Great Onelies in History: Sarah and Angelina Grimké December 12, 2008Posted by Onely in Great Onelies in History, Profiles, We like. . ..
Tags: abolition, angelina grimke, anti-racist, first feminist, literacy, pro-woman, quakers, rhetoric, sarah grimke, sisters, social activism, suffrage
Last week we announced a new series: Great Onelies in History, featuring Frances Willard. Luckily for our copious readership, I’m finishing up a semester’s graduate course in the history of rhetoric, and so I’ve got two more important rhetorical figures for us to celebrate! This week, we’re happy to introduce:
Sarah and Angelina Grimké, Great Onelies in History!
Famous for: Advocating for women’s rights, suffrage, and the abolition of slavery. Angelina Grimké happened to be married, but much of her activism work occurred while she was single — we think she deserves Honorary Oneler status!
Why They Rock:
- Sarah Grimké grew up in South Carolina, as the daughter of a plantation and slave owner. Even at a young age, she was extremely critical of the slave system and attempted to teach some of the slaves on her father’s plantation how to read and write in secret.
- After her father died, Sarah joined a Quaker community in Philadelphia because she thought they would be sympathetic to her activist sensibilities.
- After joining the Quakers, Sarah had the opportunity to marry Israel Morris, but ultimately declined.
- Her younger sister Angelina joined Sarah in Philadelphia in 1829, and soon they were protesting together the racism they saw in the Quaker community, which led to further abolition work.
- In 1836, Angelina published An Appeal to the Christian Women of the Southern States, which proved to be an enormously popular but controversial pamphlet urging the abolition of slavery.
- The sisters shared public speaking roles on behalf of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), and their leadership, powerful oratorical skills, and gender drew large crowds.
- But such public leadership and polemical speaking by women was highly controversial, and their audiences grew increasingly critical (male hecklers), even inspiring a harsh critique written by Catherine Beecher (sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe and well-known advocate of women’s education).
- In response to the Beecher critique, Sarah published Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Woman, published serially in 1837, which is today considered one of the first texts that can be considered feminist by modern standards.
- The sisters’ focus on feminism drew further controversy and was interpreted as ultimately detrimental to the abolition movement.
- In 1838, an angry mob burned down Pennsylvania Hall in Philadelphia after Angelina Grimké gave one of her powerful speeches.
- After this, Angelina moved with her husband and Sarah to rural New Jersey, and although they continued to write for progressive causes and even opened a school, they removed themselves from the public eye.
Now, go tell your friends about these Great Onelies in History! If you have suggestions for others we should feature, please let us know!