Up From Slavery

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Characters

Mrs. Ruffner

Characters Mrs. Ruffner

Mrs. Ruffner is Washington’s first employer. She is the wife of the man who owns the salt-furnace and coal-mine in Malden, Virginia, where both Washington and his stepfather work. Though Mrs. Ruffner goes through many servants before Washington and has a reputation for being strict, Washington excitedly accepts her offer of employment. Mrs. Ruffner introduces social strictures that become the foundation of Washington’s ideals for social life. She demands cleanliness, promptness, and open, frank honesty. The degree of excellence she demands from Washington instills in him discipline, and makes him into a better and more conscientious worker and citizen. Mrs. Ruffner provides a character model for nearly all the women Washington features in his text, including Miss Mackie and all his wives. For readers, she is comfortably of both the North and the South. Though Mrs. Ruffner is a Northerner, she conducts her home as a Southern lady. Her presence both recalls the past and updates it, showing that a social order does and should exist and that when it is recognized and enforced, the races can interact productively and meaningfully.