Module 04: How Did Abolitionism Lead to the Struggle for Women's Rights?


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Political Action Political Consciousness

The documents that follow highlight two important ways in which involvement in the anti-slavery cause changed women's understanding of their own place within American society. The first section, Political Action, explores how women made inroads into what was commonly considered a "no-woman's land:" the male and masculine sphere of politics. Documents in the second section, Political Consciousness, provide evidence of how the act of entering the public sphere to protest the oppression experienced by enslaved blacks led white activist women to question their own subordinate status.

As you read the documents, pay careful attention to the language the writers used, how they justified their involvement in what many of their fellow citizens considered "unladylike" activities, and how their consciousness about their position as women in American society changed over time.

Political Action

1. "Duty of Females"
The Liberator, 5 May 1832

2. One Woman's Anti-Slavery Activities
Excerpts from Mary Avery White's diary entries, 1836-1839

3. The First New England Anti-Slavery Society
The Liberator, 14 July 1832

4. Weymouth and Braintree Female Anti-Slavery Society
The Liberator, 20 October 1848

5. Women's Petition to Congress

6. Anti-Slavery Fair
Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, 1840s

7. Anti-Slavery Bazaar
The Liberator, 15 December 1848

8. "Lend Us Your Aid"
The Liberator, 15 December 1848

Political Consciousness

9. "Am I not a Woman and a Sister?"
The Liberator, 17 March 1832

10. Letters From Angelina Grimké to Jane Smith
January - February 1837

11. Letters From Angelina Grimké to Jane Smith
May 1837

12. Sarah Grimké's Reflections on "The Pastoral Letter..."
July 1837

13. Letter from Sarah Grimké to Angelina Grimké
September 1837

14. Women's Experiences at the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England, June 1840
History of Woman Suffrage, 1881

15. Letter From Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Elizabeth J. Neall

16. "The Rights of Woman"
The Liberator, 9 February 1849