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Women's Movements

Women's Movements

Angelina Grimké in Women's Movements

Angelina Grimké (1805-1879) was an abolitionist and feminist activist famous for her path-breaking speaking tour of 1837-1838. Born in South Carolina into a prominent slave-owning family, Grimké moved to Philadelphia in 1839, shortly after becoming a Quaker. Uncomfortable with slavery from an early age, she enlisted in the abolitionist movement in 1835 by writing a letter to William Lloyd Garrison, which he printed in the Liberator. As a southern woman and the daughter of a slave-owning judge, Grimké provided the recently formed American Anti-Slavery Society with a headline-grabbing new member.

In December 1836, Grimké embarked on a speaking tour organized by the AASS throughout New York and New England. Originally, her talks were intended for women audiences only, but she drew increasingly large numbers of men listeners as well. Traditionalists condemned Grimké's speaking before "promiscuous audiences" prompting some within the antislavery movement to urge Grimké to abandon her efforts. In response, Grimké wrote a series of essays on the right of women to speak in public and, within her talks, began comparing the oppression of slaves to the oppression of women.

By May 1838, Grimké was speaking before audiences of several thousand. She was also asked to appear before a committee of the Massachusetts state legislature—the first such invitation extended to a woman. But plagued by periodic bouts with depression, Grimké retired immediately upon marrying abolitionist leader Theodore Weld on 14 May 1838.

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