Angelina & Sarah Grimke

Angelina & Sarah Grimke
Abolitionists

Sarah and Angelina Grimke were American feminists and social reformers that spent their lives working and leading in both the abolitionist and suffrage movements. Because they were refined, wealthy southern women, their speeches and writings against slavery attracted considerable attention.

Sarah and Angelina Grimke (pronounced GRIHM kee) were born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1792 and 1805 respectively. They were the daughters of John F. Grimke and Mary Smith Grimke. Their father was a slave-holding judge and their mother came from a family prominent in South Carolina politics. Sarah was the sixth of fourteen children and Angelina was the last. Among their siblings were Thomas Smith Grimke, a lawyer, state senator, and advocate of peace, temperance, and educational reforms and Frederick Grimke who became a judge of the Ohio Supreme Court.

The Grimke sisters received an education that was considered suitable for young ladies of their day. Private tutors in the “proper” subjects educated them, but Sarah protested when she was denied being taught Greek, Latin, philosophy and law. Since she was not allowed formal education in these areas, she learned all she could from her father and brothers.

In 1821, Sarah left Charleston because of her strong antislavery views and moved to Philadelphia. She had come to know many Quakers, whom she admired because of their simplicity, sincerity, and piety and she joined herself to that group once moving to Philadelphia. Angelina joined her in Philadelphia in 1829 and together they set out to end the evil of slavery in our nation.

Both sisters gave antislavery lectures in several Northeastern states and were some of the first women to lecture in public in the United States. Angelina appealed to the women of America to support their fight against slavery in her works “Appeal to the Christian Women of the South”, published in1836 and “Appeal to Women of the Nominally Free States”, published in 1837. Sarah, too, began to write to gain support for abolition and in 1836 she published “Epistle to the Clergy of the Southern States”. Because of these and other writings, both Sarah and Angelina were threatened with imprisonment if they were ever to return to South Carolina. Regardless, they freed their family’s slaves that were left to them as part of their father’s estate.

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