The Grimké Sisters:
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Grimke Related News
The nomination of the first woman to be the candidate for a major political party is historic. It was also imagined, possibly for the first time, by Angelina Grimke in 1837. In a July 2016 post for the Organization of American Historians blog, I note the history of the idea, the project of women's political advancement, and whether history makes the case that Clinton will win.
In the spring of 2015 I gave a talk at Shimer College on Sarah Grimke and the feminist tradition -- it is on YouTube!
My bio entry on Thomas Smith Grimke, brother of Angelina and Sarah, is on the American National Biography Online website.
In researching the above entry about Thomas Grimke, I faced a challenge -- how to find an image of him? Here is the story. posted on the Oxford University Press blog.
Visiting Charleston, SC? Take the Grimke Sisters
Tour! And consider a visit to the historic marker in front of the Grimke sisters' home.
WATCH A VIDEO of Angelina Grimke giving a speech! Well, actually it is an actress performing a speech (a part of it) . In February 1838, Angelina gave a powerful address to a committee of the Massachusetts state legislature, with an enormous crowd of people gathered to hear it (it was that unusal that a woman would give a speech). She and Sarah had spent the summer supporting a campaign in Massachusetts to collect women's signatures on petitions to Congress to end slavery in the District of Columbia. She was now presenting the petitions to the committee, to ask the state legislature to send the petitions forward to Congress (they declined).
An actress, Anne Gottlieb, performed the (short) surviving portion of it, at an event in Boston in October 2013. It is well worth watching. The speech is brilliant and so is Gottlieb's performance, which begins at 11:03.
About the Sisters
My next book will be about Angelina and Sarah Grimké, two abolitionists and women's rights advocates of the 1830s, and about the turbulent decade in which their activism flourished. It will be published by Flatiron Books, an imprint of Macmillan, in Fall 2018.
The sisters, born in Charleston, S.C. to a wealthy slaveowning family, fled north in the 1820s to Philadelphia to escape life in a slave state and a home with slaves as servants. But their horror at slavery did not translate into social action until the new, immediate abolition movement persuaded them that the institution of slavery could end. They joined the campaign, lecturing widely, organizing abolition societies and gathering petition signatures on slavery. They were the first American women to travel, lecture and organize for a secular cause.
Growing up in the early part of the nineteenth century, the ambitious and brilliant sisters were blocked by society's narrow expectations for women. They were denied formal education and all careers except teaching were closed to them. Eventually, both sisters aspired to be ministers, even though their own Episcopal Church, like most Protestant denominations, forbade women from that profession. Religiously restless, the sisters were drawn, after converting to Presbyterianism for a time, to become Quakers in part because of its tradition of women ministers. But they did not find encouragement among the Quakers either. The abolition movement, however, welcomed the Grimkes,who were the only Southern women to become abolitionists. The opportunities the movement gave them and its emphasis in these years on human rights helped the sisters reinterpret their lives as women, while friendships with African American Quaker abolitionists deepened their understanding of racism. Transformed by the radicalism of the decade of the 1830s and by their own courage to live according to their consciences, the sisters spent almost three years in speeches and published writings, making the case to end slavery and racial and female oppression.
Below is the elegant doorway to the four story house in Charleston where they grew up.
For more about the sisters, see "About the Grimké sisters" and the Women's History Blog, which has a speech Angelina gave to a committee of the Massachusetts state legislature in 1838. In doing so, she became the first American woman to address a legislative body.