Sarah and Angelina Grimke were the first Southern women to become influential abolitionist, which spoke on the end of slavery; as well as social and political equality for freedmen and women as well. The Grimke sisters stretched the boundary of women’s public role, by giving speeches to audiences with men and women, and by speaking in front of a state legislature about African American rights. Sarah and Angelina broke many of the social and political boundaries subjected on women. Sarah Moore Grimke was born in Charleston, South Carolina on November 26, 1792 and Angelina Emily Grimke was born on February 20, 1805 in Charleston, South Carolina.
Their father was a wealthy plantation owner that owned many slaves; their father was also a politician and lawyer that served as the chief judge of South Carolina. Both girls were educated privately at home in the appropriate manner for young ladies of their social level. Sarah and Angelina grew frustrated with the education they were provided with and the expectations of the role they were supposed to play in the Charleston society.
Both girls spoke out against the ill-treatment of slaves that they saw firsthand. In 1819, Judge Grimke became ill and Sarah went with him to Philadelphia to get medical treatment. While in Philadelphia Sarah met the Society of Friends, the Quakers appealed to her because they rejected slavery. After Judge Grimke died Sarah moved to Philadelphia in 1821 and became a Quaker. Angelina began to attend Quaker meetings in Charleston and she began to ask questions about slavery.
Angelina began to speak against slavery to elders of her Presbyterian Church. When Angelina got no response from the church and no answers from her family about slavery she moved to Philadelphia in 1829, joining Sarah in voluntary exile and becoming a Quaker. For the first couple of year they did charitable and rreligious work. In 1835, Angelina joined the Philedelphia Female Antislavery Society. In 1836, Angelina qorte An Appeal to the Christian women of the South, which spread in the north; it was destroyed in the South, and Angelina received a warning to never return to Charleston.
Sarah published An Epistle to the Clergy of the Southern States, also published by the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1836, Angelina began to speak in front of small groups of women in New York City. This caused huge controversy as they began to speak to crowds of men and women. In 1837, the sisters toured New England which caused great controversy. Sarah’s Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Woman: Addressed to Mary Parker, President of the Boston Anti-Slavery Society, and Angelina’s Letters to Catharine Beecher, in Reply to an Essay on Slavery and Abolition, Addressed to A.E. Grimke. They were criticized for speaking out, but they said they had the right as women to speak, this established them as leaders of the women’s rights movement.
In February 1838 Angelina became the first American women to address a legislative body. In May 1838, Angelina married abolitionist Theodore Weld in Philadelphia; their ceremony had sexual equality and attended by blacks and whites. Sarah lived with Angelina and Theodore for the remainder of her life. They helped write Theodore’s American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses. In the 1840’s and 1850’s The Grimke sisters and Theodore started schools at Belleville and then at a community near Perth Amboy. In 1862 they all moved to Faimount near Boston. In 1870 the sisters joined a group of women in an attempt to vote in a a local election. Sarah Grimke died at the age of 81 in December of 1873. Angelina, who had been paralyzed for several years because of strokes, died on October 26, 1879. Theodore Weld survived until 1895. All three had lived to see the end of slavery and the rise of a women’s rights movement.
1) Berkin, Carol. “Angelina and Sarah Grimke: Abolitionist Sisters.” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. ERA, 2009. Web. 13 Dec. 2012.
2) Adams, Anne. “Angelina and Sarah Grimke.” Angelina and Sarah Grimke. History’s Women, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012.
3) Sarah and Angelina Grimké.” American History. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 13 Dec. 2012
4) McGuire, William, and Leslie Wheeler. “Sarah Grimké.” American History. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 13 Dec. 2012.
5) McGuire, William, and Leslie Wheeler. “Angelina Grimké.” American History. ABC-CLIO, 2012. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. Picture: http://www.ushistory.org/us/26c.asp