Catherine Morris

While Catherine Mason Morris, Robert Morriss wife, does not have a highly documented past, online research shows Catherine listed in census documents alongside her husband. Public records list their marriage and the birth of their son, Robert Jr. Like many other women of the nineteenth century, the census lists Catherine's profession as “keeper of house.”1

Catherine Morris's role in the marriage can be described in ideological terms of 'female influence.' As the primary leaders in the private sphere, women could theoretically exert powerful 'influence' in the world by governing their household and family. To break out of typical gender roles would compromise a women's due respect, as many outspoken nineteenth-century women discovered. Catherine Morris seems to have had some success in her female influence, for her husband converted to her religion, possibly at her behest. Robert was originally a member of the Black Episcopal Church, but became a Catholic like his wife in the 1850s.2 With his newfound religion he promoted the Massasoit Guards, the black militia, since he was becoming pessimistic of a peaceful recovery from slavery.3 He turned out to be right. Once the Civil War erupted he encouraged blacks to become soldiers. It is impossible to determine whether Catherine had a hand, publicly or privately, in Robert's military strategies. So like many other women in her time period, Catherine had to keep any influence quiet and out of historical records. 


Sarah Slotoroff, Spring 2013, Taught by Professor P. Gabrielle Foreman, University of Delaware

Edited by Harry Lewis, ENGL641, Spring 2016. Taught by P. Gabrielle Foreman, University of Delaware.

Edited by Gwendolyn Meredith, University of Delaware


[1]  “1800 Unites States Federal Census about Robert Morris.” Ancestry Library Edition. ProQuest. 1800. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.

[2]  Finkenbine, Roy E. The Black Abolitionist Papers: Volume II Canada, 1830-1865. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1986. Print.

[3] ibid.