Friday, April 18, 2014

Grimké Sisters

Angelina & Sarah Grimké
"Women ought to feel a peculiar sympathy in the colored man's wrong, for, like him, she has been accused of mental inferiority, and denied the privileges of a liberal education." ~Angelina Grimké

The Grimké sisters, Sarah Moore Grimké (1792–1873) and Angelina Emily Grimké (1805–1879), were 19th-century Southern American Quakers, educators and writers who were early advocates of abolitionism and women's rights.

Judge John Faucheraud Grimké, the father of the Grimké sisters, was a strong advocate of slavery and of the subordination of women. A wealthy planter who held hundreds of slaves, Grimké fathered 14 children with his wife. He served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Sarah noted that at age five, after she saw a slave being whipped, she tried to board a steamer to a place where there was no slavery. Later, in violation of the law, she taught her personal slave to read. She had wanted to become a lawyer, following in her father's footsteps, and studied constantly until her parents learned she intended to go to college with her brother Thomas; subsequently they forbade her to study her brother's books or any language. After her studies were ended, Sarah begged her parents to allow her to become Angelina's godmother. She became part mother and part sister to her much younger sibling, and the two sisters had a close relationship all their lives.

Throughout their lives, they traveled throughout the North, lecturing about their first hand experiences with slavery on their family's plantation. Among the first American women to act publicly in social reform movements, they received abuse and ridicule for their abolitionist activity. They both realized that women would have to create a safe space in the public arena to be effective reformers and became early activists in the women's rights movement.

Click  HERE to read more about the Grimké sisters.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lucretia Mott (1793-1880)

"The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation because in the degradation of woman the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source." ~Lucretia Mott

Lucretia Coffin, daughter of Thomas Coffin and Anna Folger, was born on 3 Jan 1793 in Nantucket, MA. She became a teacher at the Nine Partners Quaker Boarding School after her graduation there. Her interest in women's rights began when she discovered that male teachers at the school were paid three times as much as the female staff. After her family moved to Philadelphia, she and James Mott (another teacher at Nine Partners) followed. They married on 10 Apr 1811.

Like many Quakers, Lucretia considered slavery to be evil. Inspired in part by minister Elias Hicks, she and other Quakers refused to use cotton cloth, cane sugar and other slavery-produced goods. In 1821 she became a Quaker minister and, with her husband's support, she traveled extensively. Her sermons emphasized the Quaker inward light, or the presence of the Divine within every individual. Her sermons also included her free produce and anti-slavery sentiments. In 1830, her husband helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society. By then an experienced minister and abolitionist, Lucretia was the only woman to speak at the organizational meeting in Philadelphia. She tested the language of the society's Constitution and bolstered support when many delegates were precarious. Days after the conclusion of the convention, at the urging of other delegates, she and other white and black women founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. Integrated from its founding, the organization opposed both slavery and racism, and developed close ties to Philadelphia's Black community. Lucretia herself often preached at Black parishes. Around this time, her sister-in-law, Abigail Lydia Mott, and brother-in-law, Lindley Murray Moore were helping to found the Rochester Anti-Slavery Society.

Amidst social persecution by abolition opponents and pain from dyspepsia, Lucretia continued her work for the abolitionist cause. She managed their household budget to extend hospitality to guests, including fugitive slaves, and donated to charities. She was praised for her ability to maintain her household while contributing to the cause. In the words of one editor, "She is proof that it is possible for a woman to widen her sphere without deserting it." Lucretia and other female abolitionists also organized fairs to raise awareness and revenue, providing much of the funding for the anti-slavery movement.

Women's participation in the anti-slavery movement threatened societal norms. Many members of the abolitionist movement opposed public activities by women, especially public speaking. At the Congregational Church General Assembly, delegates agreed on a pastoral letter warning women that lecturing directly defied St. Paul's instruction for women to keep quiet in church.(1Timothy 2:12) Other people opposed women's speaking to mixed crowds of men and women, which they called "promiscuous." Others were uncertain about what was proper, as the rising popularity of the Grimké sisters and other women speakers attracted support for abolition.

Lucretia attended all three national Anti-Slavery Conventions of American Women (1837, 1838, 1839). During the 1838 convention in Philadelphia, a mob destroyed Pennsylvania Hall, a newly opened meeting place built by abolitionists. Lucretia and the white and black women delegates linked arms to exit the building safely through the crowd. Afterward, the mob targeted her home and Black institutions and neighborhoods in Philadelphia. As a friend redirected the mob, she waited in her parlor, willing to face her violent opponents.

In June 1840, Lucretia attended the General Anti-Slavery Convention, better known as the World's Anti-Slavery Convention, in London, England. In spite of her status as one of six women delegates, before the conference began, the men voted to exclude the American women from participating, and the female delegates were required to sit in a segregated area. Anti-Slavery leaders didn't want the women's rights issue to become associated with the cause of ending slavery worldwide and dilute the focus on abolition. In addition, the social mores of the time generally prohibited women's participation in public political life. Several of the American men attending the convention, including William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips, protested the women's exclusion. Garrison, Nathaniel P. Rogers, William Adams, and African American activist Charles Lenox Remond sat with the women in the segregated area.

Activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her husband attended the convention while on their honeymoon. Stanton admired Mott, and the two women became friends and allies. One Irish reporter deemed her the "Lioness of the Convention". She was among the women included in the commemorative painting of the convention, which also featured female British activists: Elizabeth Pease, Mary Anne Rawson, Anne Knight, Elizabeth Tredgold and Mary Clarkson.

Encouraged by active debates in England and Scotland, Lucretia also returned with new energy for the anti-slavery cause in the United States. She continued an active public lecture schedule, with destinations including the major Northern cities of New York and Boston, as well as travel over several weeks to slave-owning states, with speeches in Baltimore and cities in Virginia. She arranged to meet with slave owners to discuss the morality of slavery. In the District of Columbia, she timed her lecture to coincide with the return of Congress from Christmas recess; more than 40 Congressmen attended. She had a personal audience with President John Tyler who, impressed with her speech, said, "I would like to hand Mr. Calhoun over to you", referring to the senator and abolition opponent.

Lucretia and Stanton became well acquainted at the World's Anti-Slavery Convention. Stanton later recalled that they first discussed the possibility of a women's rights convention in London.

In 1848 Lucretia and Elizabeth Stanton organized a women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, NY. Stanton noted the Seneca Falls Convention was the first public women's rights meeting in the United States. Her resolution that it was "the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves the sacred right to the elective franchise" was passed despite Lucretia's opposition. Lucretia viewed politics as corrupted by slavery and moral compromises, but she soon signed the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments after concluding that women's "right to the elective franchise however, is the same, and should be yielded to her, whether she exercises that right or not." Over the next few decades, women's suffrage became the focus of the women's rights movement. While Stanton is usually credited as the leader of that effort, it was Mott's mentoring of Stanton and their work together that inspired the event. Lucretia's sister, Martha Coffin Wright, also helped organize the convention and signed the declaration.

Lucretia Coffin Mott died on 11 Nov 1880 in Chellenham, PA.