Grace Bustill Douglass (1782-1842 AD)
Grace Bustill Douglass was an abolitionist, entrepreneur and a leader for women’s rights born in 1782. As an abolitionist, Grace was a member of the Female Vigilance Association based in Philadelphia, through which she and other prominent African American women “raised money to aid the hundreds of fugitive slaves who flocked to their city each year. They clothed them, fed them, and paid for their medical care, and even sheltered them in their homes.” (The Abolitionist Sisterhood, Yellen and Van Horne, pg 115). Grace was also a founding member of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society founded in 1833, as an interracial anti-slavery organization; and she also served as vice president of the Convention of Women held in New York City, May 9-12, 1837 and Philadelphia in 1838.
Being committed to helping the less fortunate, Grace aided poor blacks and would personally sacrifice her luxuries just to have adequate money to give to the poverty stricken blacks of her city. This personal self-sacrifice to help others in financial need, at the cost of her own comfort, goes beyond her dedication to fight the evils of racial injustice, and reveals her true deep compassion for members of her oppressed race.
Grace married the Rev. Robert Douglass, a successful barber and a Presbyterian minister, who was a founder of Philadelphia’s first African Presbyterian Church. Together Grace and Robert had a son, Robert Douglass, Jr., and a daughter, Sarah Mapps Douglass. The Douglass' were a prosperous couple generating two incomes; In addition to the financial security her husband provided the family, Grace owned a successful Millinery Shop in Philadelphia (which was one of the few legitimate types of businesses that an African American women could have success running during the early 19th century).
Grace lived her life as a role model, not just for African Americans, but for all women through her willingness to fight against slavery, help the poor, and her dedication to women's rights. After a lifetime of community service, Grace Bustill Douglass died in 1842.
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