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Grimke Sisters
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Grimke Sisters
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"Whatever is morally right for a man to do, it is morally right for a woman to do. I recognize no rights but human rights. I know nothing of men's rights and women's right; for in Christ Jesus, there is neither male nor female." - Angeline Grimke

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Angelina Grimke Weld; (1805-1879)

Sarah Grimke; (1792-1873)

The Grimke sisters of South Carolina were two early female abolitionists and women's rights activists, traveling throughout the North lecturing about their first-hand experiences with slavery on their family plantation. Their father, a strong believer of slavery and the subordination of woman was someone they did not want to represent. Receiving abuse and criticism for their abolitionist doings, they both realized that women would have to create their own medium of communication if they wanted to be effective abolitionists and reformers.

Sarah Grimke, the eldest of the two was an abolistionist from an early age, she tried to escape from home when she first saw a slave being whipped at age five. As an early feminist, she desired to become an attorney like her father had first been before he became the Supreme Court Justice of South Carolina. Seeing how their father treated women, and slaves inspired her to stop others from imitating this behavior.





Angelina being born thirteen years later, forced Sarah to play the mother and sister role in her life. At age 26, their father died in Philadelphia, and while there she became interested in the Quaker movement. After returning home, she influenced Angelina, and then she too converted to the Quaker faith in 1829. Being among the earliest abolitionists, Quakers also advocated equality for women. The same very strict religious and moral constraints imposed on men were imposed on women. However, Quaker women were permitted to speak out publicly and participate equally with men in church affairs. Also, their formal education was encouraged.





The Quaker code provided the right fit for the Grimke sisters who joined the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society founded by Lucretia Mott. Through both organizations, they met other women who gathered petitions to Congress to abolish slavery and who even sold abolitionist pamphlets to pedestrians on the streets.





The Grimkes were swept up in the movement. They spoke not only against slavery, but the exclusion of women from public life. In 1836, Angelina wrote "An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South" which was published by the American Anti-Slavery Society. They became agents for the Society and spoke on its behalf to small private gatherings throughout the Northeast called parlour talks. They were so popular that before long the sisters were speaking to larger groups. In 1837, for the first time they addressed a mixed audience of men and women, which was regarded as a huge step.

By 1838, thousands of people flocked to hear their Boston lecture series. Angelina married the great feminist and abolitionist Theodore Weld. Initially both Weld's planned for Angelina to remain active in the abolitionist movement. But the time demands of running a home and being a wife and mother, forced Angelina to retire from public life. Sarah moved in with her sister and also retired from public life. Although they were no longer publicly active, they remained privately active committed abolitionists and feminists.



From then on they led their lives comfortably and knowing they had made a difference in society. Sarah died in 1873, and six years later so did her sister.