Cecelia and Fanny: The Remarkable Friendship Between an Escaped Slave and Her Former Mistress


This book tells the true story of the bond between Cecelia Reynolds, who escaped from slavery in 1846, and Fanny Thruston, who owned her. Cecelia grew up with Fanny in Kentucky and was given to her as her maid. Accompanying her on a trip to Niagara Falls at age fifteen, she took the opportunity to flee to Canada. One might expect that to have been the end of their relationship, but it was not.

Among the sources for this book are five letters written from Fanny in reply to correspondence from Cecelia. Cecelia had reason to contact Fanny, whose family still held her mother and brother in slavery. Her major purpose seems to have been negotiating for her relatives’ freedom. Unfortunately her letters have not been preserved. Fanny’s replies were friendly, even chatty. She said at one point that she thought the desire of a slave to be free was perfectly natural, and apparently she never reproached Cecelia for running away. There are gaps in the historical record. The two women stayed in touch all their lives, but were Cecelia and Fanny in any true or deep sense friends? Despite the unanswered questions, this well-written, extensively researched book makes fascinating reading.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award






(US) $30.00
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(US) 9780813134147