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Women of the Abolition Movement
Women involved in the abolition movement
The Abolition Movement
In Europe and other European colonies during the 18th century, members of the Society of Friends were the first whites to denounce slavery and the institution of slavery. They felt that everyone was special in the eyes of God and therefore viewed slavery as evil. This contributed to the abolition movement, which would find its way in to the United States. By 1788, women had also started joining this movement. A majority of these women were the wives and daughters of various personalities of Quaker, Unitarian and Evangelical backgrounds. They felt that the institution of slavery was evil and had to be challenged. On the other hand, religious revivals that had become prominent in the 1820s and 30s moved the abolitionists to view slavery as a sin against humanity that had to be eliminated. As a result, women members in the movement grew from a few hundred in the late 1700s to thousands of women in the 1830s. Religion therefore played a significant role in motivating women to get involved in the movement. Here, it is also important to note that the majority of these women had come from the various countryside areas and towns of the North, which were not only deeply religious, but also reform oriented.
For the movement, women contributed in a number of ways. For instance, in the late 18th century (1790s) women organized the boycott of sugar that was planted in plantations where slaves were being used for labor. By 1791, well over 300, 000 people joined the boycott, an act that resulted in the passing of the Abolition Act in 1807 . Although their actions had not eliminated slave trade in its entirety, given that chattel slavery was still intact, it had contributed to some changes that abolished the trade. On the other hand, women also served as organizers and members of the female antislavery societies. In 1837, a total of 71 delegates from eight of the states organized the very first Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women in New York, where they issued their publications and resolutions in addition to launching a campaign that was aimed at collecting a million signatures to petition against slavery. This was particularly important given that women were not allowed to vote at the time. Women writers on the other hand continued to produce a variety of books and stories, which contained antislavery messages. This helped contribute to a range of antislavery material, which were used to educate others on the issue. A small number of these women also went as far as speaking in public against the institution of slavery. As agents of the anti-slavery society, they would travel to various towns and country sides where they spoke to others against slavery.
Sarah and Angelina Grinke are some of the most well known women of abolition movement. They were also the first women lecturers who started out by teaching women and went on to teach the public in general on the issues of slavery among other issues. Women like Ann Yearsley, Hannah More and Phyllis Wheatley also contributed through their publications by writing poems on the issue. Anne Knight, also a campaigner for the cause played an active role not only by campaigning, but also by forming the Chelmsford Female Anti-Slavery Society in addition to touring to other countries where she gave lectures on the immorality of slavery. Some of the black women involved in the movement included Maria Stewart, Sarah Parker Remond and Sojourner, all of whom lectured and spoke against slavery as part of the women abolitionist movements.
As they became more actively involved to the extent of specking in public, women were still condemned by their male counterparts for taking up what was viewed as a task for men. Having participated in movements that fought for social justice on the issues of slavery, women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton also learnt how to organize and publicize political protests. They had come to the realization that men a majority of the men who either supported or opposed slavery also felt that women should not engage in public matters either in the abolitionist movement or in matters politics 6. This therefore led many more women to become involved in the abolitionist movements as well as the women rights movement in order to be allowed to become more involved in public affairs as well as political issues. Women now wanted to be allowed to vote, get similar education as men and even seek political positions.
The institution of slavery was a great evil that went on for too long. Given that it had its economic significance, those who opposed it stood much to lose given that they were going up against the economic system of the time. For this reason, it is important that we recognize and give respect to all those who fought against slavery given that they in deed did put their lives at risk in the process. I salute you.