1. Education
Robert McNamara

The Grimké Sisters

By January 7, 2013

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The Grimké Sisters attracted attention to the abolitionist cause in the 1830s as they were not northerners protesting against slavery from a distant perspective. They had grown up in the aristocracy of Charleston, South Carolina, in a wealthy family owning many slaves.

The sisters, Sarah and Angelina, were highly intelligent and passionate. After joining the orbit of William Lloyd Garrison, the publisher of The Liberator, they became fully involved in the abolitionist movement.

Angelina Grimké wrote a 36-page booklet, An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, which presented a case against slavery in religious terms. The book was viewed as an affront against religious leaders in South Carolina, who typically held slavery to be part of God's plan for America.

Barred from ever returning to their home, the sisters took to the stage in the North, speaking before large audiences in the late 1830s. In their public appearances, the Grimkés did not single out the South. They essentially indicted all Americans for the evils of slavery, which they believed was degrading to both masters and slaves.

The Grimké Sisters drew controversy even in the North, with ministers in New England condemning their actions. And by the end of the 1830s they had stopped speaking in public. They faded from public view, as other abolitionists, notably Frederick Douglass, took center stage.

While their abolitionist career seems brief, the Grimké Sisters had a noteworthy influence. They offered a unique perspective on slavery. And at a time when women were not expected to participate in political discussion, they bravely stepped forward.

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Illustration: Angelia Grimké/Library of Congress


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