Sarah Grimke Letters On The Equality Of The Sexes

Sarah Grimke Letters On The Equality Of The Sexes – Born to slave owners in South Carolina, Sarah Grimke would become an activist for the emancipation of slaves and an outspoken campaign for women’s rights. As a child, he rebelled against existing laws and taught Kitty, a young slave girl given as a “constant companion,” to read, for which he was punished. Studying law and argument with his brother, his family denied him a formal education, although his father, a lawyer and later a state supreme court judge, remarked that if he had been a boy he would have been the greatest lawyer in the country.

Accompanying her ailing father to Philadelphia, Sarah entered a life without slavery and discovered the Quaker religion. A few years later, she moved permanently to Philadelphia and joined the Quakers with her younger sister, Angelina. The sisters joined the Women’s Anti-Slavery Society, founded by Lucretia Mott, and their lives changed after Angelina’s letter describing what she witnessed on the plantation was published in the Abolitionist Liberator newspaper. Chastised by Quakers, unable to return home under threat of imprisonment, but embraced by abolitionists, the Grimke sisters spoke out about abolition and women’s rights throughout the Northeast. Being one of the first women to speak publicly, they shocked many listeners who were surprised that women had the courage to speak openly about these issues. He realized that “to change the status of one group [of slaves] is to change the status of all.” The sisters wrote a number of anti-slavery pamphlets, including Sarah’s Letter to the Southern Clergy (1836), Address to Free Colored Americans (1837), and Letters on the Equality of the Sexes (1838) from an American author on women’s rights. In the Equality Letters, she would compare the subjugation of women in society to slavery.

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Sarah Grimke Letters On The Equality Of The Sexes

Sarah Grimke Letters On The Equality Of The Sexes

Sarah was condemned by the church for campaigning for women’s rights. Abolitionists were also concerned that he was deviating from slavery as he discussed both topics. For some time he stayed away from public speaking, led schools and wrote. He continued to campaign for equal rights until his death. At age 79, she led a group of women in a blizzard to a local polling station (she and others were not allowed to vote), arguing that the Fourteenth Amendment granted them full voting rights. She inspired others like Elizabeth Cady Stanton to start the women’s rights movement.

Sarah And Angelina Grimké

“But I don’t want any favors for my sex. I am not giving up on our claim to equality. My only request to our brothers is to remove their legs from our necks and allow us to stand upright. . .”

Slaves standing in front of buildings on Smith’s plantation in Beaufort, South Carolina. Photographer Timothy O’Sullivan, 1862. The Granger Collection

Learn more about Sarah Grimke, read her fictional account of her life or her own words in a collection of her writings.

Duncan, Joyce. “Sarah Moore Grimke (1792-1873).” Shapers of the Great Women’s Rights Controversy: A Biographical Dictionary, Greenwood Press, 2008, p. [13]-17. Shapers of the Great American Debate 9. Gale eBooks,

Primary Sources: Letters & Speeches

Grimke, Sarah Moore, 1792-1873. Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Status of Woman: Addressed to Mary S. Parker. Boston: I. Knapp, 1838.

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