Sarah Grimké (1792–1873) and Angelina Grimké Weld (1805–1879)
Copy of engraved portrait of Angelina Grimké,
ca. 1845. From Woman's Rights Collection,
1853–1958, Schlesinger Library on the History
of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute.
Sisters Sarah Grimké and Angelina Grimké Weld were abolitionists and women's rights activists from South Carolina. After being raised by a slaveholder in Charleston, South Carolina, Sarah and Angelina moved to Philadelphia in 1819 due to their strong opposition to slavery. In 1835, Angelina wrote a letter against slavery that William Lloyd Garrison published in his abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator.
A year later, Angelina followed up on this success by publishing An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South (1836). One of Angelina's principal arguments in this pamphlet was that slavery was destroying the institution of marriage by encouraging white slaveholders to father illegitimate children with black slave women.
Jumping into the fray with her sister, Sarah published her own pamphlet, An Epistle to the Clergy of the Southern States (1836), which denounced slavery. Confronted by discrimination against women in the abolitionist movement, the Grimké sisters turned their attention to women's equality as well. In 1837, Angelina published An Appeal to the Women of the Nominally Free States, and afterwards both sisters went on a tour of Northern churches to campaign against slavery and in favor of women's rights. They came under attack by Catharine Beecher, a prominent commentator on the position of women in society who argued that women should remain in the domestic sphere. In response, Angelina wrote several letters to Beecher that were later published as Letters to Catherine Beecher, in which she vigorously defended her right to speak out in favor of causes like abolition. In 1838, Sarah wrote Letters on the Equality of the Sexes to argue that the rights of African-Americans and women were linked together.
In 1838, Angelina married the abolitionist Theodore Weld, and they moved with Sarah to Belleville, New Jersey, where they opened a school. During the Civil War two decades later, both sisters provided public support to Abraham Lincoln in letters and speeches.
Following the Civil War, Angelina moved with her husband Theodore to Hyde Park, Massachusetts. Sarah joined Angelina and her husband in Hyde Park, where the two sisters continued to campaign for women's rights until the end of their lives. Sarah died on December 23, 1873, and Angelina died six years later on October 26, 1879.
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