The Grimké Sisters, Early American Abolitionists and Feminists

 

Angelina Emily Grimké Weld (1805–1879) Copy of engraved portrait of Angelina Grimké, ca. 1845. From Woman's Rights Collection, 1853–1958, Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute.

I recently finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings, a novel about an urban slave in early 19th-century Charleston, South Carolina, and her owners, the Grimké family. The author tells us that she was inspired by the historic figures of Sarah and Angelina Grimké, the first female abolition agents and among the earliest American feminists. According to Kidd, “Sarah was the first woman in the United States to write a comprehensive feminist manifesto, and Angelina was the first woman to speak before a legislative body.” After Sarah moved to Philadelphia and became a Quaker, she began speaking publicly against slavery and crusading for women’s rights. With her sister, Angelina, and Angelina’s husband, Theodore Weld, she wrote American Slavery as It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses, a book that influenced Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published 13 years later.

Since we have a well-developed collection of abolitionist materials, I decided to check out our catalog to see if the Phillips Library held any books by or about the Grimkés. We have copies of several of their published works, including American Slavery mentioned above.

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