Monday, 14 January 2013

Anna Heegard - mistress and abolitionist

At the age of 19, Anna Heegaard, daughter of a Danish planter and a free mulatto woman, began a series of relationships with white men that were to end with her famous liaison with Governor General Peter von Scholten, the man who emancipated the slaves of the Danish West Indies (now the USVI)....

"In 1827, when Peter von Scholten came to St. Croix as Governor-General, he was entertained in great style. Gala events were held in his honor: sumptuous dinners, garden parties, balls. Planters attempted to outdo each other in trying to impress him and to gain his favor. Since Capt. Knudsen and his mistress, Anna Heegaard, attended many of these events for von Scholten, it was natural that their paths should cross. In fact, Anna made it her business to keep close to the Governor-General. In devious ways, she tried to attract his attention, to make him aware of her. She had long known of von Scholten's friendly and sympathetic attitude, of his many efforts to elevate the coloured people of the islands.
Once she had gotten close to him, Anna Heegaard let no opportunity go by to describe to von Scholten the plight of the "free-coloured," the urgent need for reforms and the kind of reforms that were needed. She spoke to him of the humiliation the elite of her group felt in having to carry the so-called "freedom-letter," a document that every "free-coloured" person had to carry to show that he or she was not a slave.
To quote, Lawaetz: "These documents were offensive as they were all similar, without considering birth, culture or upbringing, their form giving the impression that the person only recently was freed, while his or her freedom might have originated from a great grand mother. Some of the "Free-coloured" were respected in the society, while some of the very recently freed, even dishonored the society. It was necessary to make distinct separations."

Indignation showed in Anna Heegaard's voice when she spoke to von Scholten about the widespread and officially sanctioned discriminatory employment; how talented and able people in her group were denied the right to work in any but the most menial jobs. She, and people like her, were deeply resentful of an official statement to the effect that if the "free-coloured" wanted jobs, there were plenty of such jobs in the cane fields with pay. Never, never, said Anna Heegaard, would any "Free-coloured" person that she knew go back to the cane fields and join the toiling slaves for any kind of remuneration.
Von Scholten was impressed with the sincerity, dedication and intelligence of the young woman. Much of what she said to him touched deeply on problems in an area in which he had been trying to find workable solutions. Not only did this young woman know the problems intimately, but she had answers, and what she had to say made considerable sense.

It got to the point where von Scholten found himself seeking out Anna Heegaard to get her honest and intelligent opinions on just how he should cope with the many problems that daily arose between planters and their slaves; "free-coloured" and a society that did everything but out rightly reject them.

This was the beginning of a relationship between Anna Heegaard and Peter von Scholten that was to deepen..."  From Isidore Paiwonski via The St. Croix Landmarks Society

1 comment:

  1. Good post.
    The accomplishments of some of our most important heroes are too seldom visited.