1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Grimké, Sarah Moore and Angelina Emily
GRIMKÉ, SARAH MOORE (1792–1873) and ANGELINA EMILY (1805–1879), American reformers, born in Charleston, South Carolina—Sarah on the 6th of November 1792, and Angelina on the 20th of February 1805—were daughters of John Fachereau Grimké (1752–1819), an artillery officer in the Continental army, a jurist of some distinction, a man of wealth and culture and a slave-holder.
Their older brother, Thomas Smith Grimké (1786–1834), was born in Charleston; graduated at Yale in 1807; was a successful lawyer, and in 1826–1830 was a member of the state Senate, in which he, almost alone of the prominent lawyers of the state, opposed nullification; he strongly advocated spelling-reform, temperance and absolute non-resistance, and published Addresses on Science, Education and Literature (1831). His early intellectual influence on Sarah was strong.
In her thirteenth year Sarah was godmother to her sister Angelina. Sarah in 1821 revisited Philadelphia, whither she had accompanied her father on his last illness, and there, having been already dissatisfied with the Episcopal Church and with the Presbyterian, she became a Quaker; so, too, did Angelina, who joined her in 1829. Both sisters (Angelina first) soon grew into a belief in immediate abolition, strongly censured by many Quakers, who were even more shocked by a sympathetic letter dated “8th Month, 30th, 1835” written by Angelina to W. L. Garrison, followed in 1836 by her Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, and at the end of that year, by an Epistle to the Clergy of the Southern States, written by Sarah, who now thoroughly agreed with her younger sister. In the same year, at the invitation of Elizur Wright (1804–1885), corresponding secretary of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Angelina, accompanied by Sarah, began giving talks on slavery, first in private and then in public, so that in 1837, when they set to work in Massachusetts, they had to secure the use of large halls. Their speaking from public platforms resulted in a letter issued by some members of the General Association of Congregational Ministers of Massachusetts, calling on the clergy to close their churches to women exhorters; Garrison denounced the attack on the Grimké sisters and Whittier ridiculed it in his poem “The Pastoral Letter.” Angelina pointedly answered Miss Beecher on the Slave Question (1837) in letters in the Liberator. Sarah, who had never forgotten that her studies had been curtailed because she was a girl, contributed to the Boston Spectator papers on “The Province of Woman” and published Letters on the Condition of Women and the Equality of the Sexes (1838)—the real beginning of the “woman’s rights” movement in America, and at the time a cause of anxiety to Whittier and others, who urged upon the sisters the prior importance of the anti-slavery cause. In 1838 Angelina married Theodore Dwight Weld (1803–1895), a reformer and abolition orator and pamphleteer, who had taken part in the famous Lane Seminary debates in 1834, had left the Seminary for the lecture platform when the anti-slavery society was broken up by the Lane trustees, but had lost his voice in 1836 and had become editor of the publications of the American Anti-Slavery Society. They lived, with Sarah, at Fort Lee, New Jersey, in 1838–1840, then on a farm at Belleville, New Jersey, and then conducted a school for black and white alike at Eagleswood, near Perth Amboy, New Jersey, from 1854 to 1864. Removing to Hyde Park, Massachusetts, the three were employed in Dr Lewis’s school. There Sarah died on the 23rd of December 1873, and Angelina on the 26th of October 1879. Both sisters indulged in various “fads”—Graham’s diet, bloomer-wearing, absolute non-resistance. Angelina did no public speaking after her marriage, save at Pennsylvania Hall (Philadelphia), destroyed by a mob immediately after her address there; but besides her domestic and school duties she was full of tender charity. Sarah at the age of 62 was still eager to study law or medicine, or to do something to aid her sex; at 75 she translated and abridged Lamartine’s life of Joan of Arc.
See Catherine H. Birney, The Grimké Sisters (Boston, 1885).
- Weld was the author of several anti-slavery books which had considerable influence at the time. Among them are The Bible against Slavery (1837), American Slavery as It Is (1839), a collection of extracts from Southern papers, and Slavery and the Internal Slave Trade in the U.S. (1841).