Anti-Slavery Movement/Women in the Movement


Section Objectives

Section Review

In a period where the “white male” was superior, and everyone else was inferior, women like Sojourner Truth, the Grimké Sisters, Harriet Tubman, Sarah Parker Remond, and many others, thought otherwise.  These women fought against the voice of the majority for the rights and freedoms of the minority.  “Black female abolitionists organized female antislavery societies and staged protests and boycotts in support of immediate emancipation” (Bennett 162).  Though sometimes thought to be rebellious, these women spoke “in an age when ‘respectable’ women did not speak in public” (Time-Life Books 62).

American Anti-Slavery Society
During the 1830’s, women became deeply involved in antislavery societies.  The American Anti-Slavery Society was founded in 1833.  The role of women in the abolition movement divided the otherwise male dominated Society.  In 1840, Abby Kelly’s election to the all-male committee split the Anti-Slavery Society.  Lydia Maria Child, Lecretia Mott (who made her home a station on the Underground Railroad) and Maria Weston Chapman were also elected to the committee with great opposition.  Other women such as Mrs. Margret Jones Burleigh, Mary Grew, and Sarah Pugh later joined the committee.  This society was one of many abolitionist societies run by whites.  “To put a woman on the committee with men is contrary to the usages of civilized society,” said member Lewis Tappan (Hughes 102).  He and President Arthur Tappan resigned from the committee along with many other members.  However, William L. Garrison supported the rights of the women and blacks to be on the white-male committee.  He furthermore encouraged them “to take an active part in the anti-slavery organizations” (Hughes 102).

American Anti-slavery Society

White Female Abolitionists 
Many white female abolitionists combined their interests of women rights with abolition.  Among these great reformers were: Lucy Stone, who taught fugitive slaves how to read and write; the Grimké sisters, who spoke against slavery even though their father was a slave-holder; Abby Kelly, who joined Frederick Douglas on his first speaking tours; and Susan B. Anthony, who was a general agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society.  However, there was tension between black female abolitionists and white suffragettes.  The white suffragettes were not sure of thier position; there was confusion.  Between the black female abolitionists however, there was no confusion.  The abolition of slavery was their first and only priority (Bennett 163).

Maria Miller W. Stewart 
Maria Stewart was one of the first women to “smash the taboo against female public speakers (Bennett 163).  She was a Connecticut orphan, born in 1803.  As a free black woman, Stewart took up “the cause of God and the cause of freedom” in 1832 (Time-Life Books 64).  She spoke up against slavery, racism, and sexism. Stewart died after the Civil War in 1879.

Sarah Mapps Douglass 
Sarah Douglass was a daughter of a prominent black Quaker family.  She was an early member of the biracial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.  Here she became friends with the Grimké sisters (Sarah and Angelina).  The three challenged the racial segregation in Philadelphia.

As a young child, she was tutored at a school for the colored founded by her mother and James Forten.  Later, she opened her own academy for black children.

Margaretta Forten 
Margaretta Forten was the daughter of James Forten.  She taught in the Philadelphia school founded by Sarah Mapps Douglass before founding her own private grammar school for black students in 1850 (Time-Life Book 67).  She was a keen businesswoman and helped to take care of her father’s estate after his death.  The many people who came to visit her parents attracted Forten into the abolitionist cause.  Her father helped establish the American Anti-Slavery Society.  Because full membership was denied to women, she and others founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.  She spoke against slavery and promoted the equality between races.

Sarah Parker Remond   
Sarah Parker Remond was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1826 to free African-American parents.  In 1856 she became an agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society.  From 1853 to 1859, she lectured in the US and from 1859 to 1865 in Great Britain where she exposed the evils of slavery.  She further protested the segregation of churches, theaters, and ocean liners.  She later moved to Florence, Italy and practiced medicine.

Sojourner Truth
Sojourner Truth was born as a slave in Hurley, New York as Isabella Baumfree.  She married an older slave by force, with whom she bore five children.  Three of her children were sold into slavery.  She escaped around 1828, just before New York’s emancipation law.  In 1843, Baumfree dedicated her life to preaching, at which time she took the name Sojourner Truth. She took the name because she said:

The Lord gave me [the name] Sojourner because I was to travel up and down the land showing the people their sins and being a sign to them.  Afterwards I told the Lord I wanted another name ‘cause everybody else had two names; and the Lord gave me Truth, because I was to declare the truth unto people (Bennett 163).  

Truth was what John Brown liked to call a “talking” abolitionist (Bennett 163).  Though she was illiterate, she had a remarkable speaking talent.  For more than forty years, Truth preached, taught, and testified the “truth.”  Not only was she an abolitionist, but a feminist as well.  She delivered her most famous speech in 1851 at an Ohio women’s rights convention with the words “And ain’t I a woman?”  (Time-Life Books 63). After the end of slavery, she continued her work with black suffrage and helped former slaves in need.

Harriet Tubman 
Like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman was a religious, black, female, abolitionist.  She was what John Brown liked to call an “acting” abolitionist (Bennett 163).  From a very young age of thirteen, Tubman opposed slavery.  She ran away when she was about twenty-five by way of the Underground Railroad.  When she reached free territory, she recalled “I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person now I was free.  There was such a glory over everything, the sun comes like gold through the trees” (Bennett 163).  Tubman loved freedom so much that she returned to the South nineteen times and helped about three hundred slaves escape to freedom.  Among those she helped were her parents, her brothers and sisters, and anyone else who wanted to escape.  Rewards for her capture reached $40,000, but she was never caught.  Fearless as she was, she carried with her a rifle for protection; furthermore, to discourage any of her passengers to return to the South.  Tubman never lost a passenger.  During the Civil War, she acted as a nurse and a spy for the Union.


and slaves