During the 1830s, 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 Kellys 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
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 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 fathers 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
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 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 Yorks 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 womens rights convention with the words And
aint 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.
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.