Imagine being one of 13 children in a family that owns over 100 slaves and believing slavery is wrong. That is the life of the Grimkè sisters, Angelina Grimkè Weld and Sarah Moore Grimkè. But the sisters did not stand by silent, even as children, and swallow their belief in the evil of slavery.
Eleven-year-old Sarah taught one of the family slaves to read, and was punished by her family for it. She joined the Quakers, a noted abolitionist religion, because of her views, but even they required her to stand up – she was criticized by them for sitting next to a black woman, Sarah Mapps Douglass, at services. Sarah spoke about and wrote abolition, and had her “Epistle to the Clergy of the Southern States” burned in South Carolina. In 1837, she wrote that men and women should be treated equally in her “Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women,” linking abolition and equality of the sexes.
Sarah’s younger sister Angelina Grimkè Ward was just as passionate about abolition. She was a powerful speaker, and caused uproars by speaking out against slavery in audiences that included men. She also joined the Quakers, and moved to Philadelphia in 1819, and later to New York, where she and her sister were the first women to lecture for the Anti-Slavery Society. She published the abolitionist pamphlet “An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South” in 1835. After she married fellow abolitionist Theodore Weld in 1838, they moved to New Jersey and opened several progressive schools. Both she and Sarah continued to work for civil rights and women’s suffrage after the Civil War.
We should all learn from the example of these passionate women that though it takes courage to stand up for what we believe to be right, we must strive to stay on the harder path of helping those who are not always able to help themselves, despite any personal cost of doing so.
-Gina Armstrong, IMLS Coca-Cola Museum Studies Apprentice