A Tribute to Womanhood

Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.


The Grimke Sisters

 (Angelina and Sarah Grimke were legends in their own lifetimes.  Together, these two sisters made history...daring to speak before mixed crowds of men and women and publishing some of the most powerful antislavery tracts of the era)

Sarah Moore Grimke was born on November 26, 1792 in Charleston, South Carolina.  Her sister, Angelina Emily was born 13 years later on November 26, 1805, and despite their age difference, the two sisters were very close and lived together throughout their lives. Born to a prominent judge, the two sisters grew up on a slave owning plantation in South Carolina, but they were never comfortable with the idea of treating people as if they were property to be bought and sold.  In fact, they strongly disapproved of the practice of slavery.  And so it was, that these two sisters, who could have lived a life of ease and comfort, chose to devote their lives to the fight for racial and gender equality. Before Sarah had reached adolescence, she had been severely admonished by her father for trying to teach a slave girl to read...and Angelina, too, was sensitive to the plight of the servants in their household, and the sight of whip marks on a young slave boy confused the girls, but eventually gave them the strength to stand at the forefront of the Abolitionist Movement.

In 1821, Sarah left her South Carolina home and moved to Philadelphia where she became a Quaker.  Angelina followed in 1829.  It wasn't until the mid-1830's, though, that the sisters began their public crusade against slavery.  In 1835, Angelina wrote a letter about the recent race riots and sent it off to William Lloyd Garrison, the founder and editor of "The Liberator", an abolitionist newspaper.  He subsequently published the letter...which, eventually was reprinted in several other publications.  From that time on, the sisters were deeply involved in the movement.  

And, because slaves and women shared similar plights, the two sisters also became actively involved in the feminist movement as well.  In 1836, Angelina wrote her famous "An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South" in which she encouraged southern women to use their moral force and fight against slavery. This generated so much interest that the sisters were invited to attend a Convention of the Anti-Slavery Society in New York City.  

The sisters then began addressing small groups of women in their homes...and although Sarah was a poor public speaker, she was Angelina's equal when it came to the written word, and in 1837, the first of her "Letters on the Equality of the Sexes" appeared in the New England Spectator.  Also in 1837, the sisters went on a tour of Congregational churches in the northeast where, in addition to denouncing slavery, they also denounced racial prejudice.  Furthermore, they argued that white women had a natural bond with female, black slaves. Both were denied the right to vote and the right to a secondary education, and both were treated as second-class citizens.  By 1838, thousands were flocking to hear their Boston lecture series.

Angelina finished a  year-long speaking tour with an address to the Massachusetts state legislature...becoming the first woman in United States history to speak to a legislative body, and the sisters settled in for a much needed rest.  Angelina was physically drained, but she was also in love with the great abolitionist, Theodore Weld; they were wed in a simple ceremony with Theodore renouncing all claims to Angelina's property and her omitting the words "to obey" from her wedding vows. Both black and white Americans were in attendance. Afterwards, the two sisters retired from public life and lived on a farm in New Jersey where they operated a boarding school.  Many abolitionists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, sent their children to this school.  

On March 7, 1870, when Sarah was nearly 80 and Angelina 67, the sisters boldly declared a woman's right to vote under the 14th Amendment by depositing ballots in the local election.  along with 42 other women, Sarah and Angelina marched through a snowstorm to the polling place, and although many of the spectators jeered them, they were not arrested because of their age.  

Three years later, on December 23, 1873, Sarah died.  Angelina suffered several strokes after Sarah's death, leaving her paralyzed for the last six years of her life.  She died on October 26, 1789.  The two women had proven to be strong, independent, and skillful in getting their points across.  They faced challenges and came to realize the need for women's rights in order to get their voices heard. They are remembered today for their strength, independence, and perseverance; their integrity and devotion inspired other women to have the strength to speak up.  Through their example, and their words, the Grimke sisters proved that women could have a far-reaching influence on society.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, awesome women. I'm so grateful for the courage of those who have gone before us and it helps to lift me up and get me going whenever I begin to feel discouraged in my own efforts. Thanks for sharing their story.