Back when I took terrible notes, I wrote this on a slip of paper: LUCY MATILDA LOVETT DIVINE.
All I remember about it is that my grandmother told me that this was the name of a Henderson relative. There aren’t any Lucys in the family, so I’m fairly certain she was talking about her grandmother — whose name actually was “Ludie” or “Loudie” and who died when my grandmother’s mother was a toddler. If I probed for more details, though, I didn’t record them.
A couple of days ago, I ran across this:
Wilson Advance, 27 July 1883.
I Googled “Matilda Love Divine” and found:
- family trees containing Ann Matilda Love Divine Seymour Salmon, born maybe in Fayetteville, North Carolina, around 1900; Sarah Ann Caroline Matilda Love Divine Seymour Terry Bell Jones, born near Jones County, North Carolina, in 1915; and Lucy Matilda Love Divine Isabella Susan Caroline Bray, born Pike County, Alabama, in 1864; and
- a snarky Tuscaloosa News article about “unique Southern Negro names,” dated 11 January 1938, that mentioned a Perry County, Alabama, girl named Melissa Ann Queen of Loaf Henry Foster’s Oldest Daughter Sarah Matilda Love Divine Seymoure Cyndie Caroline Foster; and
- a snarky Raleigh Enterprise bit from 16 April 1906 about a local “chocolate”-colored girl named Lucy Matilda Love Divine Seymour Terry Belle Caroline; and
- a marriage announcement in the Goldsboro Headlight, 15 July 1897, for Mary Margaret Lucy Levy Jane Sarah Matilda Love Divine Seymour Carrie Bell Caroline Bartlett; and
- much further afield, a mention in Maine’s Daily Kennebec Journal, 1 August 1903, of Ruth Matilda Love Divine Seymour Terry Belle Caroline Finney.
So what to make of this? Was Loudie Henderson really another of the “Matilda Love Divine” sisterhood? Who in the world was the original? And how did her name seize popular imagination?