Gertrude Page and the Page Family Legacy
by Sarah Cedeño, Village Historian
Gertrude, often called Gertie by village residents, was born Florence Gertrude Page, and continued her father’s legacy as an engaged citizen. As a young adult, in the mid-late 1890s, Gertrude Page attended Howard University in Washington D.C., studying penmanship, art, elocution and handwork. According to Gertrude Page’s 1962 Democrat & Chronicle obituary, during her education at Howard University, Ms. Page boarded at a Washington D.C. home owned by Frederick Douglass, who had purchased the home from General Robert E. Lee. It is during this time that Gertrude made acquaintance with the Douglass family, which she would keep in touch with for years after her education.
The Douglass name appears frequently in the papers of the Page Collection: from a note from the Douglass family after Douglass’ death in 1896, to Hon. Frederick Douglass’ signature in a “call” book after Katie Page’s death, to letters back and forth between Charles Remond Douglass and Gertrude Page regarding finances, but the most interesting connection between Gertrude Page and Frederick Douglass is that she was visiting the Douglass family in Washington D.C. during the 1896 Suffragists Convention. A 1954 Brockport Republic article tells of Gertrude Page finding Douglass unresponsive in his Cider Hall home:
Miss Page had been spending the holidays at the Douglas home and on this particular day had gone to visit their son as both Mr. and Mrs. Douglas were to attend meetings…Miss Page returned to the house to change her clothes, late in the afternoon and found Mr. Douglass in the hall apparently the victim of a heart attack. The entrance to the house was accessible only by stairs going up terraces, as it was on a high hill, and evidently the exertion had been too much for his heart.
Susan B. Anthony and other important suffragists visited Cider Hall the following day, and it was then that Gertrude Page met Ms. Anthony, of whom Gertrude wrote, “…she invited me to call on her in Rochester, when I returned home. I did so, and we became close friends, and I have been her guest at luncheon a number of times.”
Aside from the fact that Gertrude prided herself on her relationship with the Frederick Douglass family and Susan B. Anthony, we have little of Gertrude’s personal writing on the matters of civil rights and equality with the exception of a paper titled “Friendship of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass,” in which she wrote, “It was in the soul of Mr. Douglass to make the best of himself; it was his will that carried him to the surface, where his natural gifts ripened in the light of opportunity, so the life of Frederick Douglass is one that may be studied with profit by others than people of his own race.”
Around or after Gertrude’s time at Howard University, Gertrude met Reverend James D. Corrothers, a famous activist, poet, and minister. Little has been documented about Gertrude’s short-lived marriage, and historian Emily Knapp writes of the union only as “a brief marriage that had been dissolved years ago.”
Gertrude operated a dressmaking business from the Page family’s home and, according to current residents, sometimes stayed with families for days at a time to make their clothes.
Residents of Brockport recall that in Gertrude’s late age, members of the Methodist Church took turns hosting her for Sunday lunch each week. Emily Knapp writes of Gertrude as “…a very gentle, soft-spoken lady who walked and talked in a very precise, deliberate manner, she was well liked by everyone in the community.”
Gertrude died in April of 1962, leaving her own legacy. Though a 1963 article from Brockport’s Republic-Democrat describes Gertrude as having lived in “comparative poverty” at her passing, she willed a $120,000 estate between two historically black colleges: the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and Livingstone College in North Carolina, with $500 each left to the Methodist Episcopal Church of Brockport, the Friendship House in Buffalo (created for southern black women who came north to Buffalo), and the New York City chapter of the NAACP.
The photo below shows the Page Family Estate at 21 Gordon Street in 2012.
Knapp, Emily. “Gertrude Page.” Personalities ’81. Personal note.
“Gertrude Page Tells of Finding Douglas’ Body.” Brockport Republic, August 19, 1954.
Gertrude Page. “Friendship of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass” quoted in Dobson, Harold C. “Gertie Page is Authority on Fred’ick Douglass.” Brockport Republic, June 12, 1958.