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

Boston: Lee and Shepard, Publishers, 1885. First edition. Very minor foxing to preliminary and terminal blanks. A near fine copy of a scarce work. Publisher’s brown cloth, lettered and ruled in gilt on front board, gilt-lettered spine, floral patterned endpapers. Octavo. [3], [1, blank], 319 pp. (Item ID: 16638)


Angelina Emily Grimké (1805-79) and Sarah Moore (1792-1873) were South Carolina-born essayists and social reformers, born to a wealthy slaveholder family. Sarah engaged in clandestine reading of works in Latin and law books; Angelina refused Episcopalian confirmation and was ultimately expelled from her congregation. She joined Sarah in Philadelphia, where the latter had become a Quaker minister, advocating for abolition and women’s rights. Sarah wrote several works, including Epistle to the Clergy of Southern States (1836), which argued that Christianity and slavery were incompatible, and Letters on the Equality of Sexes and the Condition of Woman (1838), which contests the Biblical justification of women’s inequality. Angelina authored a pamphlet (Appeal to Christian Women of the South, 1836) that encouraged woman to become active abolitionists. Both sisters worked for the New York Anti-Slavery Society and were the first American women to publically address mixed audiences. She also wrote An Appeal to the Women of the Nominally Free States (1837), in which she first made the connection between women and slaves.

Catherine Birney, a friend of the Grimké sisters and a former student of their boarding school, wrote their biography after living with them and being given access to their diaries and letters. The Grimké Sisters follows the lives of Sarah and Angelina from their childhood up to their deaths and, in eighteen chapters, discusses a plethora of significant topics, including religion, their relationship with Catherine Beecher, their abolitionist views, women’s rights, their speaking engagements and lectures before audiences of different ethnicities, etc.

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