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  • 1885
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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 answered.

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 it.”

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 her.

“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 Society.”

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 approbation.”

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 says:–

“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 school.[5]

“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 us.”

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 enjoyments.”

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 members.

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 speaking.”

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 reform.

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 day.”

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 hearers.”

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 God.”

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 work.”

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 writes:–

“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 light.

“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