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The Grimke Sisters by Catherine H. Birney

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Weld's administration must often look back with the keenest pleasure
to the days passed there. It seems to me there can never be such a
centre to such a circle as the Welds drew around them. Here gathered,
at different times, many of the best, the brightest, the broadest
minds of the day. Here came James G. Birney, Wm. H. Channing, Henry
W. Bellows, O.B. Frothingham, Dr. Chapin, Wm. H. Furness, Wm. Cullen
Bryant, the Collyers, Horace Greeley, Gerrit Smith, Moncure D. Conway,
James Freeman Clarke, Joshua R. Giddings, Youmans, and a host of
others whose names were known throughout the land. Here, too, came
artists and poets for a few days' inspiration, and weary men of
business for a little rest and intellectual refreshment, and leaders
of reform movements, attracted by the liberal atmosphere of the place.
Nearly all of these, invited by Mr. Weld, gave to the pupils and their
families and friends, assembled in the parlors, something of
themselves,--some personal experience, perhaps, or a lecture or short
essay, or an insight into their own especial work and how it was done.
The amount of pleasant and profitable instruction thus imparted was
incalculable; while the after discussions and conversation were as
enjoyable as might be expected from the friction of such minds.
Seldom, if ever, in the famous _salons_ of Europe were better things
said or higher topics treated than in the Eagleswood parlors. All the
rights and wrongs of humanity received here earnest consideration;
while questions of general interest, politics, religion, the arts and
sciences, even the last new novel or poem, had each its turn. Thoreau,
also, spent many days at Eagleswood, and spoke often to the pupils;
and A. Bronson Alcott gave them a series of his familiar lectures.

Here, on Sundays, Theodore D. Weld delivered lay sermons, so full of
divine light and love, of precious lessons of contempt for all
littleness, of patience with the weaknesses of our fellow-men, that
few could listen without being inspired with higher and holier
purposes in life.

Here James G. Birney died, in 1857, and was buried in the beautiful
little cemetery on the crest of the hill.

Here were brought and interred the bodies of Stevens and Hazlitt, two
of John Brown's mistaken but faithful apostles.

Here stirring lessons of patriotism were learned in 1860-61, and from
this place went forth, at the first call, some of the truest defenders
of the liberties of the nation.

At Eagleswood, Mr. Weld and his faithful wife and sister passed some
of their most laborious as well as some of their most pleasant and
satisfactory years. They did not find the association all or even the
half of what they had expected. "We had indulged the delightful hope,"
writes Sarah, "that Theodore would have no cares outside of the
schoolroom, and Angelina would have leisure to pursue her studies and
aid in the cause of woman. Her heart is in it, and her talents qualify
her for enlarged usefulness. She was no more designed to serve tables
than Theodore to dig potatoes. But verily, to use a homely phrase, we
have jumped out of the frying-pan into the fire in point of leisure,
for there are innumerable sponges here to suck up every spare moment;
but dear Nina is a miracle of hope, faith, and endurance."

In the new school Angelina taught history, for which she was admirably
qualified, while Sarah taught French, and was also book-keeper, both
of which offices were distasteful to her because of her conscious
incompetency. She did herself great injustice, as the results of her
work showed, but it required a great mental struggle to reconcile
herself to it in the beginning.

"I am driven to it," she says, "by a stern sense of duty. I feel its
responsibilities and my own insufficiency so deeply, that I never hear
the school bell with pleasure, and seldom enter the schoolroom without
a sinking of the heart, a dread as of some approaching catastrophe.
Oh, if I had only been developed into usefulness in early life, how
much happier I should have been and would be now. From want of
training, I am all slip-shod, and all I do, whether learning or
teaching, is done slip-shod fashion. However, I must try and use the
fag-end of me that is left, to the most advantage."

In order to do this, although sixty-one years old, she set earnestly
to work to brush up her intellectual powers and qualify herself as far
as possible for her position. She took French lessons daily, that she
might improve her accent and learn the modern methods of teaching, and
for months after she entered the Eagleswood school her reading was
confined to such books as could enlighten her most on her especial
work. She was rewarded by finding her interest in it constantly
increasing, and she would doubtless have learned to love it, if, as
she expressed it, her heart, soul, and mind had not been so nearly
absorbed by the woman movement. Age and reflection had not only
modified her views somewhat on this subject, but had given her a more
just appreciation of the real obstacles in the way of the
enfranchisement of her sex. Speaking of Horace Mann, she says:--

"He will not help the cause of woman greatly, but his efforts to
educate her will do a greater work than he anticipates. Prepare woman
for duty and usefulness, and she will laugh at any boundaries man may
set for her. She will as naturally fall into her right position as the
feather floats in the air, or the pebble sinks in the water."

And at another time she writes: "I feel more and more that woman's
work is inside, that the great battle must first be fought within, and
the conquest obtained over her love of admiration, her vanity, her
want of moral courage, her littleness, ere she is prepared to use her
rights without abusing them. Women must come into the arena with men,
not to increase the number of potsherds, but to elevate the standard
of right."

Her ideal of womanhood was very high, and comprehended an education so
different from the usual one, that she seldom ventured to unfold it.
But she longed to do something towards it, and there is no doubt that
but for home duties, which she felt were paramount, she would have
undertaken a true missionary work of regeneration among women,
especially of the lower classes. Many sleepless nights were passed
pondering upon the subject. At one time she thought of editing a
paper, then of studying law, that she might sometimes be able to
advise and protect the weak and defenceless of her sex. She went so
far in this as to consult an eminent lawyer in Philadelphia, but was
discouraged by him. Then she considered the medical profession as
opening to her a door of influence and usefulness among poor women.
Sarah Douglass, who was a successful medical lecturer among the
colored women of Philadelphia and New York, encouraged her friend in
this idea, and urged her to take a course of lectures.

"I would dearly like to do as you say," Sarah Grimke answered, "but it
must not be in Philadelphia. I cannot draw a long breath there,
intellectual or moral. Freedom to live as my conscience dictates, to
give free utterance to my thoughts, to have contact with those who are
pressing after progress and whose watchword is onward, is needful to
me. In Philadelphia there is an atmosphere of repression that would
destroy me. Ground to powder as I was, in the mill of bigotry and
superstition, I shudder at the thought of encountering again the same
suffering I went through there. Indeed, I wonder I was not altogether
stultified and dried up beyond the power of revivification, when the
spring came to my darkened soul after that long, long winter.... There
must be something in this wide, progressive world for me to do, but I
must wait patiently to see what the future has in store for me."

All this, from a woman in her sixty-second year, shows how fresh was
still her interest in humanity, and how little her desires for
usefulness and improvement were dampened by age. But Angelina's
continued delicate health kept her from carrying out any of her plans.
She could see no way of escape consistent with duty and her devotion
to the children, and she cheerfully submitted to the inevitable. But
she could never bring herself to be satisfied with the Association
life. She had had no ideal about it, no golden dreams, but joined it
because she could not be separated from those she loved, and, with
singular reasoning, she put one thousand dollars into it, because, if
there was to be a failure and loss, she wished to share it with her
sister and brother. But she had no affinity for living together in a
great hotel, and it fretted her much, also, to see Mr. and Mrs. Weld
taking constantly increasing burdens upon themselves as the school
increased. Her longings, for their sake, for a little quiet home, are
very pathetic. But she never allowed her anxieties to affect her
intercourse in the household; on the contrary, no one was more full of
life and good humor than she. Her favorite maxim was: "Bravely to meet
our trials is true heroism; to bear them cheerfully, an exhibition of
strength and fortitude infinitely beyond trying to get rid of them."

But it is doubtful, after all, if everything else had been favorable
to it, that Sarah could have brought herself to leave Angelina and the
children. She says herself:--

"A separation from the darling children who have brightened a few
years of my lonely and sorrowful life overwhelms me when I think of it
as the probable result of any change. They seem to be the links that
bind me to life, the stars that shed light on my path, the beings in
whom past, present, and future enjoyments are centred, without whom
existence would have no charms."

All through her letters we see that, though generally cheerful, and
often even merry, there were bitter moments in this devoted woman's
life, moments when all the affection with which she was surrounded
failed to fill the measure of her content. The old wounds would still
sometimes bleed and the heart ache for home joys all her own. Writing
to Jane Smith in 1852, she says: "I chide myself that I am not happier
than I am, surrounded by so many blessings, but there are times when I
feel as though the sun of earthly bliss had set for me. I know not
what would have become of me but for Angelina's children. They have
strewed my solitary path with flowers, and gemmed my sky with stars.
My heart has brooded o'er sorrows untold, until life has seemed an
awful blank, humanity a cheat, and myself an outcast. Then have come
the soft accents of my children's voices, and they have spoken to me
so lovingly, that I have turned from my bitter thoughts and have said:
'Forgive thy poor, weak servant, Lord.'"

All through Sarah's life, children had a great attraction for her.
Even amid her cares and doubts at Eagleswood she writes: "Surrounded
by all these dear young people, and drinking in from their exuberance,
and scarcely living my own life, I cannot but be cheerful."

And describing an evening in the school parlor, when she joined in the
Virginia reel, she says: "The children make one feel young if we will
only be children with them. I owe them so much that I shall try to be
cheerful to the end of my days."

And in this school, where boys and girls of all ages and all
temperaments mingled, "Aunt Sai" was the great comforter and
counsellor. Her inexhaustible tenderness and mother-love blessed all
who came near her and soothed all who had a heartache. The weak and
erring found in her a frank but pitying rebuker; the earnest and good,
a kind friend and wise helper, and a child never feared to go to her
either to ask a favor or to confess a fault.

At Eagleswood the Welds kept up as far as practicable their frugal
habits, though, soon after their establishment, they all modified
their Graham diet so far as to take meat once a day. Sarah's economy,
especially in trifles, was remarkable, almost as much so as the
untiring, almost painful industry of herself and Mrs. Weld. A penny
was never knowingly wasted, a minute never willingly lost. Among other
thrifty devices, she generally wrote to her friends on the backs of
circulars, on blank pages of notes she received, on almost any clean
scrap, in fact. Angelina often remonstrated with her, but to no avail.

"It gives me a few more pennies for my love purse, and my friends
won't mind," she would say.

This "love purse" was well named. Into it were cast all her small
economies: a car-fare when she walked instead of riding; a few pennies
saved by taking a simpler lunch than she had planned, when in New York
on business; the ten cents difference in the quality of a cap, ribbon,
or a handkerchief,--all these savings were dropped into the love
purse, to be drawn out again to buy a new book for some friend too
poor to get it herself; to subscribe to a paper for another; to
purchase some little gift for a sick child, or a young girl trying to
keep up a neat appearance. It was a pair of cuffs to one, mittens or
slippers of her own knitting to another, a collar or a ribbon to a
third. All through the letters written during the last twenty years of
her life, the references to such little gifts are innumerable, and
show that her generosity was only equalled by her thoughtfulness, and
only limited by her means. Nothing was spent unnecessarily, in the
strictest sense of the word, on herself; not a dollar of her narrow
income laid by. All went for kindly or charitable objects, and was
gladly given without a single selfish twinge.

It is scarcely necessary to say that few schools have ever been
established upon such a basis of conscientiousness and love, and with
such adaptability in its conductors as that at Eagleswood; few have
ever held before the pupils so high a moral standard, or urged them on
to such noble purposes in life. Children entered there spoiled by
indulgence, selfish, uncontrolled, sometimes vicious. Their teachers
studied them carefully; confidence was gained, weaknesses sounded,
elevation measured. Very slowly often, and with infinite patience and
perseverance, but successfully in nearly every case, these children
were redeemed. The idle became industrious, the selfish considerate,
the disobedient and wayward repentant and gentle. Sometimes the fruits
of all this labor and forbearance did not show themselves immediately,
and in a few instances the seed sown did not ripen until the boy or
girl had left school and mingled with the world. Then the contrast
between the common, every-day aims they encountered, and the teachings
of their Eagleswood mentors, was forced upon them. Forgotten lessons
of truth and honesty and purity were remembered, and the wavering
resolve was stayed and strengthened; worldly expediency gave way
before the magnanimous purpose, cringing subserviency before
independent manliness. The letters of affection, gratitude, and
appreciation of what had been done to make true men and women of them,
which were received by the Welds, in many cases, years after they had
parted from the writers, were treasured as their most precious
souvenirs, and quite reconciled them to the trials through which such
results were reached.

A short time before leaving Belleville, Mrs. Weld and Sarah adopted
the Bloomer costume on account of its convenience, and the greater
freedom it permitted in taking long rambles, but neither of them ever
admired it or urged its adoption on others. Mrs. Weld, it is true,
wrote a long and eloquent letter to the Dress Reform Convention which
met in Syracuse in the summer of 1857, but it was not to advocate the
Bloomer, but to show the need of some dress more suitable than the
fashionable one, for work and exercise. She also urged that as woman
was no longer in her minority, no longer "man's pretty idol before
whom he bowed in chivalric gallantry," or "his petted slave whom he
coaxed and gulled with sugar-plum privileges, whilst robbing her of
intrinsic rights," but was emerging into her majority and claiming her
rights as a human being, and waking up to a higher destiny: as she was
beginning to answer the call to a life of useful exertion and
honorable independence, it was time that she dressed herself in
accordance with the change. "I regard the Bloomer costume," she says,
"as only an approach to that true womanly attire which will in due
time be inaugurated. We must experiment before we find a dress
altogether suitable.... Man has long enough borne the burden of
supporting the women of the civilized world. When woman's temple of
liberty is finished--when freedom for the world is achieved--when she
has educated herself into useful and lucrative occupations, then may
she fitly expend upon her person _her own earnings_, not man's. Such
women will have an indefeasible right to dress elegantly if they wish,
but they will discard cumbersomeness and a useless and absurd
circumference and length."

Sarah says, in a letter to a friend, that the Bloomer dress violated
her taste, and was so opposed to her sense of modesty that she could
hardly endure it. During the residence at Eagleswood, both sisters
discarded it altogether.

The John Brown tragedy was of course deeply felt by Sarah and
Angelina, and the bitter and desperate feelings which inspired it
fully sympathized with. Angelina was made quite ill by it, while Sarah
felt her soul bowed with reverence for the deluded but grand old man.
"O Sarah!" she writes to Sarah Douglass, "what a glorious spectacle is
now before us. The Jerome of Prague of our country, the John Huss of
the United States, now stands ready, as they were, to seal his
testimony with his life's blood. Last night I went in spirit to the
martyr. It was my privilege to enter into sympathy with him; to go
down, according to my measure, into the depths where he has travailed,
and feel his past exercises, his present sublime position."

As mentioned a few pages back, two of John Brown's men, who died with
him at Harper's Ferry, were brought to Eagleswood and there quietly
interred. The pro-slavery people of Perth Amboy threatened to dig up
the bodies, but the men and boys of Eagleswood showed such a brave
front, and guarded the graves so faithfully, that the threat could not
be accomplished.

The breaking out of the war found the Welds in deep family sorrow,
watching anxiously by the sick bed of a dear son, with scarcely a hope
of his recovery. Of Sarah's absolute devotion, of her ceaseless care
by day, and her tireless watching by night, during the many long and
weary months through which that precious life flickered, it is
needless to speak. She took the delicate mother's place beside that
bed of suffering, and, strong in her faith and hope, gave strength and
hope to the heart-stricken parents, sustaining them when they were
ready to sink beneath the avalanche of their woe. And when at last,
though life was spared, it was evident that the invalid must remain an
invalid for a long time, perhaps forever, Sarah's sublime courage
stood steadfast. There was no sign of faltering. With a resignation
almost cheerful, she took up her fresh burden, and, intent only on
cheering her dear patient and comforting the sorrow of her sister and
brother, she forgot her seventy-one years and every grief of the past.
"I try," she writes, "to accept this, the most grinding and bitter
dispensation of my checkered life, as what it must be, educational and
disciplinary, working towards a better preparation for a higher life."

Chiefly on account of this son and the quiet which was necessary for
him, Mr. and Mrs. Weld gave up their position at Eagleswood, to the
deep regret of all who knew them and had children to educate. They
settled themselves temporarily in a pleasant house in Perth Amboy.
Here, between nursing their sick, and working for the soldiers, they
watched the progress of events which they had long foreseen were

Sarah speaks of the war as a retribution. "Hitherto," she says, "we
have never been a republic, but one of the blackest tyrannies that
ever disgraced the earth."

She calls attention to the fact that the South, by starting out with a
definite and declared purpose, added much to its strength. "In great
revolutions," she says, "confusion in popular ideas is fatal. The
South avoided this. She set up one idea as paramount; she seized a
great principle and uttered it. She shouted the talismanic words,
'Oppression and Liberty,' and said, 'Let us achieve our purpose or
die!' The masses, blinded by falsehood, caught the spirit of the
leaders, and verily believe they are struggling for freedom. We have
never enunciated any great truth as the cause of our uprising. We have
no great idea to rally around, and know not what we are fighting for."

Later she expresses herself very strongly concerning the selfishness
of the politicians, North and South.

"It is true there are some," she writes, "who are waging this war to
make our Declaration of Independence a fact; there is a glorious band
who are fighting for human rights, but the government, with Lincoln at
its head, has not a heart-throb for the slave. I want the South to do
her own work of emancipation. She would do it only from dire
necessity, but the North will do it from no higher motive, and the
South will feel less exasperation if she does it herself."

In another letter in 1862, she writes:--

"The negro has generously come forward, in spite of his multiplied
wrongs, and offered to help to defend the country against those who
are trying to fasten the chains on the white as well as the black. We
have impiously denied him the right of citizenship, and have virtually
said, 'Stand back; I am holier than thou.' I pray that victory may not
crown our arms until the negro stands in his acknowledged manhood side
by side in this conflict with the white man, until we have the
nobility to say that this war is a war of abolition, and that no
concession on the part of the South shall save slavery from
destruction. Whatever Lincoln and his Cabinet are carrying on the war
to accomplish, God's design is to deliver from bondage his innocent

About this time Mrs. Weld published one of the most powerful things
she ever wrote, "A Declaration of War on Slavery." She and Sarah also
drew up a petition to the government for the entire abolition of
slavery, and took it around themselves for signatures. Very few
refused to sign it; and they were proposing to canvass, by means of
agents, the entire North, when the Emancipation Proclamation was

With their Charleston relatives, Mrs. Weld and Sarah had always kept
up a rather irregular, but, on one side, at least, an affectionate
correspondence. Their mother died in 1839, retaining, to the
never-ceasing grief of her Northern daughters, her slave-holding
principles to the last. The few remaining members of the family were
settled in and around Charleston, and were, with one exception, in
comfortable circumstances at the beginning of the war. This exception
was their brother John, who was infirm, and had outlived his resources
and the ability to make a living. For years before the war, Sarah and
Angelina sent him from their slender incomes a small annuity,
sufficient to keep him from want, and it was continued, at much
inconvenience during the war, until his death, which occurred in the
latter part of 1863. Their sisters, Mary and Eliza, wrote very proud
and defiant letters during the first two years of hostilities, and
declared they were secure and happy in their dear old city. But
gradually their tone changed, and they did not refuse to receive,
through blockade-runners, a variety of necessary articles from their
abolition sisters. As their slaves deserted them, and one piece of
property after another lost its value or was destroyed, they saw
poverty staring them in the face; but their pride sustained them, and
it was not until they had lived for nearly a year on little else but
hominy and water that they allowed their sisters to know of their
condition. But in informing them of it, they still declared their
willingness to die "for slavery and the Confederacy."

"Blind to the truth," writes Sarah, "they religiously believe that
slavery is a divine institution, and say they hope never to be guilty
of disbelieving the Bible, and thus rendering themselves amenable to
the wrath of God. I am glad," she adds, "to have this lesson of honest
blindness. It shows me that thousands like themselves are worshipping
a false god of their own creation."

Of course relief was sent to these unhappy women as soon as possible;
and when hostilities ceased, more than two hundred dollars' worth of
necessaries of every kind was despatched to them, with an urgent
invitation to come and accept a home at the North. Some time before
this, however, the Welds had moved to Hyde Park, near Boston, and were
delightfully located, owning their house, and surrounded by kind and
congenial neighbors. But much as they all needed entire rest, and well
as they had earned it, they could not afford to be idle. Sarah became
housekeeper and general manager, while Mr. and Mrs. Weld accepted
positions, in Dr. Dio Lewis's famous school at Lexington. They were
obliged to leave home every Monday and return on Friday.

The Charleston sisters refused for some time to accept the invitation
given them; but so delicately and affectionately was it urged, that,
goaded by necessity, they finally consented. They made their
preparations to leave Charleston; but in the midst of them, the older
sister, Mary, who had been very feeble for some time, was taken
suddenly ill, and died. Eliza, then, a most sad and desolate woman, as
we may well suppose, made the voyage to New York alone. There Sarah
met her, and accompanied her to Hyde Park, where she was received with
every consideration affection could devise. She seems to have soon
made up her mind to make the best of her altered circumstances, and
thus show her gratitude to those who had so readily overlooked her
past abuse of them. Sarah writes of her in 1866:--

"My sister Eliza is well and so cheerful. She is a sunbeam in the
family, but the failure of the Confederacy and the triumph of the
'Yankees' is hard to bear,--the wrong having crushed the right."

This sister was tenderly cared for until arrangements were made for
her return to Charleston with Mrs. Frost. There she died in 1867. This
was only one of the many minor cases of retribution brought about by
the Nemesis of the civil war. Sarah mentions another. The sale of
lands for government taxes at Beaufort, S.C., was made from the
verandah of the Edmond Rhett House, where, more than ten years before,
the rebellion was concocted by the very men whose estates then (1866)
were passing under the hammer. And the chairman of the tax committee
was Dr. Wm. H. Brisbane, who, twenty-five years before, was driven
from the State because he would liberate his slaves.

Quietly settled in what she felt was a permanent home, and with, no
cares outside of her family, Sarah found time not only to read, but to
indulge her taste for scribbling, as she called it. She sent, from
time to time, articles to the New York _Tribune_, the _Independent_,
the _Woman's Journal_, and other papers, all marked by remarkable
freshness as well as vigor. She also translated from the French
several stories illustrative of various social reforms, and in 1867,
being then seventy-five years old, she made a somewhat abridged
translation of Lamartine's poetical biography of Joan of Arc. This was
Sarah's most finished literary work, and aroused in her great
enthusiasm. "Sometimes," she writes, "it seems to infuse into my soul
a mite of that divinity which filled hers. Joan of Arc stands
pre-eminent in my mind above all other mortals save the Christ."

When the book was finished, Sarah was most anxious to get it
published, "in order," she writes, "to revive the memory in this
country of the extraordinary woman who was an embodiment of faith,
courage, fortitude, and love rarely equalled and never excelled."

But she had many more pressing demands on her income at that time, and
had nearly given up the project, when a gentleman from Lynn called to
see her, to whom she read a few pages of the narrative. He was so much
pleased with it that he undertook to have it published. It was brought
out in a few weeks by Adams & Co., of Boston, in a prettily bound
volume of one hundred and six pages, and had, I believe, a large sale.
Several long and many short notices of it appeared in papers all over
the country, all highly complimentary to the venerable translator.
These notices surprised Sarah as much as they delighted her, and she
expressed herself as deeply thankful that she had translated the work.

A letter from Sarah Grimke to Jane Smith, written in 1850, contains
the following paragraph: "We have just heard of the death of our
brother Henry, a planter and a kind master. His slaves will feel his
loss deeply. They haunt me day and night. Sleeplessness is my portion,
thinking what will become of them. Oh, the horrors of slavery!"

When she penned those lines, Sarah little imagined how great a mockery
was the title, "kind master," she gave her brother. She little
suspected that three of those slaves whose uncertain destiny haunted
her pillow were that brother's own children, and that he died leaving
the shackles on them--slaves to his heir, their white brother, though
he _did_ stipulate that they and their mother should never be sold.
Well might Sarah exclaim: "Oh, the horrors of slavery!" but in deepest
humiliation and anguish of spirit would the words have been uttered
had she known the truth. Montague Grimke inherited his brothers with
the rest of the human chattels. He knew they were his brothers, and he
never thought of freeing them. They were his to use and to abuse,--to
treat them kindly if it suited his mood; to whip them if he fancied;
to sell them if he should happen to need money,--and they could not
raise voice or hand to prevent it. There was no law to which they
could appeal, no refuge they could seek from the very worst with which
their brother might threaten them. Was ever any creature--brute or
human--in the wide world so defenceless as the plantation slave! The
forlorn case of these Grimke boys was that of thousands of others born
as they were, and inheriting the intelligence and spirit of
independence of their white parent.

I have little space to give to their pitiful story. Many have
doubtless heard it. The younger brother, John, was, at least as a
child, more fortunate. When Charleston was at last occupied by the
Union army, the two oldest, Francis and Archibald, attracted the
attention of some members of the Sanitary Commission by their
intelligence and good behavior, and were by them sent to
Massachusetts, where some temporary work was found for them. Two
vacancies happening to occur in Lincoln University, Oxford,
Pennsylvania, they were recommended to fill them. Thither they went in
1866, and, eager and determined to profit by their advantages, they
studied so well during the winter months, and worked so diligently to
help themselves in the summer, that, in spite of the drawbacks of
their past life, they rose to honorable positions in the University,
and won the regard of all connected with it. Some time in February,
1868, Mrs. Weld read in the _Anti-Slavery Standard_ a notice of a
meeting of a literary society at Lincoln University, at which an
address was delivered by one of the students, named Francis Grimke.
She was surprised, and as she had never before heard of the
university, she made some inquiries about it, and was much interested
in what she learned of its object and character. She knew that the
name of Grimke was confined to the Charleston family, and naturally
came to the conclusion, at first, that this student who had attracted
her attention was an ex-slave of one of her brothers, and had, as was
frequently done, adopted his master's name. But the circumstance
worried her. She could not drive it from her mind. She knew so well
that blackest page of slavery on which was written the wrongs of its
women, that, dreadful as was the suspicion, it slowly grew upon her
that the blood of the Grimkes, the proud descendants of the Huguenots,
flowed in the veins of this poor colored student. The agitation into
which further reflection on the subject threw her came very near
making her ill and finally decided her to learn the truth if possible.
She addressed a note to Mr. Francis Grimke. The answer she received
confirmed her worst fears. He and his brothers were her nephews. Her
nerves already unstrung by the dread of this cruel blow, Angelina
fainted when it came, and was completely prostrated for several days.
Her husband and sister refrained from disturbing her by a question or
a suggestion. Physically stronger than she, they felt the superiority
of her spiritual strength, and uncertain, on this most momentous
occasion, of their own convictions of duty, they looked to her for the

The silent conflict in the soul of this tender, conscientious woman
during those days of prostration was known only to her God. The
question of prejudice had no place in it,--that had long and long ago
been cast to the winds. It was the fair name of a loved brother that
was at stake, and which must be sustained or blighted by her action.
"Ask me not," she once wrote to a young person, "if it is expedient to
do what you propose: ask yourself if it is _right_." This question now
came to her in a shape it had never assumed before, and it was hard to
answer. But it was no surprise to her family when she came forth from
that chamber of suffering and announced her decision. She would
acknowledge those nephews. She would not deepen the brand of shame
that had been set upon their brows: hers, rather, the privilege to
efface it. Her brother had wronged these, his children; his sisters
must right them. No doubt of the duty lingered in her mind. Those
youths were her own flesh and blood, and, though the whole world
should scoff, she would not deny them.

Her decision was accepted by her husband and sister without a murmur
of dissent. If either had any doubts of its wisdom, they were never
uttered; and, as was always the case with them, having once decided in
their own minds a question of duty, they acted upon it in no half-way
spirit, and with no stinted measures. In the long letter which
Angelina wrote to Francis and Archibald Grimke, and which Theodore
Weld and Sarah Grimke fully indorsed, there appeared no trace of doubt
or indecision. The general tone was just such in which she might have
addressed newly-found legitimate nephews. After telling them that if
she had not suspected their relationship to herself, she should
probably not have written them, she questions them on various points,
showing her desire to be useful to them, and adds, "I want to talk to
you face to face, and am thinking seriously of going on to your
Commencement in June." A few lines further on she says:--

"I will not dwell on the past: let all that go. It cannot be altered.
Our work is in the present, and duty calls upon us now so to use the
past as to convert its curse into a blessing. I am glad you have taken
the name of Grimke. It was once one of the noblest names of Carolina.
You, my young friends, now bear this _once_ honored name. I charge you
most solemnly, by your upright conduct and your life-long devotion to
the eternal principles of justice and humanity and religion, to lift
this name out of the dust where it now lies, and set it once more
among the princes of our land."

Other letters passed between them until the youths had told all their
history, so painful in its details that Angelina, after glancing at
it, put it aside, and for months had not the courage to read it. When
June came, though far from well, she summoned up strength and
resolution to do as she had proposed in the spring. Accompanied by her
oldest son, she attended the Lincoln University Commencement, and made
the personal acquaintance of Francis and Archibald Grimke. She found
them good-looking, intelligent, and gentlemanly young men; and she
took them by the hand, and, to president and professors, acknowledged
their claim upon her. She also invited them to visit her at her home,
assuring them of a kind reception from every member of her family. She
remained a week at Lincoln University, going over with these young men
all the details of their treatment by their brother Montague, and of
the treatment of the slaves in all the Grimke families. These details
brought back freshly to her mind the horrors which had haunted her
life in Charleston, and she lived them all over again, even in her
dreams. She had been miserably weak and worn for some time before
going to Lincoln; and the mental distress she now went through
affected her nervous system to such an extent that there is no doubt
her life was shortened by it.

The hearty concurrence of every member of the family in the course
resolved on towards the nephews shows how united they were in moral
sentiment as well as in affection. There was not the slightest
hesitancy exhibited. The point touching her brother's shame thrust in
the background by the conviction of a higher duty, Mrs. Weld allowed
it to trouble her no more, but, with her husband and sister, expressed
a feeling of exultation in acknowledging the relationship of the
youths, as a testimony and protest against the wickedness of that hate
which had always trampled down the people of color because they were
as God made them.

On Angelina's return journey, Sarah, ever anxious about her, met her
at Newark and accompanied her home. A few weeks later, writing to
Sarah Douglass an account of the Grimke boys, she says:--

"They are very promising young men. We all feel deeply interested in
them, and I hope to be able to get together money enough to pay the
college expenses of the younger. I would rejoice to meet these
entirely myself, but, not having the means, I intend to try and
collect it somehow. Angelina has not yet recovered from the effects of
her journey and the excitement of seeing and talking to those boys,
the president, etc. When I met her she was so exhausted and excited
that I felt very anxious, and when I found her brain and sight were so
disordered that she could not see distinctly, even striking her head
several times severely, and that she could not read, I was indeed
alarmed. But, notwithstanding all she had suffered, she has not for a
moment regretted that she went. She feels that a sacred duty has been
performed, and rejoices that she had strength for it."

A few weeks later, she writes: "Nina is about and always busy, often
working when she seems ready to drop, sustained by her nervous energy
and irresistible will. She has kept up wonderfully under our last
painful trial, and has borne it so beautifully that I am afraid she is
getting too good to live."

I have no right to say that Angelina Weld suffered martyrdom in every
fibre of her proud, sensitive nature during all the first months at
least of this trial; but I cannot but believe it. She never spoke of
her own feelings to any one but her husband; but Sarah writes to Sarah
Douglass in August, 1869:--

"My cheerful spirit has been sorely tested for some months. Nina has
been sick all summer, is a mere skeleton and looks ten or fifteen
years older than she did before that fatal visit to Lincoln
University. I do not think that she will ever be the same woman she
was before and sometimes I feel sure her toilsome journey on this
earth must be near its close. The tears will come whenever I think of

But not so! the sisters were to work hand in hand a few years longer;
the younger, in her patient suffering, leaning with filial love on the
stronger arm of the older, both now gray-haired and beginning to feel
the infirmities of age, but still devoted to each other and united in
sympathy with every good and progressive movement. The duty, as they
conceived it, to their colored nephews was as generously as
conscientiously performed. They received them into the family, treated
them in every respect as relatives, and exerted themselves to aid them
in finishing their education. Francis studied for the ministry, and is
now pastor of the 15th Street Presbyterian Church of Washington city.
Archibald, through Sarah's exertions and self-denial, took the law
course at Harvard, graduated, and has since practised law successfully
in Boston. Both are respected by the communities in which they reside.
John, the younger brother, remained in the South with his mother.

Mrs. Weld and Sarah still took a warm, and, as far as it was possible,
an active interest in the woman suffrage movement; and when, in
February, 1870, after an eloquent lecture from Lucy Stone, a number of
the most intelligent and respectable women of Hyde Park determined to
try the experiment of voting at the approaching town election, Mrs.
Weld and Sarah Grimke united cordially with them. A few days before
the election, a large caucus was held, made up of about equal numbers
of men and women, among them many of the best and leading people of
the place. A ticket for the different offices was made up, voted for,
and elected. At this caucus Theodore Weld made one of his old-time
stirring speeches, encouraging the women to assert themselves, and
persist in demanding their political rights.

The 7th of March, the day of the election, a terrific snowstorm
prevailed, but did not prevent the women from assembling in the hotel
near the place of voting, where each one was presented, on the part of
their gentlemen friends, with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. At the
proper time, a number of these gentlemen came over to the hotel and
escorted the ladies to the polls, where a convenient place for them to
vote had been arranged. There was a great crowd inside the hall, eager
to see the joke of women voting, and many were ready to jeer and hiss.
But when, through the door, the women filed, led by Sarah Grimke and
Angelina Weld, the laugh was checked, the intended jeer unuttered, and
deafening applause was given instead. The crowd fell back
respectfully, nearly every man removing his hat and remaining
uncovered while the women passed freely down the hall, deposited their
votes, and departed.

Of course these votes were not counted. There was no expectation that
they would be (though the ticket was elected), but the women had given
a practical proof of their earnestness, and though one man said, in
consequence of this movement, he would sell his house two thousand
dollars cheaper than he would have done before, and another declared
he would give his away if the thing was done again, and still another
wished he might _die_ if the women were going to vote, the women
themselves were satisfied with their first step, and more than ever
determined to march courageously on until the citadel of man's
prejudices was conquered.

The following summer, Sarah Grimke, believing that much good might be
accomplished by the circulation of John Stuart Mill's "Subjection of
Women," made herself an agent for the sale of the book, and traversed
hill and dale, walking miles daily to accomplish her purpose. She thus
succeeded in placing more than one hundred and fifty copies in the
hands of the women of Hyde Park and the vicinity, in spite of the
ignorance, narrowness, heartlessness, and slavery which, she says, she
had ample opportunity to deplore. The profits of her sales were given
to the _Woman's Journal_.

Under date of May 25, 1871, she writes:--

"I have been travelling all through our town and vicinity on foot, to
get signers to a petition to Congress for woman suffrage. It is not a
pleasant work, often subjecting me to rudeness and coldness; but we
are so frequently taunted with: 'Women don't want the ballot,' that we
are trying to get one hundred thousand names of women who do want it,
to reply to this taunt."

But the work which enlisted this indefatigable woman's warmest
sympathies, and which was the last active charity in which she
engaged, was that of begging cast-off clothing for the destitute
freedmen of Charleston and Florida. Accounts reaching her of their
wretched condition through successive failures of crops, she set to
work with her old-time energy to do what she could for their relief.
She literally went from house to house, and from store to store,
presenting her plea so touchingly that few could refuse her. Many
barrels of clothing were in this way gathered, and she often returned
home staggering beneath the weight of bundles she had carried perhaps
for a mile. She also wrote to friends at a distance, on whose
generosity she felt she could depend, and collected from them a
considerable sum of money, which, went far to keep the suffering from
starvation until new crops could be gathered. Writing to Sarah
Douglass, she says:--

"I have been so happy this winter, going about to beg old clothing for
the unfortunate freedmen in Florida. I have sent off several barrels
of clothes already. Alas! there is no Christ to multiply the garments,
and what are those I send among so many? I think of these destitute
ones night and day, and feel so glad to help them even a little."

This happiness in helping others was the secret of Sarah Grimke's
unvarying contentment, and there was always some one needing the help
she was so ready to give, some one whose trials made her feel, she
says, ashamed to think of her own. But the infirmities of old age were
creeping upon her, and though her mental faculties remained as bright
as ever, she began to complain of her eyes and her hearing. In August,
1872, she writes to a friend:--

"My strength is failing. I cannot do a tithe of the walking I used to
do, and am really almost good for nothing. But I don't know but I may
learn to enjoy doing nothing; and if it is needful, I shall be
thankful, as that has always appeared to me a great trial."

Notwithstanding this representation, however, she was seldom idle a
moment. She was an untiring knitter, and made quite a traffic of the
tidies, cushion-covers, and other fancy articles she knitted and
netted. These were purchased by her friends, and the proceeds given to
the poor. Soon after she had penned the above quoted paragraph, too,
she copied for the Rev. Henry Giles, the once successful Unitarian
preacher, a lecture of sixty-five pages, from which he hoped to make
some money. His eyesight had failed, and his means were too narrow to
permit of his paying a copyist. She also managed to keep up more or
less, as her strength permitted, her usual visits to the poor and
afflicted; and during the hot summer of 1872 she and Angelina went
daily to read to an old, bed-ridden lady, who was dying of cancer, and
living almost alone. During the following winter Sarah's strength
continued to fail, and she had several fainting spells, of which,
however, she was kept in ignorance. But as life's pulse beat less
vigorously, her heart seemed to grow warmer, and her interest in all
that concerned her friends rather to increase than to lessen. She
still wrote occasional short letters, and enjoyed nothing so much as
those she received, especially from young correspondents. In January,
1873, she writes to an old friend:--

"Yes, dear.... I esteem it a very choice blessing that, as the outer
man decays, the heart seems enlarged in charity, and more and more
drawn towards those I love. Oh, this love! it is as subtle as the
fragrance of the flower, an indefinable essence pervading the soul. My
eyesight and my hearing are both in a weakly condition; but I trust,
as the material senses fail, the interior perception of the divine may
be opened to a clearer knowledge of God, and that I may read the
glorious book of nature with a more heavenly light, and apprehend with
clearer insight the majesty and divinity and capabilities of my own

A few months later, she writes: "My days of active usefulness are
over; but there is a passive work to be done, far harder than actual
work,--namely, to exercise patience and study humble resignation to
the will of God, whatever that may be. Thanks be to Him, I have not
yet felt like complaining; nay, verily, the song of my heart is, Who
so blest as I? In years gone by, I used to rejoice as every year sped
its course and brought me nearer to the grave. But now, though the
grave has no terrors for me, and death looks like a pleasant
transition to another and a better condition, I am content to wait the
Father's own time for my removal. I rejoice that my ideal is still in
advance of my actual, though I can only look for realization in
another life. I know of a truth that my immortal spirit must progress;
not into a state of perfect happiness,--that would have no attractions
for me; there must be deficiencies in my heaven, to leave room for
progression. A realm of unqualified rest were a stagnant pool of
being, and the circle of absolute perfection a waveless calm, the
abstract cipher of indolence. But I believe I shall be gifted with
higher faculties, greater powers, and therefore be capable of higher
aspirations, better achievements, and a nobler appreciation of God and
His works."

The sweet tranquillity expressed in this letter, and which was the
greatest blessing that could have been given to Sarah Grimke's last
years, grew day by day, and shed its benign influence on all about
her. She had long ceased to look back, and had long been satisfied
that though she had had an ample share of sorrows and perplexities,
her life had passed, after all, with more of good than evil in it,
more of enjoyment than sorrow. Her experience had been rich and
varied; and, while she could see, in the past, sins committed, errors
of judgment, idiosyncracies to which she had too readily yielded, she
felt that all had been blest to her in enlarging her knowledge of
herself, in widening her sphere of usefulness, and uniting her more
closely to Him who had always been her guide, and whose promises
sustained and blessed her, and crowned her latter days with joy


Sarah Grimke had always enjoyed such good health, and was so
unaccustomed to even small ailments, that when a slight attack came in
the beginning of August, 1873, in the shape of a fainting-fit in the
night, she did not understand what it meant. For two or three years
she had had an occasional attack of the same kind, but was never
before conscious of it, and as she had frequently expressed a desire
to be alone when she died, to have no human presence between her and
her God, she thought, as the faintness came over her, that this desire
was about to be gratified. But not so: she returned to consciousness,
somewhat to her disappointment, and seemed to quite recover her health
in a few days. The weather, however, was extremely warm, and she felt
its prostrating effects. On the 27th of August another fainting-spell
came over her, also in the night, and she felt so unwell on coming out
of it that she was obliged to call assistance. For several weeks she
was very ill, and scarcely a hope of her recovery was entertained; but
again she rallied and tried to mingle with the family as usual, though
feeling very weak. Writing to Sarah Douglass of this illness, she

"The first two weeks are nearly a blank. I only remember a sense of
intense suffering, and that the second day I thought I was dying, and
felt calm with that sweet peace which our heavenly Father gives to
those who lay their heads on His bosom and breathe out their souls to
Him. Death is so beautiful a transition to another and a higher sphere
of usefulness and happiness, that it no longer looks to me like
passing through a dark valley, but rather like merging into sunlight
and joy. When consciousness returned to me, I was floating in an ocean
of divine love. Oh, dear Sarah, the unspeakable peace that I enjoyed!
Of course I was to come down from the mount, but not into the valley
of despondency. My mind has been calm, my faith steadfast, my
continual prayer that I may fulfil the design of my Father in thus
restoring me to life and finish the work he must have for me to do,
either active or passive. I am lost in wonder, love, and praise at the
vast outlay of affection and means used for my restoration. Stuart was
like a tender daughter, and all have been so loving, so patient."

She continued very feeble, but insisted upon joining the family at
meals, though she frequently had to be carried back to her room. Still
her lively interest in every one about her showed no diminution, and
she still wrote, as strength permitted, short letters to old friends.
A few passages may be quoted from these letters to show how clear her
intellect remained, and with what a holy calm her soul was clothed. To
one nearly her own age, she says:--

"You and I and all who are on the passage to redemption know that
Gethsemane has done more for us than the Mount of Transfiguration. I
am sure I have advanced more in the right way through my sins than
through my righteousness, and for nothing am I more fervently grateful
than for the lessons of humility I have learned in this way."

To another who was mourning the death of a dear child, she writes: "My
whole heart goes out in unspeakable yearnings for you; not, dearest,
that you may be delivered from your present trials; not only that you
may be blessed with returning health, but that you may find something
better, holier, stronger than philosophy to sustain you. Philosophy
may enable us to _endure_; this is its highest mission; it cannot give
the peace of God which passeth all understanding. This is what I covet
for you. And how can you doubt of immortality when you look on your
beloved's face? Can you believe that the soul which looked out of
those eyes can be quenched in endless night? No; never! As soon doubt
existence itself. It is this--these central truths, the existence and
the love of God, and the immortality of the soul, which rob death of
its terrors and shed upon it the blessed light of a hope which
triumphs over death itself. Oh that you could make Christ your friend!
He is so near and dear to me that more than ever does he seem to be my
link to the Father and to the life everlasting."

As she complained only of weakness, Sarah's friends hoped that, when
the cool weather came on, she would regain her strength and be as well
as usual. But though she continued to move about the house, trying to
make herself useful, there was very little perceptible change in her
condition as the autumn passed and winter came on. Thus she continued
until the 12th of December, when she took a violent cold. She was in
the habit of airing her bed every night just before retiring, turning
back the cover, and opening wide her window. On that day it had
rained, and the air was very damp, but she had her bed and window
opened as usual, insisting that Florence Nightingale asserted that
damp air never hurt anyone. That night she coughed a great deal, but
in answer to Angelina's expressions of anxiety, said she felt no worse
than usual. But though she still went down to her meals, it was
evident that she was weaker than she had been. On Sunday, the 14th,
company coming to tea, she preferred to remain in her room. She never
went down again. Her breathing was much oppressed on Monday and her
cough worse, but it was not until Tuesday evening, after having passed
a distressing day, that she would consent to have a physician called.
Everything was done for her that could be thought of, and, as she grew
worse, two other physicians were sent for. But all in vain: it was
evident that the summons to "come up higher" had reached her yearning
soul, and that a bright New Year was dawning for her in that unseen
world which she was so well prepared to enter.

She lingered, suffering at times great agony from suffocation, until
the afternoon of the 23d, when she was seized with the most severe
paroxysm she had yet had. Her family gathered about her bed, relieved
her as far as it was possible, and saw her sink exhausted into an
unconscious state, from which, two hours later, she crossed the
threshold of Eternity. Her "precious Nina" bent over her, caught the
last breath, and exclaimed: "Well done, good and faithful servant,
enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!"

The gates of heaven swung wide to admit that great soul, and the form
of clay that was left lying there seemed touched with the glory that
streamed forth. All traces of suffering vanished, and the placid face

"The look of one who bore away
Glad tidings from the hills of day."

Every sorrow brings a peace with it, and Angelina's sorrow was
swallowed up in joy that the beloved sister had escaped from pain and
infirmity, and entered into fuller and closer communion with her
heavenly Father.

She and Sarah had promised each other that no stranger hands should
perform the last offices to their mortal remains. How lovingly this
promise was now kept by Angelina, we must all understand.

The weather was very cold, and in order to give her friends at a
distance opportunity to attend the funeral it did not take place until
the 27th. One of the last requests of this woman, whose life had been
an embodiment of the most tender chanty and the truest humility, was
that she might be laid in a plain pine coffin, and the difference in
price between it and the usual costly one be given as her last gift to
the poor. She knew--divine soul!--that her cold form would sleep just
as quietly, be guarded by the angels just as faithfully, and as
certainly go to its resurrection glory from a pine box as from the
richest rosewood casket. And it was like the sweet simplicity of her
whole life,--nothing for show, all for God and his poor.

Her request was complied with, but loving hands covered every inch of
that plain stained coffin with fragrant flowers, making it rich and
beautiful with those sincere tributes of affection and gratitude to
one whose memory was a benediction.

The funeral services were conducted by the Rev. Francis Williams,
pastor of the Unitarian Church of Hyde Park, and eloquent remarks were
made by him and by Wm. Lloyd Garrison.

Mr. Williams could only testify to Sarah's life as he had known it
since she came to live in the village.

"To the last," he said, "while her mind could plan, her pen could
move, and her heart could prompt, she was busy in the service of
humanity,--with her might and beyond her strength, in constant
nameless deeds of kindness to those in need in our own neighborhood,
and far to the south, deeds which were wise and beautiful,--help to
the poor, sympathy with the suffering, consolation to the dying. She
has fought the good fight of right and love; she has finished her
course of duty; she has kept the faith of friendship and sacrifice.

"We will more truly live because she has lived among us. May her hope
and peace be ours."

Mr. Garrison gave a brief summary of her life, and ended by saying:
"In view of such a life as hers, consecrated to suffering humanity in
its manifold needs, embracing all goodness, animated by the broadest
catholicity of spirit, and adorned with every excellent attribute, any
attempt at panegyric here seems as needless as it must be inadequate.
Here there is nothing to depress or deplore, nothing premature or
startling, nothing to be supplemented or finished. It is the
consummation of a long life, well rounded with charitable deeds,
active sympathies, toils, loving ministrations, grand testimonies, and
nobly self-sacrificing endeavors. She lived only to do good, neither
seeking nor desiring to be known, ever unselfish, unobtrusive,
compassionate, and loving, dwelling in God and God in her."

The last look was then taken, the last kiss given, and the coffin,
lifted by those who loved and honored the form it enclosed, was borne
to its resting-place in Mount Hope Cemetery.

"Dear friend," wrote Angelina to me, before yet the last rites had
been performed, "you know what I have lost, not _a sister only_, but a
mother, friend, counsellor,--everything I could lose in a woman."

The longer our loved ones are spared to us, the closer becomes the tie
by which we are bound to them, and the deeper the pain of separation.
It was thus with Angelina. She could rejoice at her sister's blessed
translation, but she keenly felt the bereavement notwithstanding.
Their lives had been so bound together; they had walked so many years
side by side; they had so shared each other's burdens, cares, and
sorrows, that she who was left scarcely knew how to live the daily
life without that dear twin-soul. And so tender, so true and sacred
was the communion which had grown between them, that they could not be
separated long.

Angelina continued, as her feeble health permitted, to do alone the
work Sarah had shared with her. The sick, the poor, the sorrowing,
were looked after and cared for as usual; but as she was already
weighed down by declining years, the burdens she tried to bear were
too heavy. Sarah used to say: "Angelina's creed is, for herself, work
till you drop; for others, spare yourself." Now, with no anxiously
watchful sister to restrain her, she overtaxed every power, and
brought on the result which had been long feared,--the paralysis which
finally ended her life.

Those who have read Mr. Weld's beautiful memorial of his wife, with
the touching account of her last days, will find no fault, I am sure,
if I reproduce a portion of it here, while to those who have not been
so fortunate, it will show her sweet Christian spirit, mighty in its
gentleness, as no words of mine could do. In vain may we look back
through the centuries for a higher example of divine love and patience
and heroic fortitude; and, as a friend observed, her expressions of
gratitude for the long and perfect use of her faculties at the very
moment when she felt the fatal touch which was to deprive her of them,
was the sublimity of sweet and grateful trust.

The early shattering of Angelina's nervous system rendered her always
exceedingly sensitive to outward impressions. She could not look upon
any form of suffering without, in a measure, feeling it herself; nor
could she read or listen to an account of great physical agony without
a sensation of faintness which frequently obliged her, at such times,
to leave the room and seek relief in the open air. The first stroke of
paralysis occurred the summer after Sarah's death, and was brought on
in a singular manner. Mr. Weld's account of the incident and its
consequences is thus given:--

"For weeks she had visited almost daily a distant neighbor, far gone
in consumption, whose wife was her dear friend. One day, over-heated
and tired out by work and a long walk in the sun, she passed their
house in returning home, too much overdone to call, as she thought to
do, and had gone a quarter of a mile toward home, when it occurred to
her, Mr. W. may be dying now! She turned back, and, as she feared,
found him dying. As she sat by his bedside, holding his hand, a
sensation never felt before seized her so strongly that she at once
attempted to withdraw her hand, but saw that she could not without
disturbing the dying man's last moments. She sat thus, in exceeding
discomfort, half an hour, with that strange feeling creeping up her
arm and down her side.

"At last his grasp relaxed, and she left, only able to totter, and
upon getting home, she hardly knew how, declined supper, and went at
once to bed, saying only, 'Tired, tired.' In the morning, when her
husband rose, she said, 'I've something to tell you.' Her tone alarmed
him. 'Don't be alarmed,' she said. To his anxious question, 'Pray,
what is it?' she said again, 'Now you mustn't be troubled, I'm not;
it's all for the best. Something ails my right side, I can't move hand
or foot. It must be paralysis. Well, how thankful I should be that I
have had the perfect use of all my faculties, limbs, and senses for
sixty-eight years! And now, if they are to be taken from me, I shall
have it always to be grateful for that I have had them so long. Why, I
do think I am grateful for _this_, too. Come, let us be grateful
together.' Her half-palsied husband could respond only in weakest
words to the appeal of his unpalsied wife. While exulting in the
sublime triumph of her spirit over the stroke that felled her, well
might he feel abashed, as he did, to find that, in such a strait, he
was so poor a help to her who, in all his straits, had been such a
help to him. After a pause she added: 'Oh, possibly it is only the
effect of my being so tired out last night. Why, it seems to me I was
never half so tired. I wonder if a hard rubbing of your strong hands
mightn't throw it off.' Long and strongly he plied with friction the
parts affected, but no muscle responded. All seemed dead to volition
and motion. Though thus crippled in a moment, she insisted upon
rising, that she might be ready for breakfast at the usual hour. As
the process of dressing went on, she playfully enlivened it thus:
'Well, here I am a baby again; have to be dressed and fed, perhaps
lugged round in arms or trundled in a wheel-chair, taught to walk on
one foot, and sew and darn stockings with my left hand. Plenty of new
lessons to learn that will keep me busy. See what a chance I have to
learn patience! The dear Father knew just what I needed,' etc.

"Soon after breakfast she gave herself a lesson in writing with her
left hand, stopping often, as she slowly scrawled on, to laugh at her
'quail tracks.' After three months of tireless persistence, she
partially recovered the use of her paralyzed muscles, so that she
could write, sew, knit, wipe dishes, and sweep, and do 'very
shabbily,' as she insisted, almost everything that she had done

"During the six years that remained of her life here, she had what
seemed to be two other slight shocks of paralysis,--one about three
years after the first, and the other only three weeks before her
death. This last was manifest in the sudden sinking of her bodily
powers, preeminently those of speech. During all those years she
looked upon herself as 'a soldier hourly awaiting orders,' often
saying with her good-night kiss, 'May be this will be the last
_here_,' or, 'Perhaps I shall send back my next from the other shore;'
or, 'The dear Father may call me from you before morning;' or,
'Perhaps when I wake, it may be in a morning that has no night; then I
can help you more than I can now.'

"Many letters received asked for her latest views and feelings about
death and the life beyond,--as one expressed it, when she was
entering the dark valley.' The 'valley' she saw, but no darkness,
neither night nor shadow; all was light and peace. On the future life
she had pondered much, but ever with a trust absolute and an abounding
cheer. Fear, doubt, anxiety, suspense, she knew nothing of; none of
them had power to mar her peace or jostle her conviction. While she
could speak, she expressed the utmost gratitude that the dear Father
was loosening the cords of life so gently that she had no pain.

"When her speech failed, after a sinking in which she seemed dying,
she strove to let us know that _she knew it_ by trying to speak the
word 'death.' Divining her thought, I said, 'Is it death?' Then in a
kind of convulsive outburst came, 'Death, death!' Thinking that she
was right, that it was indeed to her death _begun_, of what _could_
die, thus _dating_ her life immortal, I said, 'No, oh no! not death,
but life immortal.' She instantly caught my meaning, and cried out,
'Life eternal! E--ter--nal life.' She soon sank into a gentle sleep
for hours. When she awoke, what seemed that fatal sinking had passed.

"One night, while watching with her, after she had been a long time
quietly sleeping, she seemed to be in pain, and began to toss
excitedly. It was soon plain that what seemed bodily pain was mental
anguish. She began to talk earnestly in mingled tones of pathos and
strong remonstrance. She was back again among the scenes of childhood,
talking upon slavery. At first, only words could be caught here and
there, but enough to show that she was living over again the old
horrors, and remonstrating with slave-holders upon the wrongs of
slavery. Then came passages of Scripture, their most telling words
given with strong emphasis, the others indistinctly; some in tones of
solemn rebuke, others in those of heart-broken pathos, but most
distinctly audible in detached fragments. There was one exception,--a
few words uttered brokenly, with a half-explosive force, from James 5:
4: 'The--hire--of--the--laborers,--kept--back--by--fraud,

"As we stood around her, straining to catch again some fragmentary
word, she would turn her eyes upon our faces, one by one, as though
lovingly piercing our inmost; but though all speech failed, the
intense longing of that look outspoke all words....

"Then there was again a vain struggle to speak, but no words came!
Only abortive sounds painfully shattered! How precious those unborn
words! Oh, that we knew them!"

Thus quietly, peacefully, almost joyfully, the life forces of the worn
and weary toiler weakened day by day, until, on the 26th of October,
1879, the great Husbandman called her from her labors at last. She
lived the life and died the death of a saint.

Who shall dare to say when and where the echoes of her soul died away?
Not in vain such lives as hers and her beloved sister's. They take
their place with those of the heroes of the world, great among the

One last thing I must mention, as strongly illustrative of Angelina's
modesty, and that shrinking from any praise of man which was such a
marked trait in her character. She never voluntarily alluded to any
act of hers which would be likely to draw upon her commendatory
notice, even from the members of her own family, and in her charities
she followed out as far as possible the Bible injunction: "When thou
doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth."

Her husband relates the following:--

"In November, 1839, in making provision for the _then_ to her not
improbable contingency of sudden death, Angelina prepared a
communication to her husband, filled with details concerning
themselves alone. This was enclosed in a sealed envelope, with
directions that it should be opened only after her death. When, a few
days after her decease, he broke the seal, he found, among many
details, this item: 'I also leave to thee the _liability_ of being
called upon eventually to support in part four emancipated slaves in
Charleston, S.C., whose freedom I have been instrumental in obtaining.'"

It is plain from the wording of the letter that she had never stated
the fact to him. She lived forty years after writing it and putting it
under seal; and yet, during all those years, she never gave him the
least intimation of her having freed those four slaves and contributed
to their support, as she had done. Even Sarah could not have known
anything of it. Her brother Henry, to whom the bill of sale was made
out, as they could not be legally emancipated, was probably the only
person who was aware of her generous act. He became technically their
owner, responsible for them to the State, but left them free to live
and work for themselves as they pleased.

Angelina's funeral took place on the 29th of October, and to it came
many old friends and veteran co-workers in the anti-slavery cause. The
services were in keeping with the record of the life they commemorated.
They were opened by that beautiful chant, "Thy will be done," followed
by a touching prayer from the Rev. Mr. Morrison, who then briefly
sketched the life of her who lay so still and beautiful before them. He
was followed by Elizur Wright, who, overcome by the memories with which
she was identified, memories of struggles, trials, perils, and triumphs,
that he stood for a moment unable to speak. Then, only partially
conquering his emotion, he told of what she did and what she was in
those times which tried the souls of the stoutest. "There is," said he,
"the courage of the mariner who buffets the angry waves. There is the
courage of the warrior who marches up to the cannon's mouth, coolly
pressing forward amid engines of destruction on every side. But hers
was a courage greater than theirs. She not only faced death at the
hands of stealthy assassins and howling mobs, in her loyalty to truth,
duty, and humanity, but she encountered unflinchingly the awful frowns
of the mighty consecrated leaders of society, the scoffs and sneers of
the multitude, the outstretched finger of scorn, and the whispered
mockery of pity, standing up for the lowest of the low. Nurtured in the
very bosom of slavery, by her own observation and thought, of one thing
she became certain,--that it was a false, cruel, accursed relation
between human beings. And to this conviction, from the very budding of
her womanhood, she was true; not the fear of poverty, obloquy, or death
could induce her to smother it. Neither wealth, nor fame, nor tyrant
fashion, nor all that the high position of her birth had to offer,
could bribe her to abate one syllable of her testimony against the
seductive system.... Let us hope that South Carolina will yet count
this noble, brave, excellent woman above all her past heroes. She it
was, more than all the rest of us put together, who called out what
was good and humane in the Christian church to take the part of the
slave, and deliver the proud State of her birth from the monster that
had preyed on its vitals for a century. I have no fitting words for a
life like hers. With a mind high and deep and broad enough to grasp
the relations of justice and mercy, and a heart warm enough to
sympathize with and cherish all that live, what a home she made! Words
cannot paint it. I saw it in that old stone house, surrounded with its
beautiful garden, at Belleville, on the banks of the Passaic. I saw
it in that busy, bright, and cheery palace of true education at
Eagleswood, New Jersey. I have seen it here, in this Mecca of the wise.
Well done! Oh, well done!"

Mr. Wright was followed by Robert F. Walcutt, Lucy Stone, and Wendell

"The women of to-day," said Lucy Stone, "owe more than they will ever
know to the high courage, the rare insight, and fidelity to principle
of this woman, by whose suffering easy paths have been made for them.
Her example was a bugle-call to all other women. Who can tell how many
have been quickened in a great life purpose by the heroism and
self-forgetting devotion of her whose voice we shall never hear again,
but who, 'being dead, yet speaketh.'"

The remarks of Wendell Phillips were peculiarly affecting, and were
spoken with a tenderness which, for once at least, disproved the
assertion that his eloquence was wanting in pathos.

"Friends," he said, "this life carries us back to the first chapter of
that great movement with which her name is associated,--to 1835, '36,
'37, '38, when our cities roared with riot, when William Lloyd
Garrison was dragged through the streets, when Dresser was mobbed in
Nashville, and Macintosh burned in St. Louis. At that time, the hatred
toward abolitionists was so bitter and merciless that the friends of
Lovejoy left his grave long time unmarked; and at last ventured to
put, with his name, on his tombstone, only this piteous entreaty: _Jam
Parce Sepulto_, 'Spare him now in his grave.'

"As Friend Wright has said, we were but a handful, and our words beat
against the stony public as powerless as if against the north wind. We
got no sympathy from most northern men: their consciences were seared
as with a hot iron. At this time a young woman came from the proudest
State in the slave-holding section. She came to lay on the altar of
this despised cause, this seemingly hopeless crusade, both family and
friends, the best social position, a high place in the church, genius,
and many gifts. No man at this day can know the gratitude we felt for
this help from such an unexpected source. After this[9] came James G.
Birney from the South, and many able and influential men and women
joined us. At last John Brown laid his life, the crowning sacrifice,
on the altar of the cause. But no man who remembers 1837 and its
lowering clouds will deny that there was hardly any contribution to
the anti-slavery movement greater or more impressive than the crusade
of these Grimke sisters through the New England States.

"When I think of Angelina, there comes to me the picture of the
spotless dove in the tempest, as she battles with the storm, seeking
for some place to rest her foot. She reminds me of innocence
personified in Spenser's poem. In her girlhood, alone, heart-led, she
comforts the slave in his quarters, mentally struggling with the
problems his position wakes her to. Alone, not confused, but seeking
something to lean on, she grasps the Church, which proves a broken
reed. No whit disheartened, she turns from one sect to another, trying
each by the infallible touchstone of that clear, child-like
conscience. The two old, lonely Quakers rest her foot awhile. But the
eager soul must work, not rest in testimony. Coming North at last, she
makes her own religion one of sacrifice and toil. Breaking away from,
rising above, all forms, the dove floats at last in the blue sky where
no clouds reach.... This is no place for tears. Graciously, in loving
kindness and tenderly, God broke the shackles and freed her soul. It
was not the dust which surrounded her that we loved. It was not the
form which encompassed her that we revere; but it was the soul. We
linger a very little while, her old comrades. The hour comes, it is
even now at the door, that God will open our eyes to see her as she
is: the white-souled child of twelve years old ministering to want and
sorrow; the ripe life, full of great influences; the serene old age,
example and inspiration whose light will not soon go out. Farewell for
a very little while. God keep us fit to join thee in that broader
service on which thou hast entered."

[9] A mistake. James G. Birney was one of the most widely known and
influential leaders in the abolition cause at the time Angelina came
into it.

At the close of Mr. Phillips' remarks a hymn was read and sung,
followed by a fervent prayer from Mr. Morrison, when the services
closed with the reading and singing of "Nearer, my God to Thee." Then,
after the last look had been taken, the coffin-lid was softly closed
over the placidly sleeping presence beneath, and the precious form was
borne to Mount Hope, and tenderly lowered to its final resting-place.
There the sisters, inseparable in life, lie side by side next the
"Evergreen Path," in that "dreamless realm of silence."

A friend, describing the funeral, says:--

"The funeral services throughout wore no air of gloom. That sombre
crape shrouded no one with its dismal tokens. The light of a glorious
autumn day streamed in through uncurtained windows. It was not a house
of mourning,--no sad word said, no look of sorrow worn. The tears that
freely fell were not of grief, but tears of yearning love, of
sympathy, of solemn joy and gratitude to God for such a life in its
rounded completeness, such an example and testimony, such fidelity to
conscience, such recoil from all self-seeking, such unswerving
devotion to duty, come what might of peril or loss, even unto death."

Florence Nightingale, writing of a woman whose life, like the lives of
Sarah and Angelina Grimke, had been devoted to the service of the
poor, the weak, the oppressed, says at the close:--

"This is not an _in memoriam_, it is a war-cry such as she would have
bid me write,--a cry for others to fill her place, to fill up the
ranks, and fight the good fight against sin and vice and misery and
wretchedness as she did,--the call to arms such as she was ever ready
to obey."

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