Sarah Grimké

Women's Rights Movement Activist, Suffragist and Abolitionist

Suffragist and womens rights movement supporter Sarah Grimke
Sarah Grimké (credit: Wikipedia, public domain)

The Suffragist Sarah Grimké: Synopsis

Sarah Grimké was a famous abolitionist and women's rights movement activist known for her eloquent works denouncing slavery as immoral and inhumane, and her efforts toward obtaining rights for women. Together with her abolitionist sister, Angelina Grimké, and brother-in-law, Theodore Weld, Sarah Grimké co-authored the book 'American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses'. Sarah Grimké also penned the first works drawing parallels between the suppression of African-Americans and that suffered by women, and together with her sister, became the nation's only southern white female abolitionists.

The Suffragist Sarah Grimké: The Young Abolitionist

Sarah Grimké was born to John Faucheraud Grimké and Mary Smith; an affluent family who socialised only amongst the Charleston elite. It was expected that, like her mother before her, Sarah Grimké would have married a successful gentleman and enjoyed a large household and slaves of her own, however, this was far from the path that she was to follow and instead wanted to pursue a career in law like her father and brother Thomas.

Such a thing was unheard of for a woman, however, she was permitted to learn with Thomas until he went to Yale. As per the times, Sarah Grimké was prevented from going to college. Attuned to the misery of slaves from a young age; on seeing the whipping of a slave when five years old, Sarah Grimké was said to have cried and demanded to be taken somewhere else where such things didn't happen. When twelve, Sarah Grimké read to the family's slaves from the bible, secretly teaching her personal slave how to read and write in the evenings. Unfortunately her slave was punished severely, for not only was this undertaking illegal in South Carolina, many slave holders believed learning would take it's toll on the slave and make them unhappy and unfit for work. Sarah Grimké was distraught when her slave died some years later and refused offers from her parents for another.

The Suffragist Sarah Grimké: Angelina

Sarah Grimké's sister, Angelina Grimké, was born in 1805; after much begging, Sarah Grimké was permitted to be her baby sister's godmother and their relationship remained close throughout their lives. Angelina would often write to Sarah Grimké referring to her as mother, as their mother was often criticised for being less demonstrative and weary from managing fourteen children, untold slaves, their house in Church Street, Charleston, and the Beaufort plantation. The sisters had similar goals and beliefs and spent little of their adult lives apart.

The Suffragist Sarah Grimké: Religion and Abolition

At the age of twenty-six, Sarah Grimké met Israel Morris, leader of the Philadelphia Quakers; believing their ideals mirrored her own, she readily converted. Israel proposed in 1826, but despite Sarah Grimké's feelings for him, she declined and again turned down his offer four years later. From here she moved to Philadelphia, later to be joined by Angelina. However, the two were not satisfied by the Quakers' gentle approach toward slavery and instead chose to find other more immediate ways to be of use.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE SUFFRAGIST SARAH GRIMKE

Name: Sarah Moore Grimké
AKA: Sarah Grimké
Born: 11/26/1792, Charleston, South Carolina
Died: 11/23/1873
Famed for: Drawing the first comparison between the suppression of women and African Americans, and numerous literature promoting equality
Parents: John Faucheraud Grimké and Mary Smith

In 1836 Sarah and Angelina attended the American Anti-Slavery Convention in New York, taking part in a nineteen day course amongst all male abolitionists. The sisters toured the Northern States giving lectures about racial inequality, advising how every woman could find her voice and speak out against the injustice of slavery. Though their lectures saw an increase in female anti-slavery associations, many people including religious leaders and even fellow abolitionists were furious or shocked that they addressed men and women at a time where this was socially unacceptable. Some women were against the lectures being aimed at both genders as this changed the perception of a woman's place in a male dominated  world.

The Suffragist Sarah Grimké: The Women's Rights Movement

In 1837, Sarah Grimké was the first person to draw similarities between the suppression of women and African-Americans in 'Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women suppression of the African-Americans'; neither were allowed the same education as white men, both were considered inferior, and they were not allowed to vote. The letters also show that Sarah Grimké was intelligent and determined, capable of researching other cultures and traditions, writing with empathy and compassion about the gender discrimination women were subjected to from all nations. In 1839, Sarah Grimké, Angelina Grimké and Theodore Weld penned 'American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses'.

After this time, Sarah Grimké resided with Angelina and Theodore, assisting in raising her niece and nephews, whilst continuing to write pamphlets. In 1854, Sarah Grimké taught arithmetic to children at the boarding school run from her sister's house, attended by the children of various abolitionist friends. Some four years later, it came to light that Sarah Grimké's brother, Henry, had sons by his slave. Angelina and Sarah Grimké supported Archibald and Francis through college, embracing them in to their family.

Sources:

  1. Pamela R Durso - The Power of Woman: The Life and Writings of Sarah Grimké

  2. Gerda Lerner - The Feminist Thought of Sarah Grimké

  3. Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 1

  4. Catherine H. Birney - The Grimké Sisters, Sarah Grimké and Angelina Grimké, The First American Women Advocates of Abolition and Woman's Rights

  5. The Weld Grimké Papers

The Biography of Suffragist Sarah Grimké

  • The Biography of Sarah Grimké for Education and Learning

  •  Information About Sarah Grimké and her Stance on Suffrage

  • Sarah Grimké: Speeches, Lectures and Tours

 

  • Quick Facts About Sarah Grimké

  • The Life of Sarah Grimké and her Family

  • The Importance of Sarah Grimké in the Women's Rights Movement

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