universelle de Chicago, I have not been up to the mark.

Charles Mitchell to Paul Laurence Dunbar, March 12, 1894.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 1).

Rebekah eventually married a doctor in an extravagant wedding and moved into an expensive home.  Alice attended the reception and wrote about it to Paul's mother Matilda.  Alice referred to Rebekah as "Miss Ann," a derogatory term for a Black woman who has become snobbish.

June 25, at the residence of the bride, 924 M Street Northwest, the marriage of Miss Rebekah Baldwin, principal of the Ambush School, and Dr. Charles West, assistant surgeon-in-chief at Freedman's Hospital, was solemnized, the ceremony being performed by Rev. George Dougherty of St. Augustine's Catholic Church.  Three hundred friends tendered congratulations.  The residence in which the marriage took place, valued at $10,000, was deeded by the groom to the bride in her maiden name.

"Cupid in June-Time.  Notable Weddings That Have Taken Place in Washington's Best Society."  The Colored American (Washington, D. C.).  July 5, 1902.  Page 15.

Rebecca Baldwin was married last night.  I went to the reception, and it certainly was the swellest thing that has been in Washington for many a day.  Rebecca looked lovely;  she wore a gray silk business with trimmings of hand embroidered chiffon.  Her house is a dream.  Great parlors, and halls, looks like any Miss Ann's house.  Her presents were the finest ever seen here.  She must have had over three hundred.  It would bewilder you to tell you all about it.  It was certainly a swell to-do, swell house, swell presents, swell everything.

Alice Moore Dunbar to Matilda Dunbar, June 26, 1902.  Paul Laurence Dunbar Papers, Ohio History Connection (Microfilm edition, Roll 2).