AMERICAN SISTERS: Sarah and Angelina Grimké and the First Fight for Human Rights
My biography of the Grimke sisters will cover their formative years in Charleston, their challenging years as Orthodox Quakers in Philadelphia, their groundbreaking years as lecture agents and pamphlet writers for the American Anti-Slavery Society, and the first years of Angelina's marriage to Theodore Weld, in a household that Sarah shared and to which three children were eventually added. Weld was one of the leading immediate abolitionists of their day, making theirs a distinctly reformist household. The book, will be published in 2023 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
My biography will be the first biography of the sisters since historian Gerda Lerner published her short, groundbreaking book The Grimke Sisters from South Carolina in 1967.This was the book that re-introduced the Grimkes to the world, just when American feminism and the Civil Rights movement were eager to learn more about their forbearers. By then an earlier, somewhat fictionalized 1885 biography, The Grimke Sisters, by Catherine H. Birney, had long been out of print.
In 1967, the field of American women's history did not yet exist. Indeed, Gerda Lerner went on to be a founding mother of the field. Since then, her former graduate students and others have produced a great deal of valuable scholarship on the history of women and abolition, the history of slavery and the anti-slavery movement, and other areas that touch on the Grimke sisters' lives and work. In my biography, I will be able to drawn on this research to present what I hope is a rich and fascinating story for the general reader.
Other books have dealt with the Grimkes in various ways. Mark Perry wrote a book about several generations of the Grimkes, though he chose not to delve into the historical context or relevant scholarship, and Sue Monk Kidd, in her novel Invention of Wings, created a fictionalized Sarah Grimke to advance her story about a slave Sarah supposedly owned.
For more information about the sisters and their times, see "About the Grimké Sisters" on this website and see the Women's History Blog for a discussion of one of Angelina Grimké's firsts: when, in 1838, she became the first American woman to address a legislative body. The speech itself is also on the blog.