Bay Forest Books released a new book trailer for The Vanishing Woman, produced by Stan Severance. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uai2yECAxCc
The opening lines of the trailer say, “Eliza called her father ‘Papa’. Her half-sister, Ellen, called him ‘Master.'”
This line refers to the strange relationship between Eliza Smith Collins and her half-sister, Ellen Craft, due to the bizarre racial dynamics in 19th Century America. Eliza Collins and Ellen Craft had the same father–Captain James Smith. But they had different mothers, and that changed the course of their lives.
Eliza’s mother was Mrs. Smith, a white woman, so she was free. Ellen’s mother was Maria, a slave of mixed-race descent, so Ellen was a slave. Ellen was also a constant reminder to Mrs. Smith of what her husband had done, having a child with one of his slaves. So Ellen became a “yard child,” not a full-blood member of the family, and Mrs. Smith hated her for what she represented. Mrs. Smith was powerless to punish her husband, so she took her wrath out on young Ellen.
Mrs. Smith’s eventual solution to her problem was to give 11-year-old Ellen away to Eliza as a wedding present, so Ellen would be out of her sight. And from that day on, Ellen would call Eliza’s husband “Master.”
But Ellen got the last laugh, when she escaped North posing as a white man. She became The Vanishing Woman.
By Doug Peterson