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As the issue of slavery surfaced debate, a number of abolitionists vocalized their views.  Angelina Grimke, an antislavery activist and women’s rights supporter, obtained primary source knowledge of the abuses of slavery. By fighting for equality of both slaves and women, Angelina Grimke along with her sister Sarah Grimke, triggered discussion of change prior to and during the Civil War. Angelina Grimke used her knowledge of slavery to spread the abolitionist cause while confronting discrimination against women.

            Angelina Emily Grimke, born on November 26, 1805 in Charleston, South Carolina, was among a family of distinguished, aristocratic society members. John Faucheraud Grimke, Angelina Grimke’s father, was employed as a judge, farmer, attorney, and politician, while also developing a prosperous cotton plantation. (Angelina Grimke) With an abundance of money, the Grimkes resided in two establishments: a baroque townhouse in Charleston and the expansive Beaufort Plantation in the country. As many plantation owners at the time, the Grimkes possessed a number of slaves who assumed all forms of labor inside and outside the household. (Grimke Sisters) Growing up in an affluent family, Angelina Grimke was brought face to face with the abuses of slavery and gender inequalities. Throughout her childhood, she was considered the most complacent, inquisitive, and self-assured among all of her twelve siblings. (Angelina Grimke) Naturally outspoken and intelligent, Grimke voiced her views on social and political issues of the time.

            As one of thirteen children, Angelina Grimke held the strongest bond with sister, Sarah Grimke, who happened to be thirteen years senior. With similar personalities and a strong mind a soul, both girls developed an unbreakable relationship. (MacLean) Living in a male-dominated society, the sisters mutually believed in the idea that all people are created equal. Sarah evidently assumed responsibility for Angelina, as their mother was worn out from the demands of the surplus of children. (Russell)  Sarah continued to care for her sister, and never gave up her duty to support her. Few girls at the time obtained schooling, therefore the Grimke sisters received minimal education. However, this did not stop them from learning their surroundings and observing the world of slavery. (The Grimke Sisters) Though both Angelina and Sarah Grimke grew up among slaves, both grew discontent with the practice as whippings and beating occurred on the regular.

            Once her sister left Charleston to begin a new life in the North, free from the cruelty of slavery, Angelina Grimke was left in charge of the household. With the death of her father and relocation of several family members, Angelina Grimke begged her mother to free their slaves, however Mary Smith Grimke, her mother, did not see the problems with slavery. (Angelina Grimke) Following in her sister’s footsteps, Angelina Grimke saw the simplicity of Sarah’s life in the north and desired to be a part of it. (Angelina and Sarah Grimke) Evidently, she converted to the Quaker religion, however temporarily remained in Southern territory, hoping to spread the word to slave owners in the South. With a miniscule Quaker community in Charleston, Grimke found it difficult to reform family and friends and was constantly condemned for her work. (Angelina Grimke) By 1829, she made the ultimate decision to join her sister in Philadelphia, where the Grimke sisters became extremely active in the Quaker Church.

            Antislavery advocates inundated the East Coast holding seminars and meetings in which Angelina Grimke attended. Disheartened by the lack of influence she had in the antislavery mission, Grimke wrote a passionate letter condemning the practice of slavery to William Lloyd Garrison on August 30th, 1935. (MacLean) Garrison, owner of the newspaper, The Liberator, was a radical abolitionist who turned to violence for the antislavery cause. She wrote, “I can hardly express to thee the deep and solemn interest with which I have viewed the violent proceedings of the last few weeks. This is a cause worth dying for.” (MacLean) Expressing interest in his philosophy, Garrison published Grimke’s letter without her approval. Evidently, the Quaker Community was enraged as they could not say or do anything without permission from the Church. (The Grimke Sisters) As a result, however, the antislavery community welcomed Grimke and her beliefs. Within a year of Grimke’s pursuit of antislavery, she published her most renowned pamphlet, ‘An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South,” in which she pleaded for white Southern women to aid in the fight to end slavery. (Angelina Grimke) With determination for the abolitionist cause and national recognition as an antislavery activist, Angelina Grimke along with her sister attended meetings of the American Anti-Slavery Society, being the only women in a crowd of men.

            Angelina Grimke’s passion and drive to end slavery opened opportunities for her and her sister to speak on behalf of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Angelina Grimke gave her first speech in December of 1836 in New York City, and thereafter toured the Northeast. Public criticism and praise ensued. (MacLean) Shock embodied the public mind, as seeing a woman freely speak in front of mixed audiences was considered disreputable and surprised the majority of individuals. However, Grimke was quickly accredited as a forceful and persuasive speaker as well as an extremely influential public speaker for the abolitionist cause. As word spread of her role in the abolition movement, viewers from states across the East Coast were intrigued to hear a white Southerner speak of the elimination of slavery. (Russell) Constantly challenged by discrimination against women in the antislavery movement, Angelina Grimke emphasized women’s equality as well. Both sisters spoke out in support of women working for abolition, using the Bible as references for their points. They continued to speak across the Northeast meeting all well-known abolitionists including Theodore Weld. Weld helped Angelina and Sarah Grimke better their public-speaking capabilities eventually sending them on a twenty-three week lecture tour. (MacLean) It was extremely rare for a woman to talk to both men and women, causing controversy to ensue. However, what drew the crowd was the first hand experience Angelina Grimke had with the issue of slavery. (Angelina Grimke) The Grimke sisters could truly testify on the impact of slavery on African Americans from personal knowledge. While on tour, the Grimke sisters faced praise as well as harsh discrimination for their works.

Because of the large disagreements the tour produced, the sisters realized the overpowering similarities between the role of women and slaves. Both women and slaves were deprived of the right to a secondary schooling, and the right to vote while being treated as inferior citizens. (The Grimke Sisters) Angelina Grimke addressed the issue of slavery by condemning Southern slave-owners as well as Northern manufacturers. Northerners purchased slave-made products, ultimately exploiting the slaves through economic means. With the yearlong tour coming to a close, she made her final lecture. In February of 1838, Angelina Grimke verbalized her beliefs before the Massachusetts legislature in the Boston State House, becoming the first women to ever lecture a governmental body. (Angelina Grimke) Grimke knew she had achieved something momentous, and realized that women could make a change, despite lack of support. As a result, press coverage heightened. With differing opinions on whether a woman should influence public affairs, Grimke ignited discussion on gender inequality.

After long communication, Angelina Grimke and Theodore Weld married on May 14th, 1838, where she did not agree to “obey” him. (MacLean) Following the wedding, Angelina was kicked out of Philadelphia’s Society of Friends and settled as a teacher alongside Weld. However, the pair continued to write and attended antislavery lectures, while remaining as active abolitionists and suffragists. Together, with Sarah Grimke, they published American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses, which portrayed the horrors of American slavery through a collection of primary sources and personal narratives. (Angelina Grimke) It was one of the most influential pieces of anti-slavery literature of the period, second to Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

During the years of the Civil War both Angelina and Sarah Grimke wrote articles supporting the Union, criticizing the Confederacy. They wrote several pamphlets such as An Appeal to the Women of the Republic, which pushed women to unite for the Union and hold a meeting to support the war effort. (Russell) Following the war, the sisters moved to Boston, where they opened a coeducational school and continued the fight for minority rights. On March 7th, 1870, Angelina and Sarah Grimke affirmed a woman’s right to vote under the Fourteenth Amendment by voting in a local election. (The Grimke Sisters) The movement did not change the law, but it received a lot of publicity. However, on October 26, 1879, Angelina Grimke passed away after being paralyzed for the last six years of her life. (Angelina Grimke)

Angelina Grimke lived to see the end of slavery and the rise of the women’s rights movement. She was a strong influence in the women’s right and abolition movement in the South. Angelina and Sarah Grimke left a strong legacy and impacted the way women and slavery were viewed. With first hand view of the abuses of slavery, Angelina Grimke sought to put an end to the cruelty. (Russell) Informing the South as well as the Northeast of the inequalities slaves faced eventually stirred emotions and promoted the antislavery cause. Both Angelina and Sarah Grimke left a lasting impact on history as they provoked discussion and action on the abolition as well as women’s rights movements.

Angelina Grimke was an antislavery and women’s rights advocate who triggered several abolitionist movements. Growing up in a wealthy slave-owning family, Grimke was exposed to the abuses and cruelty of slavery. Angelina Grimke, along with her sister, Sarah Grimke, converted to Quakerism and continued the antislavery fight. By touring through the Northeastern region of the United States, the Grimke sisters vocalized their beliefs and sought to promote the antislavery cause. Coming face to face with gender discrimination further motivated the sisters to fight for equality for both slaves as well as women. As a whole, prior to and during the Civil War, Angelina Grimke was an antislavery activist who distinguished herself from the rest, as she possessed firsthand knowledge of the abuses of slavery.




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