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The Grimke Sisters by Catherine H. Birney

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and tried to become interested in a "History of the United States on
Peace Principles," which she had thought some time before of writing.
Then she began the composition of a little book on the "Beauty and Duty
of Forgiveness, as Illustrated by the Story of Joseph," but gave that
up to commence a sacred history. In this she did become much interested
for a time, but her mind was too heavily burdened to permit her to
remain tranquil long. Still the question was ever before her: "Is there
nothing that I can do?" She tried to be cheerful, but felt at all times
much more like shedding tears. And her suffering was greater that it
was borne alone. The friend, Mrs. Parker, whom she was visiting, was a
comparative stranger, whose views she had not yet ascertained, and whom
she feared to trouble with her perplexities. Of Sarah, so closely
associated with Catherine Morris, she could not make an entire
confidant, and no other friend was near. Catherine, and some others in
Philadelphia, anxious about her evident and growing indifference to her
Society duties, tried to persuade her to open a school with one who had
long been a highly-prized friend, but Angelina very decidedly refused
to listen to the project.

"As to S.W.'s proposal," she writes, "I cannot think of acceding to it,
because I have seen so clearly that my pen, at least, must be employed
in the great reformations of the day, and if I engaged in a school, my
time would not be my own. No money that could be given could induce me
to bind my body and mind and soul so completely in Philadelphia. There
is no lack of light as to the right decision about this."

For this reply she received a letter of remonstrance from Sarah, to
which she thus answered:--

"I think I am as afraid as thou canst be of my doing anything to hurt
my usefulness in our Society, if that is the field designed for me to
labor in. But, Is it? is often a query of deep interest and solemnity
to my mind. I feel no openness among Friends. My spirit is oppressed
and heavy laden, and shut up in prison. What am I to do? The only
relief I experience is in writing letters and pieces for the peace and
anti-slavery causes, and this makes me think that my influence is to
reach beyond our own limits. My mind is fully made up not to spend next
winter in Philadelphia, if I can help it. I feel strangely released,
and am sure I know not what is to become of me. I am perfectly blind as
to the future."

But light was coming, and her sorrowful questionings were soon to be

It was not long before Mrs. Parker saw that her guest's cheerfulness
was assumed, and only thinly veiled some great trouble. As they became
more intimate, she questioned her affectionately, and soon drew from
her the whole story of her sorrows and her perplexities, and her great
need of a friend to feel for her and advise her. Mrs. Parker became
this friend, and, though differing from her on some essential points,
did much to help and strengthen her. For many days slavery was the only
topic discussed between them, and then one morning Angelina entered the
breakfast-room with a beaming countenance, and said:--

"It has all come to me; God has shown me what I can do; I can write an
appeal to Southern women, one which, thus inspired, will touch their
hearts, and lead them to use their influence with their husbands and
brothers. I will speak to them in such tones that they must hear me,
and, through me, the voice of justice and humanity."

This appeal was begun that very day, but before she had written many
pages, she was interrupted in her task by a letter which threw her into
a state of great agitation, and added to her perplexity. This letter
was from Elizur Wright, then secretary of the American Anti-Slavery
Society, the office of which was in New York. He invited her, in the
name of the Executive Committee of the Society, to come to New York,
and meet with Christian women in sewing circles and private parlors,
and talk to them, as she so well knew how to do, on slavery.

The door of usefulness she had been looking for so long was opened at
last, but it was so unexpected, so different from anything she had yet
thought of, that she was cast into a sea of trouble. Naturally retiring
and unobtrusive, she shrank from so public an engagement, and this
proposal frightened her so much that she could not sleep the first
night after receiving it. She had never spoken to the smallest assembly
of Friends, and even in meeting, where all were free to speak as the
spirit moved them, she had never uttered a word; and yet, how could she
refuse? She delayed her answer until she could make it the subject of
prayer and consult with Sarah. Desiring to leave her sister entirely
free to express her opinion, she merely wrote to her that she had
received the proposition.

Sarah was beginning to feel that Angelina was growing beyond her, and,
may be, above her. She did not offer a word of advice, but most
tenderly expressed her entire willingness to give up her "precious
child," to go anywhere, and do anything she felt was right. And in a
letter to a friend, alluding to this, she says:--

"My beloved sister does indeed need the prayers of all who love her.
Oh! may He who laid down his life for us guide her footsteps and keep
her in the hollow of His holy hand. Perhaps the Lord may be pleased to
cast our lot somewhere together. If so, I feel as if I could ask no
more in this world."

Sarah's willingness to surrender her to whatever work she felt called
to do was a great relief to Angelina. In writing to thank her and to
speak more fully of Mr. Wright's letter, she says:--

"The bare idea that such a thing may be required of me is truly
alarming, and that thy mind should be at all resigned to it increases
the fear that possibly I may have to do it. It does not appear by the
letter that it is expected I should extend my work outside of our
Society. One thing, however, I do see clearly, that I am not to do it
now, for I have begun to write an 'Appeal to the Christian Women of the
South,' which I feel must be finished first."

She then proceeds to give an account of the part of this Appeal already
written, and of what she intended the rest to be, and shows that she
shared the feelings common among Southerners, the anticipation of a
servile insurrection sooner or later. She says:--

"In conclusion I intend to take up the subject of abolitionism, and
endeavor to undeceive the South as to the supposed objects of
anti-slavery societies, and bear my full testimony to their pacific
principles; and then to close with as feeling an appeal as possible
to them as women, as Christian women, setting before them the awful
responsibility resting on them at this crisis; for if the women of
the South do not rise in the strength of the Lord to plead with
their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons, that country must
witness the most dreadful scenes of murder and blood.

"It will be a pamphlet of a dozen pages, I suppose. My wish is to
submit it to the publishing committee of the A.A.S.S., of New York,
for revision, to be published by them with my name attached, for I
well know my _name_ is worth more than _myself_, and will add
weight to it.[4] Now, dearest, what dost thou think of it? A pretty
bold step, I know, and one of which my friends will highly
disapprove, but this is a day in which I feel I must act
independently of consequences to myself, for of how little
consequence will my trials be, if the cause of truth is helped
forward ever so little. The South must be reached. An address to
men will not reach women, but an address to women will reach the
whole community, if it can be reached at all.

"I mean to write to Elizur Wright by to-morrow's mail, informing
him that I am writing such a pamphlet, and that I feel as if the
proposition of the committee is one of too much importance, either
to accept or refuse, without more reflection than I have yet been
able to give to it. The trial would indeed be great, to have to
leave this sweet, quiet retreat, but if duty calls, I must go....
Many, many thanks for thy dear, long letters."

[4] In a letter written some time after, she says: "I would have
liked thee to join thy name to mine in my Appeal, but thought it
would probably bring out so much opposition and violence, that I
preferred bearing it all myself."

While Angelina was thus busily employed, and buoyed up by the hope of
benefiting those whose wrongs she had all her life felt so deeply,
Sarah was reaching towards her, and in trying to be indulgent to her
and just to her Society at the same time, she was awakening to her own
false position and to some of the awful mistakes of her religious life.
Through the summer, such passages as the following appear in her diary:

"The approach of our Yearly Meeting was almost overwhelming. I felt as
if I could be thankful even for sickness, for almost anything so I
might have escaped attending it. But my dear Saviour opened no door,
and after a season of unusual conflict I was favored with resignation.

"Oh! the cruel treatment I have undergone from those in authority. I
could not have believed it had I not been called to endure it. But the
Lord permits it. My part is not to judge how far they have been moving
under divine direction, but to receive humbly and thankfully through
them the lessons of meekness, lowliness, faith, patience, and love, and
I trust I may be thankful for the opportunity thus afforded to love my
enemies and to pray for them, and perhaps it is to prepare me to feel
for others, that I have been thus tried and afflicted."

That she was thus prepared was evidenced through all the varied
experiences of her after-life, for certainly no more sympathetic soul
ever dwelt in a mortal frame, and more generously diffused its warmth
and tenderness upon all who came within its radius.

After the next First Day meeting, she writes:--

"The suffering in my own meeting is so intense that I think nothing
short of a settled conviction that obedience and eternal life are
closely connected could enable me to open my lips there."

Two weeks later, an almost prophetic sentence is written.

"Truly discouragement does so prevail that it would be no surprise to
me if Friends requested me to be silent. Hitherto, I have been spared
this trial, but if it comes, O Holy Father, may my own will be so slain
that I may bow in reverent adoring submission."

Notwithstanding all this distress, however, Sarah might still have
lingered on some time longer, stifling in the dry dust of the Quaker
Church, and refusing to partake of the living water Angelina proffered
to her, but for an incident which occurred about this time, scarcely a
fortnight after the last sentence quoted,--an incident which proved to
be the last straw added to the heavy burden she had borne so
submissively, if not patiently. It is best given in her own words, and
I may add, it is the last entry in her most remarkable diary.

"8th Mo. 3d. Went this morning to Orange Street meeting after a season
of conflict and prayer. I believed the Lord required this sacrifice,
but I went with a heart bowed down, praying to Jesus that I might not
speak my own words, that he would be pleased to make a way for me, or,
if what I had to deliver brought upon me opposition, to strengthen me
to endure it. The meeting had been gathered some time when I arose, and
after repeating our Lord's thrice-repeated query to Peter, 'Lovest thou
me?' I remarked that it was addressed to one who had been forgiven
much, and who could appeal to the Searcher of hearts that he did indeed
love Him. Few of us had had the temptation to endure which overcame
Peter when he denied his Lord and Master. But although few of us might
openly deny the Lord who bought us, yet there is, I apprehend, in many
of us an evil heart of unbelief, which alienates us from God and
disqualifies from answering the query as Peter did. I had proceeded so
far when Jonathan Evans rose and said: 'I hope the Friend will now be
satisfied.' I immediately sat down and was favored to feel perfectly
calm. The language, 'Ye can have no power at all against me unless it
be given you,' sustained me, and although I am branded in the public
eye with the disapprobation of a poor fellow worm, and it was entirely
a breach of discipline in him to publicly silence a minister who has
been allowed to exercise her gifts in her own meeting without ever
having been requested to be silent, yet I feel no anger towards him.
Surely the feelings that could prompt to so cruel an act cannot be the
feelings of Christian love. But it seems to be one more evidence that
my dear Saviour designs to bring me out of this place. How much has his
injunction rested on my mind of latter time. 'When they persecute you
in one city, flee ye into another.' I pray unto Thee, O Lord Jesus, to
direct the wanderer's footsteps and to plant me where thou seest I can
best promote thy glory. Expect to go to Burlington to-morrow."

To those unacquainted with the Society of Friends fifty years ago, and
its discipline at that period, so different from what it is now, this
incident may seem of little consequence; but it was, on the contrary,
extremely serious. Jonathan Evans was the presiding elder of the Yearly
Meetings, a most important personage, whose authority was undisputed.
He was sometimes alluded to as "Pope Jonathan." He had disliked Sarah
from the time of her connection with the Society, and had habitually
treated her and her offerings with a silent indifference most
significant, and which, of course, had its effect on many who pinned
their prejudices as well as their faith to the coats of the elders. It
was owing entirely to this secretly-exercised but well-understood
opposition, that Sarah had for nine long years used her ministerial
gift only through intense suffering. She believed, against much
rebellion in her own breast, that it had been given her to use in God's
service, and that she had no right to withhold it; but she had been
made so often to feel the condemnation under which she labored, that
she was really not much surprised when the final blow came.

But with all her religious humility her pride was great, and her
sensitiveness to any discourtesy very keen. She may not have felt anger
against Elder Evans. We can imagine, on the contrary, that her heart
was filled with pity for him, but a pity largely mixed with contempt;
and it is certain that the Society was made, in her view, responsible
for his conduct. Every slight she had ever received in it came back to
her exaggerated; all her dissatisfaction with its principles of action
doubled; the grief she had always felt at its indifference to the
doctrine of the atonement, and its neglect to preach "Jesus Christ and
him crucified," of which she had often complained, was intensified, and
her first impulse was to quit the Society, as she determined to quit
Philadelphia, for ever.

Angelina was greatly shocked when she learned of the treatment her
sister had received, but the words, "I will break your bonds and set
you free," came immediately to her mind, and so comforted her that her
grief and indignation were turned to joy. She had long felt that, kind
as Catherine Morris had always been, her strict orthodox principles,
which she severely enforced in her household, circumscribed Sarah's
liberty of thought and action, and operated powerfully in preventing
her from rising out of her depressed and discouraged state. But though
the question had often revolved itself in her mind, and even been
discussed between her and her sister, neither had been able to see how
Sarah could ever leave Catherine, bound to her as she was by such
strong ties of gratitude, and feeling herself so necessary to
Catherine's comfort. But now the way was made clear, and certainly no
true friend of Sarah could expect her to remain longer in Philadelphia.

It is surprising that Sarah had not discovered many years earlier that
the attempt must be futile to engraft a scion of the Charleston
aristocracy upon the rugged stock of Quaker orthodoxy.

She went to Burlington, to the house of a dear friend who knew of all
her trials, and there she remained for several weeks.

Angelina had finished her "Appeal," and, only two days before she heard
of the Evans incident, wrote to Sarah to inform her of the fact. This
letter is dated "Aug. 1st, 1836."

After a few affectionate inquiries, she says: "I have just finished my
'Appeal to Southern Women.' It has furnished work for two weeks. How
much I wish I could have thee here, if it were only for three or four
hours, that we might read it over together before I send it to Elizur
Wright. I read it to Margaret, and she says it carries its own evidence
with it; still, I should value thy judgment very much if I could have
it, but a private opportunity offers to-morrow, and I think I had
better send it. It must go just as I sent my letter to W.L.G., with
fervent prayers that the Lord would do just as he pleased with it. I
believe He directed and helped me to write it, and now I feel as if I
had nothing to do but to send it to the Anti-Slavery Society,
submitting it entirely to their judgment.... I cannot be too thankful
for the change thou expressest in thy feelings with regard to the
Anti-Slavery Society, and feel no desire at all to blame thee for
former opposition, believing, as I do, that it was permitted in order
to drive me closer to my Saviour, and into a deeper examination of the
ground upon which I was standing. I am indeed thankful for it; how
could I be otherwise, when it was so evident thou hadst my good at
heart and really did for the best? And it did not hurt me at all. It
did not alienate me from the blessed cause, for I think the same
suffering that would drive us back from a bad cause makes us cling to
and love a good one more ardently. O sister, I feel as if I could give
up not only friends, but life itself, for the slave, if it is called
for. I feel as if I could go anywhere to save him, even down to the
South if I am called there. The conviction deepens and strengthens, as
retirement affords fuller opportunity for calm reflection, that the
cause of emancipation is a cause worth suffering for, yea, dying for,
if need be. With regard to the proposed mission in New York, I can see
nothing about it, and never did any poor creature feel more unfit to do
anything than I do to undertake it. But what duty presses me into, I
cannot press myself out of.... I sometimes feel frightened to think of
how long I was standing idle in the market-place, and cannot help
attributing it in a great measure to the doctrine of nothingness so
constantly preached up in our Society. It is the most paralyzing,
zeal-quenching doctrine that ever was preached in the Church, and I
believe has produced its legitimate fruit of nothingness in reducing us
to nothing, when we ought to have been a light in the Christian
Church.... Farewell, dearest, perhaps we shall soon meet."

The Appeal was sent to New York, and this was what Mr. Wright wrote to
the author in acknowledging its receipt:--

"I have just finished reading your Appeal, and not with a dry eye. I do
not feel the slightest doubt that the committee will publish it. Oh
that it could be rained down into every parlor in our land. I know it
will carry the Christian women of the South if it can be read, and my
soul blesses that dear and glorious Saviour who has helped you to write

When it was read some days after to the gentlemen of the committee,
they found in it such an intimate knowledge of the workings of the
whole slave system, such righteous denunciation of it, and such a warm
interest in the cause of emancipation, that they decided to publish it
at once and scatter it through the country, especially through the
South. It made a pamphlet of thirty-six pages. The Quarterly
Anti-Slavery Magazine for October, 1836, thus mentions it:--

"This eloquent pamphlet is from the pen of a sister of the late Thomas
S. Grimke, of Charleston, S.C. We need hardly say more of it than that
it is written with that peculiar felicity and unction which
characterized the works of her lamented brother. Among anti-slavery
writings there are two classes--one especially adapted to make new
converts, the other to strengthen the old. We cannot exclude Miss
Grimke's Appeal from either class. It belongs pre-eminently to the
former. The converts that will be made by it, we have no doubt, will be
not only numerous, but thorough-going."

Mr. Wright spoke of it as a patch of blue sky breaking through the
storm-cloud of public indignation which had gathered so black over the
handful of anti-slavery workers.

This praise was not exaggerated. The pamphlet produced the most
profound sensation wherever it was read, but, as Angelina predicted,
she was made to suffer for having written it. Friends upbraided and
denounced her, Catherine Morris even predicting that she would be
disowned, and intimating pretty plainly that she would not dissent from
such punishment; and Angelina even began to doubt her own judgment, and
to question if she ought not to have continued to live a useless life
in Philadelphia, rather than to have so displeased her best friends.
But her convictions of duty were too strong to allow her to remain long
in this depressed, semi-repentant state. In a letter to a friend she
expresses herself as almost wondering at her own weakness; and of
Catherine Morris she says: "Her disapproval, more than anything else,
shook my resolution. Nevertheless, I told her, with many tears, that I
felt it a religious duty to labor in this cause, and that I must do it
even against the advice and wishes of my friends. I think if I ever had
a clear, calm view of the path of duty in all my life, I have had it
since I came here, in reference to slavery. But I assure thee that I
expect nothing less than that my labors in this blessed cause will
result in my being disowned by Friends, but none of these things will
move me. I must confess I value my right very little in a Society which
is frowning on all the moral reformations of the day, and almost
enslaving its members by unchristian and unreasonable restrictions,
with regard to uniting with others in these works of faith and labors
of love. I do not believe it would cost me one pang to be disowned for
doing my duty to the slave."

But her condemnation reached beyond the Quaker Society--even to her
native city, where her Appeal produced a sensation she had little
expected. Mr. Weld's account of its reception there is thus given:--

"When it (the Appeal) came out, a large number of copies were sent by
mail to South Carolina. Most of them were publicly burned by
postmasters. Not long after this, the city authorities of Charleston
learned that Miss Grimke was intending to visit her mother and sisters,
and pass the winter with them. Thereupon the mayor called upon Mrs.
Grimke and desired her to inform her daughter that the police had been
instructed to prevent her landing while the steamer remained in port,
and to see to it that she should not communicate, by letter or
otherwise, with any persons in the city; and, further, that if she
should elude their vigilance and go on shore, she would be arrested and
imprisoned until the return of the vessel. Her Charleston friends at
once conveyed to her the message of the mayor, and added that the
people of Charleston were so incensed against her, that if she should
go there despite the mayor's threat of pains and penalties, she could
not escape personal violence at the hands of the mob. She replied to
the letter that her going would probably compromise her family; not
only distress them, but put them in peril, which she had neither heart
nor right to do; but for that fact, she would certainly exercise her
constitutional right as an American citizen, and go to Charleston to
visit her relatives, and if for that, the authorities should inflict
upon her pains and penalties, she would willingly bear them, assured
that such an outrage would help to reveal to the free States the fact
that slavery defies and tramples alike upon constitutions and laws, and
thus outlaws itself."

These brave words said no more than they meant, for Angelina Grimke's
moral heroism would have borne her to the front of the fiercest battle
ever fought for human rights; and she would have counted it little to
lay down her life if that could help on the victory. She touched as yet
only the surf of the breakers into which she was soon to be swept, but
her clear eye would not have quailed, or her cheek have blanched, if
even then all their cruelty could have been revealed to her.


We have seen, a few pages back, that Angelina expressed her
thankfulness at Sarah's change of views with respect to the
anti-slavery cause. Again we must regret the destruction of Sarah's
letters, which would have shown us by what chains of reasoning her mind
at last reached entire sympathy with Angelina's. We can only infer that
her progress was rapid after the public rebuke which caused her to turn
her back on Philadelphia, and that her sister's brave and isolated
position, appealing strongly to her affection, urged her to make a
closer examination of the subject of abolitionism than she had yet
done. The result we know; her entire conversion in a few weeks to
Angelina's views. And from that time she travelled close by her
sister's side in this as well as in other questions of reform, drawing
her inspiration from Angelina's clearer intuitions and calmer judgment,
and frankly and affectionately acknowledging her right of leadership.

The last of August, 1836, the sisters were once more together, Sarah
having accepted Mrs. Parker's invitation to come to Shrewsbury. The
question of future arrangements was now discussed. Angelina felt a
strong inclination to go to New England, and undertake there the same
work which the committee in New York wished her to perform, and she
even wrote to Mr. Wright that she expected to do so. Feeling also that
Friends had the first right to her time and labors, and that, if
permitted, she would prefer to work within the Society, she wrote to
her old acquaintances, E. and L. Capron, the cotton manufacturers of
Uxbridge, Massachusetts, to consult them on the subject. She mentions
this in a letter to her friend, Jane Smith, saying:--

"My present feelings lead me to labor with Friends on the manufacture
and use of the products of slave-labor. They excuse themselves from
doing anything, because they say they cannot mingle in the general
excitement, and so on. Now, here is a field of labor in which they need
have nothing to do with other societies, and yet will be striking a
heavy blow at slavery. These topics the Anti-Slavery Society has never
acted upon as a body, and therefore no agent of theirs could
consistently labor on them. I stated to E. and L. Capron just how I
felt, and asked whether I could be of any use among them, whether they
were prepared to have the morality of these things discussed on
Christian principles. I have no doubt my Philadelphia friends will
oppose my going there, but, Jane, I have realized very sensibly of late
that I belong not to them, but to Christ Jesus, and that I must follow
the Lamb whithersoever He leadeth.... I feel as if I was about to
sacrifice every friend I thought I had, but I still believe with T.D.
Weld, that this is 'a cause worth dying for.'"

This is the first mention we find of her future husband, whom she had
not yet seen, but whose eloquent addresses she had read, and whose
ill-treatment by Western mobs had more than once called forth the
expression of her indignation.

The senior member of the firm to which she had written answered her
letter in person, and, she says, utterly discouraged her. He said that
if she should go into New England with the avowed intention of laboring
among Friends on the subject of slavery in _any_ way, her path would be
completely closed, and she would find herself entirely helpless. He
even went so far as to say that he believed there were Friends who
would destroy her character if she attempted anything of the kind. He
proposed that she should go to his house for the winter, and employ her
time in writing for the Anti-Slavery Society, and doing anything else
she could incidentally. But this plan did not suit her. She felt it
right to offer her services to Friends first, and was glad she had done
so; but if they would not accept them she must take them elsewhere.
Besides, when she communicated her plan to Catherine Morris, Catherine
objected to it very decidedly, and said she _could not_ go without a
certificate and a companion, and these she knew Friends would not grant

"Under all these circumstances," Angelina writes, "I felt a little like
the apostle Paul, who having first offered the Jews the gospel, and
finding they would not receive it, believed it right for him to turn to
the Gentiles. Didst thou ever hear anything so absurd as what Catherine
says about the certificate and a companion? I cannot feel bound by such
unreasonable restrictions if my Heavenly Father opens a door for me,
and I do not mean to submit to them. She knows very well that Arch
Street Meeting would grant me neither, but as the servant of Jesus
Christ I have no right to bow down thus to the authority of man, and I
do not expect ever again to suffer myself to be trammelled as I have
been. It is sinful in any human being to resign his or her conscience
and free agency to any society or individual, if such usurpation can be
resisted by moral power. The course our Society is now determined upon,
of crushing everything which opposes the peculiar views of Friends,
seems to me just like the powerful effort of the Jews to close the lips
of Jesus. They are afraid that the Society will be completely broken up
if they allow any difference of opinion to pass unrebuked, and they are
resolved to put down all who question in any way the doctrines of
Barclay, the soundness of Fox, or the practices which are built on
them. But the time is fast approaching when we shall see who is for
Christ, and who for Fox and Barclay, the Paul and Apollos of our

Her plan of going to New England frustrated, Angelina hesitated no
longer about accepting the invitation from New York. But first there
was a long discussion of the subject with Sarah, who found it hard to
resign her sister to a work she as yet did not cordially approve. She
begged her not to decide suddenly, and pointed out all sorts of
difficulties--the great responsibility she would assume, her retiring
disposition, and almost morbid shrinking from whatever might make her
conspicuous; the trial of going among strangers, made greater by her
Quaker costume and speech, and lastly, of the almost universal
prejudice against a woman's speaking to any audience; and she asked her
if, under all these embarrassing circumstances, added to her
inexperience of the world, she did not feel that she would ultimately
be forced to give up what now seemed to her so practicable. To all this
Angelina only answered that the responsibility seemed thrust upon her,
that the call was God's call, and she could not refuse to answer it.
Sarah then told her that if she should go upon this mission without the
sanction of the "Meeting for Sufferings," it would be regarded as a
violation of the established usages of the Society, and it would feel
obliged to disown her. Angelina's answer to this ended the discussion.
She declared that as her mind was made up to go, she could not ask
leave of her Society--that it would grieve her to have to leave it, and
it would be unpleasant to be disowned, but she had no alternative. Then
Sarah, whose loving heart had, during the long talk, been moving nearer
and nearer to that of her clear child, surprised her by speaking in the
beautiful, tender language of Ruth: "If thou indeed feelest thus, and I
cannot doubt it, then my mind too is made up. Where thou goest, I will
go; thy God shall be my God, thy people my people. What thou doest, I
will, to my utmost, aid thee in doing. We have wept and prayed
together, we will go and work together."

And thus fully united, heart and soul and mind, they departed for New
York, Angelina first writing to inform the committee of her decision,
and while thanking them for the salary offered, refusing to receive
any. She also told them that her sister would accompany her and
co-operate with her, and they would both bear their own expense.

After this time, the sisters found themselves in frequent and intimate
association with the men who, as officers of the American Anti-Slavery
Society, had the direction of the movement. The marked superiority of
their new friends in education, experience, culture, piety, liberality
of view, statesmanship, decision of character, and energy in action, to
the Philadelphia Quakers and Charleston slave-holders, must have been
to them a surprise and a revelation. Working with a common purpose,
these men were of varied accomplishments and qualities. William Jay and
James G. Birney were cultured men of the world, trained in legal
practice and public life; Arthur Tappan, Lewis Tappan, John Rankin, and
Duncan Dunbar, were successful merchants; Abraham L. Cox, a physician
in large practice; Theodore D. Weld, Henry B. Stanton, Alvan Stewart,
and Gerrit Smith were popular orators; Joshua Leavitt, Elizur Wright,
and William Goodell were ready writers and able editors; Beriah Green
and Amos A. Phelps were pulpit speakers and authors, and John G.
Whittier was a poet. Some of them had national reputations. Those who
in December, 1835, protested against the false charges of publishing
incendiary documents calculated to excite servile war, made against the
Society by President Jackson, had signed names almost as well known as
his, and had written better English than his message. Several of them
had been officers of the American Anti-Slavery Society from its
formation. Their energy had been phenomenal: they had raised funds,
sent lecturers into nearly every county in the free States, and
circulated in a single year more than a million copies of newspapers,
pamphlets, magazines, and books. Their moderation, good judgment, and
piety had been seen and known of all men. Faithful in the exposure of
unfaithfulness to freedom on the part of politicians and clergymen,
they denounced neither the Constitution nor the Bible. Their devotion
to the cause of abolition was pure; for its sake they suppressed the
vanity of personal notoriety and of oratorical display. Among them, not
one can be found who sought to make a name as a leader, speaker, or
writer; not one who was jealous of the reputation of co-adjutors; not
one who rewarded adherents with flattery and hurled invectives at
dissentients; not one to whom personal flattery was acceptable or
personal prominence desirable; not one whose writings betrayed egotism,
self-inflation or bombast. Such was their honest aversion to personal
publicity, it is now almost impossible to trace the work each did. Some
of their noblest arguments for Freedom were published anonymously. They
made no vainglorious claims to the original authorship of ideas. But
never in the history of reform was work better done than the old
American Anti-Slavery Society did from its formation in 1833 to its
disruption in 1840. In less than seven years it regained for Freedom
most of the vantage-ground lost under the open assaults and secret
plottings, beginning in 1829, of the Jackson administration, and in the
panic caused by the Southampton insurrection; blew into flame the
embers of the national anti-slavery sentiment; painted slavery as it
was; vindicated the anti-slavery character of the Constitution and the
Bible; defended the right of petition; laid bare the causes of the
Seminole war: exposed the Texas conspiracy and the designs of the slave
power for supremacy; and freed the legitimate abolition cause from "no
human government," secession, and anti-constitution heresies. In short,
it planted the seed which flowered and fruited in a political party,
around which the nation was to gather for defence against the
aggressions of the slave power.

At the anti-slavery office in New York, Angelina and Sarah learned,
much to their satisfaction, that the work that would probably be
required of Angelina could be done in a private capacity; that it was
proposed to organize, the next month (November), a National Female
Anti-Slavery Society, for which women agents would be needed, and they
could make themselves exceedingly useful travelling about, distributing
tracts, and talking to women in their own homes.

There the matter rested for a time.

Writing to her friend Jane Smith in Philadelphia after their return to
Shrewsbury, Angelina says:--

"I am certain of the disapproval of nearly all my friends. As to dear
Catherine, I am afraid she will hardly want to see me again. I wrote to
her all about it, for I wanted her to know what my prospects were. I
expect nothing less than the loss of her friendship and of my
membership in the Society. The latter will be a far less trial than the
former.... I cannot describe to thee how my dear sister has comforted
and strengthened me. I cannot regard the change in her feelings as any
other than as a strong evidence that my Heavenly Father has called me
into the anti-slavery field, and after having tried my faith by her
opposition, is now pleased to strengthen and confirm it by her

In a postscript to this letter, Sarah says:--

"God does not willingly grieve or afflict the children of men, and if
my suffering or even my beloved sister's, which is harder to bear than
my own, can help forward the cause of Truth and Righteousness, I may
rejoice in that we are found worthy not only to believe on, but also to
suffer for, the name of Jesus."

Angelina adds that she shall be obliged to go to Philadelphia for a
week or so, to dispose of her personal effects, and asks Jane to
receive her as a boarder, as she did not think it would be right to
impose herself upon either her sister, Mrs. Frost, or Catherine, on
account of their disapproval of anti-slavery measures.

"I never felt before," she says, "as if I had _no_ home. It seems as if
the Lord had completely broken up my rest and driven me out to labor
for the poor slave. It is _His_ work--I blame no one."

A few weeks later, the sisters were again in New York, the guests of
that staunch abolitionist, Dr. Cox, and his good wife, Abby, as earnest
a worker in the cause as her husband. An anti-slavery convention had
been called for the first week in the month of November, and met soon
after their arrival. It was at this convention that Angelina first saw
and listened to Theodore D. Weld. Writing to her friend Jane, she

"The meetings are increasingly interesting, and to-day (11th) we
enjoyed a moral and intellectual feast in a most noble speech from T.D.
Weld, of more than two hours, on the question, 'What is slavery?' I
never heard so grand and beautiful an exposition of the dignity and
nobility of man in my life."

She goes on to give a synopsis of the entire speech, and by her
frequent enthusiastic comments reveals how much it and the speaker
impressed her. She continues:--

"After the meeting was over, W.L. Garrison introduced Weld to us. He
greeted me with the appellation of 'my dear sister,' and I felt as
though he was a brother indeed in the holy cause of suffering humanity;
a man raised up by God and wonderfully qualified to plead the cause of
the oppressed. Perhaps now thou wilt want to know how this lion of the
tribe of abolition _looks_. Well, at first sight, there was nothing
remarkable to me in his appearance, and I wondered whether he was
really as great as I had heard. But as soon as his countenance became
animated by speaking, I found it was one which portrayed the noblest
qualities of the heart and head beaming with intelligence, benevolence,
and frankness."

On the last page of her letter she says: "It is truly comforting to me
to find that sister is so much pleased with the Convention, that she
acknowledges the spirit of brotherly love and condescension manifest
there, and that earnest desire after truth which characterizes the
addresses. We have been introduced to a number of abolitionists,
Thurston, Phelps, Green, the Burleighs, Wright, Pritchard, Thome, etc.,
and Amos Dresser, as lovely a specimen of the meekness and lowliness of
the great Master as I ever saw. His countenance betrayeth that he has
been with Jesus, and it was truly affecting to hear him on Sixth Day
give an account of the Nashville outrage to a very large colored

"The F.A.S. Society is to have its first public meeting this week, at
which we hope to hear Weld, but fear he will not have time, as he is
not even able to go home to meals, and told me he had sat up until two
o'clock every night since he came to New York. As to myself, I feel I
have nothing to do but to attend the Convention at present. I am very
comfortable, feeling in my right place, and sister seems to feel so
too, though neither of us sees much ahead."

[5] Amos Dresser was one of the Lane Seminary students. After
leaving that institution, in order to raise funds to continue his
studies, he accepted an agency for the sale of the "Cottage Bible."
While peacefully prosecuting his business in Nashville, in 1834, it
became known that he was an abolitionist. This was enough. He was
arrested, his trunk broken open, and its contents searched and
scattered. He was then taken before a vigilance committee, and
without a single charge, except that of his anti-slavery principles,
being brought against him, was condemned to receive twenty lashes,
"well laid on," on the bare back, and then to be driven from the
town. The sentence was carried out by the votes and in the presence
of thousands of people, and was presided over by the mayor and the
elders of the Presbyterian Church from whose hands Mr. Dresser had,
the Sunday before, received the Holy Communion.

In her next letter she describes the deepening interest of the
Convention, and Sarah's increasing unity with its members.

"We sit," she says, "from 9 to 1, 3 to 5, and 7 to 9, and never feel
weary at all. It is better, _far_ better than any Yearly Meeting I ever
attended. It is still uncertain when we shall adjourn, and it is so
good to be here that I don't know how to look forward to the end of
such a feast.... T.D. Weld is to begin his Bible argument to-morrow. It
will occupy, he says, four days."

The Convention adjourned the latter part of November, 1836, and we may
judge how profitable its meetings had proved to Sarah Grimke, from the
fact that she at once began the preparation of an "Epistle to the
Clergy of the Southern States," which, printed in pamphlet form, was
issued some time in December, and was as strong an argument against the
stand on the subject of slavery taken by the majority of the clergy as
had yet appeared. Reading it, one would little suspect how recent had
been the author's opposition to just such protests as this, calculated
to stir up bitter feelings and create discussion and excitement in the
churches. It is written in a spirit of gentleness and persuasion, but
also of firm admonition, and evidently under a deep sense of individual
responsibility. It shows, too, that Sarah had reached full accord with
Angelina in her views of immediate emancipation.

By the time the Convention was over, the sisters, and portions of their
history, had become so well known to abolitionists, that the leaders
felt they had secured invaluable champions in these two Quaker women,
one so logical, brilliant, and persuasive; the other so intelligent,
earnest, and conscientious; and both distinguished by their ability to
testify as eye-witnesses against the monstrous evils of slavery.

It was proposed that they should begin to hold a series of parlor
meetings, for women only, of course. But it was soon found that they
had, in private conversations, made such an impression, that no parlors
would be large enough to accommodate all who desired to hear them speak
more at length. Upon learning this, the Rev. Mr. Dunbar, a Baptist
clergyman, offered them the use of his Session room, and the Female
Anti-Slavery Society embraced the opportunity to make this the
beginning of regular quarterly meetings. On the Sunday previous to the
meeting, notice of it was given out in four churches, without however,
naming the proposed speakers. But it became known in some way that the
Misses Grimke were to address the meeting, and a shock went through the
whole community. Not a word would have been said if they had restricted
themselves to a private parlor meeting, but that it should be
transferred to such a public place as the parlor of a church made quite
a different affair of it. Friends were of course as loud as Friends
could properly be in their expressions of disapproval, while other
denominations, not so restrained, gave Mr. Dunbar, the abolitionists,
and the "two bold Southern women" an unmistakable piece of their mind.
Even Gerrit Smith, always the grandest champion of woman, advised
against the meeting, fearing it would be pronounced a Fanny Wright
affair, and do more harm than good. Sarah and Angelina were appalled,
the latter especially, feeling almost as if she was the bold creature
she was represented to be. She declared her utter inability, in the
face of such antagonism, to go on with the work she had undertaken, and
the more she looked at it, the more unnatural and unwise it seemed to
her; and when printed hand-bills were scattered about, calling
attention in a slighting manner to their names, both felt as if it were
humanly impossible for them to proceed any further. But the meeting had
been called, and as there was no business to come before it, they did
not know what to do.

"In this emergency," Angelina writes, "I called upon Him who has ever
hearkened unto my cry. My strength and confidence were renewed, my
burden slipped off, and from that time I felt sure of God's help in the
hour of need, and that He would be mouth and wisdom, tongue and
utterance to us both."

"Yesterday," she continues, "T.D. Weld came up, like a brother, to
sympathize with us and encourage our hearts. He is a precious
Christian, and bade us not to fear, but to trust in God. In a previous
conversation on our holding meetings, he had expressed his full unity
with our doing so, and grieved over that factitious state of society
which bound up the energies of woman, instead of allowing her to
exercise them to the glory of God and the good of her fellow creatures.
His visit was really a strength to us, and I felt no more fear. We went
to the meeting at three o'clock, and found about three hundred women
there. It was opened with prayer by Henry Ludlow; we were warmly
welcomed by brother Dunbar, and then these two left us. After a moment,
I arose and spoke about forty minutes, feeling, I think, entirely
unembarrassed. Then dear sister did her part better than I did. We then
read some extracts from papers and letters, and answered a few
questions, when at five the meeting closed; after the question had been
put whether our sisters wished another meeting to be held. A good many
rose, and Henry Ludlow says he is sure he can get his session room for

This account of the first assembly of women, not Quakers, in a public
place in America, addressed by American women, is deeply interesting,
and touching from its very simplicity.

We who are so accustomed to hear women speak to promiscuous audiences
on any and every subject, and to hear them applauded too, can scarcely
realize the prejudice which, half a century back, sought to close the
lips of two refined Christian ladies, desirous only of adding their
testimony against the greatest evil of any age or country. But those
who denounced and ridiculed them builded better than they knew, for
then and there was laid the corner-stone of that temple of equal rights
for women, which has been built upon by so many brave hearts and
willing hands since, and has brought to the front such staunch
supporters and brilliant advocates as now adorn every convention of the
Woman's Rights Associations.

After mentioning some who came up and spoke to them after the meeting
was over, Angelina adds:--

"We went home to tea with Julia Tappan, and Brother Weld was all
anxiety to hear about the meeting. Julia undertook to give some
account, and among other things mentioned that a warm-hearted
abolitionist had found his way into the back part of the meeting, and
was escorted out by Henry Ludlow. Weld's noble countenance instantly
lighted up, and he exclaimed: 'How supremely ridiculous to think of a
man's being shouldered out of a meeting, for fear he should hear a
woman speak!'...

"In the evening a colonizationist of this city came to introduce an
abolitionist to Lewis Tappan. We women soon hedged in our expatriation
brother, and held a long and interesting argument with him until near
ten o'clock. He gave up so much that I could not see what he had to
stand on when we left him."

Another meeting, similar to the first, was held the next week, when so
much interest was manifested that it was decided to continue the
meetings every week until further notice. By the middle of January they
had become so crowded, and were attended by such an influential class
of women, that Mr. Ludlow concluded to offer his church to them. He
always opened the meetings with prayer, and then retired. The addresses
made by the sisters were called "lectures," but they were rather
familiar talks, occasionally a discussion, while many questions were
asked and answered. Angelina's confidence in herself increased rapidly,
until she no longer felt the least embarrassment in speaking; though
she alludes to the exhausting effect of the meetings on her physical
system. Of Sarah, she says, writing to Jane Smith:--

"It is really delightful to see dear sister so happy in this work....
Some Friends come to hear us, but I do not know what they think of the
meetings--or of us. How little, how very little I supposed, when I used
so often to say 'I wish I were a man,' that I could go forth and
lecture, that I ever would do such a thing. The idea never crossed my
mind that as a woman such work could possibly be assigned to me."

To this letter there is a postscript from Sarah, in which she says:--

"I would not give up my abolition feelings for anything I know. They
are intertwined with my Christianity. They have given a new spring to
my existence, and shed over my whole being sweet and hallowed

Angelina's next letter to her friend is dated, "2d Mo. 4th, 1837," and
continues the account of the meetings. She mentions that, at the last
one, they had one male auditor, who refused to go out when told he
must, so he was allowed to stay, and she says: "Somehow, I did not
feel, his presence embarrassing at all, and went on just as though he
had not been there. Some one said he took notes, and I think he was a
Southern spy, and shall not be at all surprised if he publishes us in
some Southern paper."

Truly it was a risky thing for a lord of creation to intrude himself
into a woman's meeting in those days!

Angelina goes on to remark that more Friends are attending their
meetings, and that if they were not opened with prayer, still more
would come. Also, that Friends had been very kind and attentive to them
in every way, and never said a discouraging word to them. She then
discourses a little on phrenology, at that time quite a new thing in
this country, and relates an anecdote of "Brother "Weld," as follows:--

"When he went to Fowler in this city, he disguised himself as an
omnibus driver. The phrenologist was so struck with the supposed fact
that an omnibus driver should have such an extraordinary head, that he
preserved an account of it, and did not know until some time after that
it was Weld's. He says that when he first had his head examined at
Utica, he was told he was deficient in the organ of color, his eyebrow
showing it. He immediately remembered that his mother often told him:
'Theodore, it is of no use to send you to match a skein of silk, for
you never bring the right color.' When relating this, he observed a
general titter in the room, and on inquiring the reason a candle was
put near him, and, to his amazement, all agreed that the legs of his
pantaloons were of different shades of green. Instead of a ridge all
around his eyebrow, he has a little hollow in one spot."

A society for the encouragement of abstinence from the use of slave
products had just been formed in Philadelphia, and Angelina desired her
friend to put her name to the pledge, but not Sarah's. In a postscript
Sarah explains this, saying:--

"I do abstain from slave produce as much as I can, just because I feel
most easy to do so, but I cannot say my judgment is convinced;
therefore, I would rather not put my name to the pledge."

Her judgment was convinced, however, very shortly afterwards, by a
discussion of the subject with Weld and some others, and she then wrote
to Jane Smith to set her name down, as she found her testimony in the
great cause was greatly strengthened by keeping clean hands.

There is much told of their meetings, and their other experiences in
New York, which is very interesting, and for which I regret I have not
room. Angelina describes in particular one visit they made to a poor
family, that of one of her Sunday-school pupils, where they stayed to
tea, being afterwards joined by Mr. Weld, who came to escort them home.
She says of him:--

"I have seen him shine in the Convention and in refined circles, but
never did I admire him so much. His perfect ease at this fireside of
poverty showed that he was accustomed to be the friend and companion of
the poor of this world."

The family here mentioned was doubtless a colored one, as it was in the
colored Sunday school that both sisters taught. They had already
proved, by their friendship for Sarah Douglass, the Fortens, and other
colored families of Philadelphia, how slight was their prejudice
against color, but the above incident proves the entire sincerity of
their convictions and their desire to avail themselves of every
opportunity to testify to it. Still, there is no doubt that to the
influence of Theodore Weld's conversations they owed much of their
enlightenment on this as well as on some other points of radical
abolitionism. It was after a talk with him that Angelina describes the
Female Anti-Slavery Society of New York as utterly inefficient, "doing
literally nothing," and ascribes its inefficiency to the sinful
prejudice existing there, which shut out colored women from any share
in its management, and gave little encouragement to them even to become

She adds: "I believe it is our duty to visit the poor, white and
colored, just in this way, and to receive them at our houses. I think
that the artificial distinctions in society, the separation between the
higher and the lower orders, the aristocracy of wealth and education,
are the very rock of pauperism, and that the only way to eradicate this
plague from our land will be to associate with the poor, and the wicked
too, just as our Redeemer did. To visit them as our inferiors, the
recipients of our bounty, is quite a different thing from going among
them as our equals."

In her next letter to Jane Smith, Angelina gives an interesting account
of H.B. Stanton's great speech before the Committee of the
Massachusetts legislature on the abolition of slavery in the District
of Columbia; a speech which still ranks as one of the ablest and most
brilliant ever delivered in this country. There is no date to this
letter, but it must have been written the last of February or first of
March, 1837. She begins thus:--

"I was wondering, my dear Jane, what could be the reason I had not
heard from thee, when brother Weld came in with thine and Mira's
letters hanging from the paper on which they had been tied. 'I bring
you,' he said, 'a good emblem of the fate of abolitionists,--so take
warning;' and held them up to our view....

"Brother Garrison was here last Sixth Day and spent two hours with us.
He gave us a most delightful account of recent things in Boston, which
I will try to tell thee of. "When the abolitionists found how their
petitions were treated in Congress, they sent in, from all parts of
Massachusetts, petitions to the legislature, requesting it to issue a
protest against such contempt of the people's wishes and rights. The
legislature was amazed at the number and respectability of these
petitions, and appointed a committee to take them under consideration.
Abolitionists then asked for a hearing before that committee, not in
the lobby, but in the Hall of Representatives. The request was granted,
and though the day was exceedingly stormy, a good number were out. A
young lawyer of Boston first spoke an hour and a half; H.B. Stanton
followed, and completely astonished the audience, but could not get
through by dark, and asked for another meeting. The next afternoon an
overflowing audience greeted him; he spoke three hours, and did not yet
finish. Another meeting was appointed for the next evening, and he says
he thinks hundreds went away because they could not get in. Stanton
spoke one hour and a quarter, and then broke down from the greatness of
the effort, added to the unceasing labors of the winter. A profound
silence reigned through the crowded hall. Not one moved to depart. At
last a member of the committee arose, and asked if there was any other
abolitionist present who wished to speak. Stanton said he believed not,
as they now had the views of the Anti-Slavery Society. The committee
were not satisfied; and one of them said if there was any abolitionist
who wished to follow Mr. Stanton, they would gladly hear all he had to
say, but all declined. Brother Garrison said such was the desire to
hear more on this subject, that he came directly to New York to get
Weld to go and speak before them, but his throat is still so much
affected that it will be impossible for him to do so. Isn't this
cheering news? Here are seven hundred men in the Massachusetts
legislature, who, if they can be moved to protest against the
unconstitutional proceedings of Congress, will shake this nation to its
centre, and rock it in a revolutionary storm that must either sink it
or save it."

After closing their meetings in New York, the sisters held similar ones
in Newark, Bloomfield, and other places in New Jersey, in all of which
Sarah was as active and enthusiastic as Angelina, and from this time we
hear no more of the gloom and despondency which had saddened so many of
the best years of her life. But, identified completely with her
sister's work, she was busy, contented and satisfied of the Lord's
goodness and mercy.

These meetings had all been quiet and undisturbed in every way, owing
of course, to the fact that only women attended, but the newspapers had
not spared them. Ridicule, sarcasm, and pity were liberally bestowed
upon the "deluded ladies" by the press generally, and the Richmond Whig
published several editorials about "those fanatical women, the Misses
Grimke." But writing against them was the extent of the opposition at
that time, and this affected them very little.

From New Jersey they went up the North River with Gerrit Smith, holding
interesting meetings at Hudson and Poughkeepsie. At the latter place
they spoke to an assembly of colored people of both sexes, and this was
the first time Angelina ever addressed a mixed audience, and it was
perhaps in accordance with the fitness of things that it should have
been a colored one. She often spoke of this in after years, looking
back to it with pleasure. Here, also, they attended a meeting of the
Anti-slavery Society of the Protestant Episcopal Methodist Church, and
spoke against the sin of prejudice. In a letter to Sarah Douglass,
Sarah says:--

"My feelings were so overcome at this meeting that I sat down and wept.
I feel as if I had taken my stand by the side of the colored American,
willing to share with him the odium of a darker skin, and I trust if I
am permitted again to take my seat in Arch Street Meeting House, it
will be beside thee and thy dear mother."

These Hudson River meetings ended the labors of the sisters in New York
for the time. They returned to the city to take a little needed rest,
and to prepare for the Female Anti-Slavery Convention, which was to
meet there early in May. The Society which had sent them forth had
reason to be well satisfied with its experiment. Not only had they
awakened enthusiasm and sincere interest in abolition, but had
demonstrated the ability of women to publicly advocate a great cause,
and the entire propriety of their doing so. One of the members, of the
committee asserted that it would be as impossible to calculate the
number of converts they had made, as to estimate the encouragement and
strength their zeal and eloquence had given to abolitionists all over
the country. Men were slow to believe the reports of their wives and
sisters respecting Angelina's wonderful oratory, and this incredulity
produced the itching ears which soon drew to the meetings where the
Grimke sisters were to speak more men than women, and gave them the
applause and hearty support of some of the ablest minds of New England.
The Female Anti-slavery Convention opened with seventy-one delegates;
the Misses Grimke, at their own request, representing South Carolina.
During this convention they met many congenial souls, among whom they
particularize Lydia M. Child, Mary T. Parker, and Anna Weston, as
sympathizing so entirely with their own views respecting prejudice and
the province of woman.

The latter question had long been Sarah's pet problem, to the solution
of which she had given much thought and study, ever since the time when
she was denied participation in her brother's education because of her
sex. It is scarcely too much to say that to her mind this question was
second in importance to none, and though the word enfranchisement, as
applied to woman, had not yet been uttered, the whole theory of it was
in Sarah's heart, and she eagerly awaited the proper time and place to
develop it. Angelina, while holding the same views, would probably have
kept them in the background longer, but for Sarah's arguments,
supported by the objection so frequently urged against the
encouragement of their meetings,--that slavery was a political subject
with which women had nothing to do. This objection she answered in a
masterly paper, an "Appeal to the Women of the Nominally Free States,"
which was printed in pamphlet form and sent out by the Female
Anti-Slavery Convention, and attracted wide attention. The chief point
she took was this: "The denial of our duty to act in this cause is a
denial of our right to act; and if we have no right to act, then may we
well be termed 'the white slaves of the North,' for, like our brethren
in bonds, we must seal our lips in silence and despair."

The whole argument, covering nearly seventy pages, is remarkable in its
calm reasoning, sound logic, and fervid eloquence, and will well repay
perusal, even at this day. About the same time a beautiful and most
feeling "Address to Free Colored Americans" was written by Sarah, and
likewise circulated by the Convention. These two pamphlets made the
sisters so widely known, and so increased the desire in other places to
hear them speak, that invitations poured in upon them from different
parts of the North and West, as well as from the New England States. It
was finally decided that they should go to Boston first, to aid the
brave, good women there, who, while willing to do all that women could
do for the cause in a private capacity, had not yet been persuaded to
open their lips for it in any kind of a public meeting. It was not
contemplated, however, that the sisters should address any but
assemblies of women. Even Boston was not yet prepared for a greater
infringement of the social proprieties.


The Woman's Rights agitation, while entirely separate from
Abolitionism, owes its origin to the interest this subject excited in
the hearts and minds of American women; and to Sarah and Angelina
Grimke must be accorded the credit of first making the woman question
one of reform. Their broad views, freely expressed in their New York
meetings, opened up the subject of woman's duties under the existing
state of public sentiment, and, in connection with the revelations made
concerning the condition of her white and colored sisters at the South,
and the frantic efforts used to prevent her from receiving these
revelations, she soon began to see that she had some moral obligations
outside of her home sphere and her private circle. At first her only
idea of aid in the great cause was that of prayer, which men
universally granted was her especial privilege, even encouraging her to
pray for them; but it must be private prayer--prayer in her own
closet--with no auditor but the God to whom she appealed. As soon as it
became public, and took the form of petitions to legislatures and to
Congress, the reprobation began. The enemies of freedom, fully
realizing woman's influence, opposed her interference at every point;
and when a Southern representative declared from his seat that women
had no right to send up petitions to Congress he was sustained by the
sycophantic response which came from the North, that slavery was a
political question, with which women had nothing to do. Angelina Grimke
answered this so fully and so eloquently in her "Appeal to Northern
Women," that no doubt could have been left in the minds of those who
read it, not only of woman's right, but of her duty to interfere in
this matter. The appeal is made chiefly to woman's tenderest and
holiest feelings, but enough is said of her rights to show whither
Angelina's own reflections were leading her, and it must have turned
the thoughts of many other women in the same direction. A passage or
two may be quoted as examples.

"Every citizen should feel an intense interest in the political
concerns of the country, because the honor, happiness and well-being of
every class are bound up in its politics, government, and laws. Are we
aliens because we are women? Are we bereft of citizenship because we
are the mothers, wives, and daughters of a mighty people? Have women no
country--no interests staked on the public weal--no partnership in a
nation's guilt and shame? Has woman no home nor household altars, nor
endearing ties of kindred, nor sway with man, nor power at the
mercy-seat, nor voice to cheer, nor hand to raise the drooping, or to
bind the broken?... The Lord has raised up men whom he has endowed with
'wisdom and understanding, and knowledge,' to lay deep and broad the
foundations of the temple of liberty. This is a great moral work in
which they are engaged. No war-trumpet summons to the field of battle;
but Wisdom crieth without, 'Whosoever is of a willing heart, let him
bring an offering.' Shall woman refuse her response to the call? Was
she created to be a helpmeet for man--his sorrows to divide, his joys
to share, and all his toils to lighten by her willing aid, and shall
she refuse to aid him with her prayers, her labors, and her counsels
too, at such a time, in such a cause as this?"

There had been, from the beginning of the anti-slavery agitation, no
lack of women sympathizers with it. Some of the best and brightest of
the land had poured forth their words of grief, of courage, and of hope
through magazines and newspapers, in prose and in verse, and had proved
their willingness to suffer for the slave, by enduring unshrinkingly
ridicule and wrath, pecuniary loss and social ostracism. All over the
country, in almost every town and village, women labored untiringly to
raise funds for the printing of pamphlets, sending forth lecturers and
for the pay of special agents. They were regular attendants also on the
anti-slavery meetings and conventions, often outnumbering the men, and
privately made some of the best suggestions that were offered. But so
strong and general was the feeling against women speaking in any public
place, that, up to the time when Sarah and Angelina Grimke began their
crusade, it was an almost unheard of thing for a woman to raise her
voice in any but a church prayer-meeting. During the sittings of the
Anti-Slavery Convention in Philadelphia, in 1833, which was attended by
a number of women, chiefly Friends, Lucretia Mott, though she had had
experience in speaking in Quaker meetings, timidly arose one day, and,
in fear lest she might offend, ventured to propose an amendment to a
certain resolution. With rare indulgence and good sense, Beriah Green,
the president of the convention, encouraged her to proceed; and May, in
his "Recollections," says: "She made a more impressive and effective
speech than any other that was made in the convention, excepting only
the closing address of our president."

Two other ladies, Esther Moore and Lydia White, emboldened by Mrs.
Mott's example, afterwards said a few words on one or two occasions,
but these were the only infringements, during all those early years of
agitation, of St. Paul's oft-quoted injunction.

When Sarah and Angelina Grimke accepted the invitation of the Female
Anti-Slavery Society of Boston, to come and labor there, they found
friends on every hand--women of the highest culture and purest
religion, eager to hear them, not only concerning what their eyes had
witnessed in that land of worse than Egyptian bondage, but ready to be
enlightened upon their own duties and rights in the matter of moral
reform, and as willing as resolute to perform them. Without experience,
as the sisters were, we can hardly be surprised that they should have
been carried beyond their original moorings, and have made what many of
their best friends felt was a serious mistake, in uniting the two
causes, thus laying upon abolitionists a double burden, and a
responsibility to which the great majority of them were as much opposed
as were their bitterest enemies. But no movement in this direction was
made for some time. Indeed, it seems to have grown quite naturally out
of, or been forced forward by, the alarm among men, and the means they
took to frighten and warn women away from the dangerous topic.

The Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Convention met early in June, 1837. In
writing about it to Jane Smith, Angelina first touches upon the dawning
feeling on this woman question. She says:--

"We had Stanton and Burleigh, Colver and Birney, Garrison and Goodell,
etc. Their eloquence was no less delightful to the ear than the
soundness of their doctrine was comforting to the heart.... A peace
resolution was brought up, but this occasioned some difficulty on
account of non-resistance here meaning a repudiation of civil
government, and of course we cannot expect many to be willing to do
this.... At Friend Chapman's, where we spent a social evening, I had a
long talk with the brethren on the rights of women, and found a very
general sentiment prevailing that it is time our fetters were broken.
L. Child and Maria Chapman strongly supported this view; indeed, very
many seem to think a new order of things is very desirable in this
respect.... And now, my dear friend, in view of these things, I feel
that it is not the cause of the slave only that we plead, but the cause
of woman as a moral, responsible being, and I am ready to exclaim, 'Who
is sufficient for these things?' These holy causes must be injured if
they are not helped by us. I see not to what point all these things are
leading us. But one thing comforts me: I do feel as though the Lord had
sent us, and as if I was leaning on his arm."

And in this reliance, in a meek and lowly spirit, impelled not by
inclination, but by an overpowering sense of duty, these gentle women,
fully realizing the singularity of their position, prepared to enter
upon entirely new scenes of labor, encompassed by difficulties
peculiarly trying to their delicate natures.

A series of public meetings was arranged for them as soon as the
Convention adjourned, and the first was held in Dorchester, in the town
hall, to which they repaired upon finding the number of those who
wished to hear them too great to be accommodated in a private house.
Their next was in Boston on the following afternoon. Angelina's heart
here almost failed her as she glanced over the assemblage of women of
all classes, and thought of the responsibility resting upon her. It was
at this meeting that a reverend gentleman set the example, which was
followed by two or three other men, of slyly sliding into a back seat
to hear for himself what manner of thing this woman's speaking was.
Satisfied of its superior quality, and alarmed at its effects upon the
audience, he shortly afterwards took great pains to prove that it was
unscriptural for a woman to speak in public.

As the meetings were held at first only in the daylight, there was
little show of opposition for some time. The sisters went from one town
to another, arousing enthusiasm everywhere, and vindicating, by their
power and success, their right to speak. Angelina's letters to Jane
Smith contain memoranda of all the meetings she and Sarah held during
that summer and fall. It is surprising that they were able to endure
such an amount of mental and physical labor, and maintain the
constantly increasing eagerness to hear them. Before the end of the
first week, she records:--"Nearly thirty men present, pretty easy to
speak." A few days later the number of men had increased to fifty, with
"great openness on their part to hear."

After having held meetings every day, their audience numbering from one
hundred and fifty to one thousand, Angelina records on the 21st July,
at Lynn:--

"In the evening of the same day addressed our first mixed audience.
Over one thousand present, great openness to hear, and ease in

This, so briefly mentioned, was the beginning of the revolution in
sentiment respecting woman's sphere, which, though it was met at the
outset with much the same spirit which opposed abolitionism, soon
spread and became a principle of reform as conscientiously and as ably
advocated as any other, moral or political. Neither Sarah nor Angelina
had any idea of starting such a revolution, but when they found it
fairly inaugurated, and that many women had long privately held the
same views as they did and were ready to follow in their lead, they
bravely accepted, and to the end of their lives as bravely sustained
all the responsibilities their opinions involved. They were the
pioneers in the great cause of political freedom for women, and opened
the way in the true pioneer spirit. The clear sense of justice and the
broad humanity which inspired their trenchant rebukes and fervid
appeals not only enlightened and encouraged other women, but led to
inquiry into various wrongs practised towards the sex which had up to
that time been suffered in silence and in ignorance, or in despair of
any possibility of relief. The peculiar tenderness of Sarah Grimke's
nature, and her overflowing sympathy with any form of suffering, led
her, earlier than Angelina, to the consideration of the necessity of
some organized system of protection of helpless women and children;
and, from the investigation of the impositions and abuses to which they
were subjected, was evolved, without much difficulty, the doctrine of
woman's equality before the law, and her right to a voice on every
subject of public interest, social or political. Sarah's published
letters during the summer of 1837 show her to have been as deeply
interested in this reform as in abolitionism, and to her influence was
certainly due the introduction of the "Woman Question" into the
anti-slavery discussions. That this question was as yet a secondary one
in Angelina's mind is evident from what she writes to Jane Smith about
this time. She says: "With regard to speaking on the rights of woman,
it has really been wonderful to me that though, everywhere I go, I meet
prejudice against our speaking, yet, in addressing an audience, I never
think of referring to it. I was particularly struck with this two days
ago. Riding with Dr. Miller to a meeting at Franklin, I found, from
conversation with him, that I had a great amount of prejudice to meet
at that town, and very much in his own mind. I gave him my views on
women's preaching, and verily believe I converted him, for he said he
had no idea so much could be adduced from the Bible to sustain the
ground I had taken, and remarked: 'This will be quite new to the
people, and I believe they will gladly hear these things,' and pressed
me so much to speak on the subject at the close of my lecture that I
was obliged to promise I would if I could remember to do so. After
speaking two hours, we returned to his house to tea, and he asked: 'Why
did you not tell the people why you believed you had a right to speak?'
I had entirely forgotten all about it until his question revived the
conversation we had on the road. Now I believe the Lord orders these
things so, driving out of my mind what I ought not to speak on. If the
time ever comes when this shall be a part of my public work, then I
shall not be able to forget it."

But to return to the meeting at Lynn. We are told that the men present
listened in amazement. They were spell-bound, and impatient of the
slightest noise which might cause the loss of a word from the speakers.
Another meeting was called for, and held the next evening. This was
crowded to excess, many going away unable to get even standing-room.

"At least one hundred," Angelina writes, "stood around the doors, and,
on the outside of each window, men stood with their heads above the
lowered sash. Very easy speaking indeed."

But now the opposers of abolitionism, and especially the clergy, began
to be alarmed. It amounted to very little that (to borrow the language
of one of the newspapers of the day) "two fanatical women, forgetful of
the obligations of a respected name, and indifferent to the feelings of
their most worthy kinsmen, the Barnwells and the Rhetts, should, by the
novelty of their course, draw to their meetings idle and curious
women." But it became a different matter when men, the intelligent,
respectable and cultivated citizens of every town, began to crowd to
hear them, even following them from one place to another, and giving
them loud and honest applause. Then they were adjudged immodest, and
their conduct denounced as unwomanly and demoralizing. Their devotion
to principle, the purity of their lives, the justice of the cause they
pleaded, the religious stand-point from which they spoke, all were
overlooked, and the pitiless scorn of Christian men and women of every
sect was poured down upon them. Nor should we wonder when we remember
that, at that time, the Puritan bounds of propriety still hedged in the
education and the training of New England women, and limited the views
of New England men. Even many of the abolitionists had first to hear
Sarah and Angelina Grimke to be convinced that there was nothing
unwomanly in a woman's raising her voice to plead for those helpless to
plead for themselves. So good a man and so faithful an anti-slavery
worker as Samuel J. May confesses that his sense of propriety was a
little disturbed at first. Letters of reproval, admonition, and
persuasion, some anonymous, some signed by good conscientious people,
came to the sisters frequently. Clergymen denounced them from their
pulpits, especially warning their women members against them. Municipal
corporations refused the use of halls for their meetings, and threats
of personal violence came from various quarters. Friends especially
felt outraged. The New England Yearly Meeting went so far as to advise
the closing of meeting-house doors to all anti-slavery lecturers and
the disownment the sisters had long expected now became imminent.

We can well imagine how terrible all this must have been to their
shrinking, sensitive, and proud spirits. But their courage never
failed, nor was their mighty work for humanity stayed one instant by
this storm of indignation and wrath. Angelina, writing to her dear Jane
an account of some of the opposition to them, says:

"And now, thou wilt want to know how we feel about all these things.
Well, dear, poor enough in ourselves, and defenceless; but rich and
strong in the help which our Master is pleased to give from time to
time, making perfect his strength in our weakness. This is a truly
humbling dispensation, but when I am speaking I am favored to forget
little _I_ entirely, and to feel altogether hidden behind the great
cause I am pleading. Were it not for this, I do not know how I could
face such audiences and such opposition. O Jane, how good it is that we
can cast all our burdens upon the Lord."

And Sarah, writing to Sarah Douglass, says: "They think to frighten us
from the field of duty; but they do not move us. God is our shield, and
we do not fear what man can do unto us," A little further on she says:
"It is really amusing to see how the clergy are arrayed against two
women who are telling the story of the slave's wrongs."

This was before the celebrated "Pastoral Letter" appeared. Sarah's
answer to that in her letters to the N.E. Spectator shows how far the
clergy had gone beyond amusing her.

There were, of course, many church members of every denomination, and
many ministers, in the abolition ranks. Indeed, at some of the
Anti-Slavery Conventions, it was a most edifying sight to see clergymen
of different churches sitting together and working together in harmony,
putting behind them, for the time being, all creeds and dogmas, or,
rather, sinking them all in the one creed taught by the blessed command
to do unto others as they would be done by.

Some of the more conservative of the clergy objected, it is true, to
the great freedom of thought and speech allowed generally in the
Conventions, but this was slight compared to the feeling excited by the
encouragement given to women to take prominent and public part in the
work, even to speaking from the platform and the pulpit.

The general prejudice against this was naturally increased by the
earnest eloquence with which Angelina Grimke pointed out the
inconsistent attitude of ministers and church members towards slavery;
by Sarah's strongly expressed views concerning a paid clergy; and the
indignant protests of both sisters against the sin of prejudice, then
as general in the church as out of it.

The feeling grew very strong against them. They were setting public
sentiment at defiance, it was said; they were seeking to destroy
veneration for the ministers of the Gospel; they were casting contempt
upon the consecrated forms of the Church; and much more of the same
kind. Nowhere, however, did the feeling find decided public expression
until the General Association of Congregational Ministers of
Massachusetts saw proper to pass a resolution of censure against Sarah
and Angelina Grimke, and issued a pastoral letter, which, in the light
and freedom of the present day, must be regarded as a most
extraordinary document, to say the least of it. The opening sentences
show the degree of authority felt and exercised by the clergy at that
time. It maintained that, as ministers were ordained by God, it was
their place and duty to judge what food was best to feed to the flock
over which they had been made overseers by the Holy Ghost; and that, if
they did not preach on certain topics, as the flock desired, the flock
had no right to put strangers in their place to do it; that deference
and subordination were necessary to the happiness of every society, and
peculiarly so to the relation of a people to their pastor; and that the
sacred rights of ministers had been violated by having their pulpits
opened without their consent to lecturers on various subjects of

All this might pass without much criticism: but it was followed by a
tirade against woman-preachers, aimed at the Grimke sisters especially,
which was as narrow as it was shallow. The dangers which threatened
the female character and the permanent injury likely to result to
society, if the example of these women should be followed, were
vigorously portrayed. Women were reminded that their power was in
their dependence; that God had given them their weakness for their
protection; and that when they assumed the tone and place of man,
as public reformers, they made the care and protection of man seem
unnecessary. "If the vine," this letter fancifully said, "whose
strength and beauty is to lean upon the trellis-work, and half
conceal its clusters, thinks to assume the independence and the
overshadowing nature of the elm, it will not only cease to bear
fruit, but will fall in shame and dishonor into the dust."

Sarah Grimke had just begun a series of letters on the "Province of
Woman" for the _N.E. Spectator_, when this pastoral effusion came out.
Her third letter was devoted to it. She showed in the clearest manner
the unsoundness of its assertions, and the unscriptural and unchristian
spirit in which they were made. The delicate irony with which she also
exposed the ignorance and the shallowness of its author must have
caused him to blush for very shame.

Whittier's muse, too, found the Pastoral Letter a fitting theme for its
vigorous, sympathetic utterances. The poem thus inspired is perhaps one
of the very best among his many songs of freedom. It will be remembered
as beginning thus:--

"So this is all! the utmost reach
Of priestly power the mind to fetter,
When laymen _think_, when women _preach_,
A war of words, a 'Pastoral Letter!'"

Up to this time nothing had been said by either of the sisters in
their lectures concerning their views about women. They had carefully
confined themselves to the subject of slavery, and the attendant
topics of immediate emancipation, abstinence from the use of slave
products, the errors of the Colonization Society, and the sin of
prejudice on account of color. But now that they found their own
rights invaded, they began to feel it was time to look out for the
rights of their whole sex.

The Rev. Amos Phelps, a staunch abolitionist, wrote a private letter
to the sisters, remonstrating earnestly but kindly against their
lecturing to men and women, and requesting permission to publish the
fact of his having done so, with a declaration on their part that they
preferred having female audiences only. Angelina says to Jane Smith:--

"I wish you could see sister's admirable reply to this. We told him we
were entirely willing he should publish anything he felt it right to,
but that we could not consent to his saying in our name that we
preferred female audiences only, because in so saying we should
surrender a fundamental principle, believing, as we did, that as moral
beings it was our duty to appeal to all moral beings on this subject,
without any distinction of sex. He thinks we are throwing a
responsibility on the Anti-Slavery Society which will greatly injure
it. To this we replied that we would write to Elizur Wright, and give
the Executive Committee an opportunity to throw off all such
responsibility by publishing the facts that we had no commission from
them, and were not either responsible to or dependent on them. I wrote
this letter. H.B. Stanton happened to be here at the time; after
reading all the letters, he wrote to Elizur Wright, warning him by no
means to publish anything which would in the least appear to
disapprove of what we were doing. I do not know what the result will
be. My only fear is that some of our anti-slavery brethren will commit
themselves, in this excitement, against _women's rights and duties_
before they examine the subject, and will, in a few years, regret the
steps they may now take. This will soon be an absorbing topic. It must
be discussed whether women are moral and responsible beings, and
whether there is such a thing as male and female virtues, male and
female duties, etc. My opinion is that there is no difference, and
that this false idea has run the ploughshare of ruin over the whole
field of morality. My idea is that whatever is morally right for a man
to do is morally right for a woman to do. I recognize no rights but
human rights. I know nothing of men's rights and women's rights; for
in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female.... I am persuaded
that woman is not to be as she has been, a mere second-hand agent in
the regeneration of a fallen world, but the acknowledged equal and
co-worker with man in this glorious work.... Hubbard Winslow of Boston
has just preached a sermon to set forth the proper sphere of our sex.
I am truly glad that men are not ashamed to come out boldly and tell
us just what is in their hearts."

In another letter she mentions that a clergyman gave out a notice of
one of their meetings, at the request, he said, of his deacons, but
under protest; and he earnestly advised his members, particularly the
women, not to go and hear them. At a meeting, also, at Pepperell,
where they had to speak in a barn, on account of the feeling against
them, she mentions that an Orthodox clergyman opened the meeting with
prayer, but went out immediately after finishing, declaring that he
would as soon rob a hen-roost as remain there and hear a woman speak
in public.

This, however, did not prevent the crowding of the barn "almost to
suffocation," and deep attention on the part of those assembled.

In the face of all this censure and ridicule, the two sisters
continued in the discharge of a duty to which they increasingly felt
they were called from on high. The difficulties, inconveniences, and
discomforts to which they were constantly subjected, and of which the
women reformers of the present day know so little, were borne
cheerfully, and accepted as means of greater refinement and
purification for the Lord's work. They were often obliged to ride six
or eight or ten miles through the sun or rain, in stages or wagons
over rough roads to a meeting, speak two hours, and return the same
distance to their temporary abiding-place. For many weeks they held
five and six meetings a week, in a different place every time, were
often poorly lodged and poorly fed, especially the latter, as they ate
nothing which they did not know to be the product of free labor;
taking cold frequently, and speaking when ill enough to be in bed, but
sustained through all by faith in the justice of their cause, and by
their simple reliance upon the love and guidance of an Almighty
Father. The record of their journeyings, as copied by Angelina from
her day-book for the benefit of Jane Smith, is very interesting, as
showing how, in spite of continued opposition to them, anti-slavery
sentiment grew under their eloquent preaching. Wendell Phillips says:
"I can never forget the impulse our cause received when those two
sisters doubled our hold on New England in 1837 and 1838, and made a
name, already illustrious in South Carolina by great services, equally
historical in Massachusetts, in the two grandest movements of our

Angelina's eloquence must have been something marvellous. The sweet,
persuasive voice, the fluent speech, and occasionally a flash of the
old energy, were all we who knew her in later years were granted, to
show us what had been; but it was enough to confirm the accounts given
by those who had felt the power of her oratory in those early times.
Says Wendell Phillips: "I well remember evening after evening
listening to eloquence such as never then had been heard from a woman.
She swept the chords of the human heart with a power that has never
been surpassed and rarely equalled."

Mr. Lincoln, in whose pulpit she lectured in Gardiner, says: "Never
before or since have I seen an audience so held and so moved by any
public speaker, man or woman; and never before or since have I seen a
Christian pulpit so well filled, nor in the pews seen such absorbed

Robert F. Walcutt testifies in the same manner. "Angelina," he says,
"possessed a rare gift of eloquence, a calm power of persuasion, a
magnetic influence over those who listened to her, which carried
conviction to hearts that nothing before had reached. I shall never
forget the wonderful manifestation of this power during six successive
evenings, in what was then called the Odeon. It was the old Boston
Theatre, which had been converted into a music hall; the four
galleries rising above the auditorium all crowded with a silent
audience carried away with the calm, simple eloquence which narrated
what she and her sister had seen from their earliest days. And yet
this Odeon scene, the audience so quiet and intensely absorbed,
occurred at the most enflamed period of the anti-slavery contest. The
effective agent in this phenomenon was Angelina's serene, commanding
eloquence, a wonderful gift, which enchained attention, disarmed
prejudice, and carried her hearers with her."

Another, who often heard her, speaks of the gentle, firm, and
impressive voice which could ring out in clarion tones when speaking
in the name of the Lord to let the oppressed go free.

Many travelled long distances to hear her. Mechanics left their shops,
and laborers came in out of the field, and sat almost motionless
throughout her meetings, showing impatience only when the lecture was
over and they could hear no more. Sarah's speaking, though fully as
earnest, was not nearly so effective as Angelina's. She was never very
fluent, and cared little for the flowers of rhetoric. She could state
a truth in clear and forcible terms, but the language was unvarnished,
sometimes harsh, while the manner of speaking was often embarrassed.
She understood and felt her deficiencies, and preferred to serve the
cause through her pen rather than through her voice. Writing to Sarah
Douglass, in September, 1837, she says:--

"That the work in which we are engaged is in a peculiar manner dear
Angelina's, I have no doubt. God called and qualified her for it by
deep travail of spirit. I do not think my mind ever passed through the
preparation hers did, and I regard my being with her more as an
evidence of our dear Saviour's care for us, than a design that I
should perform a conspicuous part in this labor of love. Hence,
although at first I was permitted to assist her, as her strength
increased and her ability to do the work assigned her was perfected, I
was more and more withdrawn from the service. Nor do I think anyone
ought to regret it. My precious sister has a gift in lecturing, in
reasoning and elucidating, so far superior to mine, that I know the
cause is better pleaded if left entirely in her hands. My spirit has
not bowed to this dispensation without prayer for resignation to being
thus laid aside, but since I have been enabled to take the above view,
I have been contented to be silent, believing that so is the will of

Sarah's religious anxieties seem all to have vanished before the
absorbing interest of her new work. She had no longer time to think of
herself, or to stand and question the Lord on every going-out and
coming-in. She relied upon Him as much as ever, but she understood Him
better, and had more faith in His loving-kindness. In a letter to T.
D. Weld, she says:--

"For many years I have been inquiring the way to Zion, and now I know
not but I shall have to surrender all or many long-cherished points of
religion, and come back to the one simple direction: 'Follow after
holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.'"

All her letters show how much happier she was under her new
experiences. Angelina thus writes of her:--

"Sister Sarah enjoys more real comfort of mind than I ever saw her
enjoy before, and it is delightful to be thus yoked with her in this

But with Sarah's wider, fuller sympathies came bitter regrets over the
spiritual bondage which had kept her idle and useless so long. And
yet, in spite of all, her heart still clung to the Society of Friends,
and the struggle to give them up, to resign the long-cherished hope of
being permitted to preach among them the unsearchable riches of
Christ, was very great. But conscientious and true to her convictions
even here, as her own eyes had been mercifully opened to the faults of
this system of religion, she must do what she could to help others.
Under a solemn sense of responsibility, she wrote and printed a
pamphlet exposing the errors of the Quaker Church, and showing the
withering influence it exerted over all moral and religious progress.
For this, she doubted not, she would be at once disowned; but Friends
seem to have been very loth to part with the two rebellious subjects,
who had certainly given them much trouble, but in whom they could not
help feeling a certain pride of ownership. They showed their
willingness to be patient yet a little while longer.

All through the summer and early fall, the meetings were continued
with slightly decreasing opposition, and continued abuse from press
and pulpit and "good society." Sarah still bore her share of the
labors, frequently speaking an hour at a time, and taking charge
chiefly of the legal side of the question of slavery, while the moral
and religious sides were left for Angelina. At Amesbury, Angelina

"We met the mother, aunt, and sister of brother Whittier. They
received us at their sweet little cottage with sincere pleasure, I
believe, they being as thoroughgoing as their dear J.G.W., whom they
seem to know how to value. He was absent, serving the good cause in
New York."

At an evening meeting they held at Amesbury, a letter was handed
Angelina, which stated that some gentlemen were present, who had just
returned from the South, and had formed very different opinions from
those of the lecturers, and would like to state them to the meeting.

Sarah read the letter aloud, and requested the gentlemen to proceed
with their remarks. Two arose, and soon showed how little they really
knew, and how close an affinity they felt with slave-holders. A
discussion ensued, which lasted an hour, when Angelina went on with
her lecture on the "Dangers of Slavery." When it was over, the two
gentlemen of Southern sympathies requested that another opportunity be
granted for a free discussion of the subject. This was agreed to, and
the 19th of the month, August, settled upon.

This was another and a great step forward, and when known gave rise to
renewed denunciations, the press being particularly severe against
such an unheard-of thing, which, it was declared, would not be
tolerated if the Misses Grimke were not members of the Society of
Friends. The abolitionists, however, rallied to their support, H.B.
Stanton even proposing to arrange some meeting where he and they could
speak together. But even Angelina shrank from such an irretrievable
committal on his part as this would be, and did not think the time had
yet come for such an anomaly. On the 19th they returned to Amesbury,
and Angelina writes that great excitement prevailed, and that many had
come from neighboring towns to hear two _Massachusetts men defend_
slavery against the accusations of two _Southern women_. "May the
blessed Master," she adds, "stand at our right hand in this trying and
uncommon predicament."

Two evenings were given to the discussion, the hall being packed both
evenings, many, even ladies, standing the whole time. Angelina gives
no details about it, as, she says, she sends a paper with a full
account to Jane Smith; but we may judge of the interest it excited
from the fact that the people urged a continuance of the discussion
for two more evenings, which, however, the sisters were obliged to
decline. Angelina adds:--

"Everyone is talking about it; but we have given great offence on
account of our womanhood, which seems to be as objectionable as our
abolitionism. The whole land seems aroused to discussion on the
province of woman, and I am glad of it. We are willing to bear the
brunt of the storm, if we can only be the means of making a breach in
the wall of public opinion, which lies right in the way of woman's
true dignity, honor, and usefulness. Sister Sarah does preach up
woman's rights most nobly and fearlessly, and we find that many of our
New England sisters are prepared to receive these strange doctrines,
feeling, as they do, that our whole sex needs emancipation from the
thraldom of public opinion. What dost thou think of some of _them
walking_ two, four, six, and eight miles to attend our meetings?"

This preaching of the much-vexed doctrine was, however, done chiefly
in private, indeed altogether so by Angelina. Sarah's nature was so
impulsive that she could not always refrain from putting in a stroke
for her cherished views when it seemed to fit well into the argument
of a lecture. What prominent abolitionists thought of the subject in
its relation to the anti-slavery cause, and especially what T.D. Weld
and John G. Whittier thought, must be told in another chapter.


Among the most prominent opposers of immediate emancipation were Dr.
Lyman Beecher and the members of his remarkable family; and though
they ultimately became converts to it, even so far as to allow a
branch of the "underground railway" to run through their barn, their
conversion was gradual, and only arrived at after various
controversies and discussions, and much bitter feeling between them
and the advocates of the unpopular cause. Opposed to slavery in the
abstract, that is, believing it to be a sin to hold a fellow creature
in bondage for the "_mere purposes of gain_," they utterly condemned
all agitation of the question. The Church and the Gospel were, with
them, as with so many evangelical Christians, the true means through
which evils should be reached and reforms effected. All efforts
outside were unwise and useless, not to say sinful. And further, as
Catherine Beecher expressed it, they considered the matter of Southern
slavery as one with which the North was no more called to interfere
than in the abolition of the press-gang system in England, or the
tithe system in Ireland. Some chapters back, the short but pleasant
friendship of Catherine Beecher and Angelina Grimke was mentioned.
Very soon after that little episode, the Beechers removed to
Cincinnati, where the doctor was called to the Presidency of the Lane
Theological Seminary. We can well understand that the withdrawal of
nearly all its students after the great discussion was a sore trial to
the Beechers, and intensified their already adverse feelings towards
abolitionists. The only result of this with which we have to do is the
volume published by Catherine Beecher during the summer of 1837,
entitled "Miss Beecher on the Slave Question," and addressed to
Angelina Grimke.

Catherine was the true counterpart of her father, and the most
intellectual of his children, but she lacked the gentle, feminine
graces, and was so wanting in tenderness and sympathy that Angelina
charitably implies that her heart was sunk forever with her lover,
Professor Fisher of Yale, who perished in a storm at sea. With
independence, striking individuality, and entire freedom from timidity
of any sort, it would appear perfectly natural that Catherine should
espouse the Woman's Rights reform, even though opposing that of
abolitionism. But she presented the singular anomaly of a
strong-minded woman, already successful in taking care of herself,
advocating woman's subordination to man, and prescribing for her
efforts at self-help limits so narrow that only the few favored as she
was could venture within them.

Her book was received with much favor by slave-holders and their
apologists, though it was harshly criticised by a few of the more
sensible of the former. These declared that they had more respect for
abolitionists who openly denounced the system of slavery, than for
those people who, in order to please the South, cloaked their real
sentiments under a garb like that of Miss Beecher's book. It was also
severely handled by abolitionists, and Lucretia Mott wrote a very able
review of it, which Angelina, however, pronounced entirely too mild.
She writes to Jane Smith:

"Catherine's arguments are the most insidious things I ever read, and
I feel it my duty to answer them; only, I know not how to find
language strong enough to express my indignation at the view she takes
of woman's character and duty."

The answer was given in a number of sharp, terse, letters, sent to the
_Liberator_ from various places where the sisters stopped while
lecturing. A few passages will convey some idea of the spirit and
style of these letters, thirteen in number. In the latter part of the
second letter she says:--

"Dost thou ask what I mean by emancipation? I will explain myself in a
few words.

"1st. It is to reject with indignation the wild and guilty phantasy
that man can hold _property_ in man.

"2d. To pay the laborer his hire, for he is worthy of it.

"3d. No longer to deny him the right of marriage, but to let every man
have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband, as saith
the apostle.

"4th. To let parents have their own children, for they are the gift of
the Lord to them, and no one else has any right to them.

"5th. No longer to withhold the advantages of education, and the
privilege of reading the Bible.

"6th. To put the slave under the protection of equitable laws.

"Now why should not _all_ this be done immediately? Which of these
things is to be done next year, and which the year after? and so on.
_Our_ immediate emancipation means doing justice and loving mercy
_to-day_, and this is what we call upon every slave-holder to do....

"I have seen too much of slavery to be a gradualist. I dare not, in
view of such a system, tell the slave-holder that he is 'physically
unable to emancipate his slaves.'[6] I say _he is able_ to let the
oppressed go free, and that such heaven-daring atrocities ought to
cease _now_, henceforth, and forever. Oh, my very soul is grieved to
find a Northern woman 'thus sewing pillows under all arm-holes,'
framing and fitting soft excuses for the slave-holder's conscience,
whilst with the same pen she is _professing_ to regard slavery as a
sin. 'An open enemy is better than such a secret friend.'

"Hoping that thou mayst soon be emancipated from such inconsistency, I
remain until then,

"Thine _out_ of the bonds of Christian abolitionism.


[6] The plea made by many of the apologists was that, as the laws of
some of the States forbade emancipation, the masters were physically
unable to free their slaves.

The last letter, which Angelina says she wrote in sadness and read to
her sister in tears, ends thus:--

"After endeavoring to show that woman has no moral right to exercise
the right of petition for the dumb and stricken slave; no business to
join, in any way, in the excitement which anti-slavery principles are
producing in our country; no business to join abolition societies,
etc., thou professest to tell our sisters what they are to do in order
to bring the system of slavery to an end. And now, my dear friend,
what does all thou hast said in many pages amount to? Why, that women
are to exert their influence in private life to allay the excitement
which exists on this subject, and to quench the flame of sympathy in
the hearts of their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons. Fatal
delusion! Will Christian women heed such advice?

"Hast thou ever asked thyself what the slave would think of thy book
if he could read it? Dost thou know that, from the beginning to the
end, not a word of compassion for _him_ has fallen from thy pen?
Recall, I pray, the memory of hours which thou spent in writing it.
Was the paper once moistened by the tear of pity? Did thy heart once
swell with sympathy for thy sister in _bonds_? Did it once ascend to
God in broken accents for the deliverance of the captive? Didst thou
even ask thyself what the free man of color would think of it? Is it
such an exhibition of slavery and prejudice as will call down _his_
blessing on thy head? Hast thou thought of _these_ things? or carest
thou not for the blessings and prayers of these our suffering
brethren? Consider, I entreat, the reception given to thy book by the
apologists of slavery. What meaneth that loud acclaim with which they
hail it? Oh, listen and weep, and let thy repentings be kindled
together, and speedily bring forth, I beseech thee, fruits meet for
repentance, and henceforth show thyself faithful to Christ and His
bleeding representative, the slave.

"I greatly fear that thy book might have been written just as well,
hadst thou not had the heart of a woman. It bespeaks a superior
intellect, but paralyzed and spellbound by the sorcery of a
worldly-minded expediency. Where, oh, where in its pages are the
outpourings of a soul overwhelmed with a sense of the heinous crimes of
our nation, and the necessity of immediate repentance? ... Farewell!
Perhaps on a dying bed thou mayst vainly wish that '_Miss Beecher on
the Slave Question_' might perish with the mouldering hand which penned
its cold and heartless pages. But I forbear, and in deep sadness of
heart, but in tender love though I thus speak, I bid thee again,
farewell. Forgive me if I have wronged thee, and pray for her who still
feels like

"Thy sister in the bonds of a common sisterhood.


While Angelina was writing these letters, Sarah was publishing her
letters on the "Province of Woman" in the _Spectator_. This was a
heavier dose than Boston could stand at one time; harsh and bitter
things were said about the sisters, notices of their meetings were
torn down or effaced, and abolitionism came to be so mixed up in the
public mind with Woman's Rights, that anti-slavery leaders generally
began to feel anxious lest their cause should suffer by being
identified with one to which the large majority of abolitionists was
decidedly opposed. Even among them, however, there was a difference of
opinion, Garrison, H.C. Wright and others, non-resistants, encouraging
the agitation of Woman's Rights. A few lines from one of Angelina's
letters will best define the position taken by herself and Sarah.

"Sister and I," she writes, "feel quite ready for the discussion about
women, but brothers Whittier and Weld entreat us to let it alone for
the present, because it will involve topics of such vast
importance,--a paid ministry, clerical domination, etc.,--and will,
they fear, divert our attention and that of the community from the
anti-slavery cause; and that the wrongs of the slave are so much
greater than the wrongs of woman, they ought not to be confounded. In
their letters, received last week, they regret exceedingly that the
letters in the _Spectator_ had been written. They think just as we do,
but believe that, for the time being, a persevering, practical
assertion of woman's right to speak to mixed audiences is the best one
we can make, and that we had better keep out of controversies, as our
hands are full. On the other hand, we fear that the leaven of the
Pharisees will be so assiduously worked into the minds of the people,
that if they come to hear us, they will be constantly thinking it is a
_shame_ for us to speak in the churches, and that we shall lose that
influence which we should otherwise have. We know that _our_ views on
this subject are quite new to the _mass_ of the people of this State,
and I think it best to throw them open for their consideration, just
letting them have both sides of the argument to look at, at the same
time. Indeed some wanted to have a meeting in Boston for us to speak
on this subject now, and we went into town on purpose to hold a
conference about it at Maria Chapman's. She, Mary Parker, and sister
were against it for the present, fearing lest it would bring down such
a storm upon our heads, that we could not work in the country, and so
Henrietta Sargent and I yielded, and I suppose this is the wisest
plan, though, as brother Stanton says, I am ready for the battle
_now_. I am still glad of sister's letters, and believe they are doing
great good. Some noble-minded women cheer her on, and she feels
encouraged to persevere, the brethren notwithstanding. I tell them
that this is _a part_ of the great doctrine of Human Rights, and can
no more be separated from emancipation than the light from the heat of
the sun; the rights of the slave and of woman blend like the colors of
the rainbow. However, I rarely introduce this topic into my addresses,
except to urge my sisters up to duty. Our _brethren_ are dreadfully
afraid of this kind of amalgamation. I am very glad to hear that
Lucretia Mott addressed the Moral Reform Society, and am earnest in
the hope that _we_ are only pioneers, going before a host of worthy
women who will come up to the help of the Lord against the mighty."

The letters of Whittier and Weld, alluded to by Angelina, are so good
and so important that I feel no reluctance in giving them here almost
entire. The first is Whittier's, and is dated: "Office of Am. A.S.
Soc., 14th of 8th Mo., 1837,"--and is as follows:

"MY DEAR SISTERS,--I have been waiting for an opportunity to answer
the letter which has been so kindly sent me. I am anxious, too, to
hold a long conversation with you on the subject of _war_, human
government, and church and family government. The more I reflect on
this subject, the more difficulty I find, and the more decidedly am I
of opinion that we ought to hold all these matters far aloof from the
cause of abolition. Our good friend, H.C. Wright, with the best
intentions in the world, is doing great injury by a different course.
He is making the anti-slavery party responsible in a great degree, for
his, to say the least, startling opinions. I do not censure him for
them, although I cannot subscribe to them in all their length and
breadth. But let him keep them distinct from the cause of
emancipation. This is his duty. Those who subscribe money to the
Anti-Slavery Society do it in the belief that it will be spent in the
propagation, not of Quakerism or Presbyterianism, but of the doctrines
of Immediate Emancipation. To employ an agent who devotes half his
time and talents to the propagation of 'no human or no family
government' doctrines in connection--_intimate connection_--with the
doctrines of abolition, is a fraud upon the patrons of the cause. Just
so with papers. Brother Garrison errs, I think, in this respect. He
takes the 'no church, and no human government' ground, as, for
instance, in his Providence speech. Now, in his prospectus, he engaged
to give his subscribers an anti-slavery paper, and his subscribers
made their contract with him on that ground. If he fills his paper
with Grahamism and no governmentism, he defrauds his subscribers.
However, I know that brother Garrison does not look at it in this

"In regard to another subject, '_the rights of woman_,' you are now
doing much and nobly to vindicate and assert the rights of woman. Your
lectures to crowded and promiscuous audiences on a subject manifestly,
in many of its aspects, _political_, interwoven with the framework of
the government, are practical and powerful assertions of the right and
the duty of woman to labor side by side with her brother for the
welfare and redemption of the world. Why, then, let me ask, is it
necessary for you to enter the lists as controversial writers on this
question? Does it not _look_, dear sisters, like abandoning in some
degree the cause of the poor and miserable slave, sighing from the
cotton plantations of the Mississippi, and whose cries and groans are
forever sounding in our ears, for the purpose of arguing and disputing
about some trifling oppression, political or social, which we may
ourselves suffer? Is it not forgetting the great and dreadful wrongs
of the slave in a selfish crusade against some paltry grievance of our
own? Forgive me if I have stated the case too strongly. I would not
for the world interfere with you in matters of conscientious duty, but
I wish you would weigh candidly the whole subject, and see if it does
not _seem_ an abandonment of your first love. Oh, let us try to forget
everything but our duty to God and our fellow beings; to dethrone the
selfish principle, and to strive to win over the hard heart of the
oppressor by truth kindly spoken. The Massachusetts Congregational
Association can do you no harm if you do not allow its splenetic and
idle manifesto to divert your attention from the great and holy
purpose of your souls.

"Finally, dear sisters, rest assured that you have my deepest and
warmest sympathy; that my heart rejoices to know that you are mighty
instruments in the hands of Him who hath come down to deliver. May the
canopy of His love be over you, and His peace be with you!

"Your friend and brother,


Weld's first letter, written the day after Whittier's, begins by
defining his own position on the disturbing question. He says: "As to
the rights and wrongs of woman, it is an old theme with me. It was the
first subject I ever discussed. In a little debating society, when a
boy, I took the ground that sex neither qualified nor disqualified for

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