from Chapter III [Anti-Slavery and Woman's Rights]
And above all other causes of the "Woman Suffrage Movement," was the Anti-Slavery struggle in this country. The ranks of the Abolitionists were composed of the most eloquent orators,the ablest logicians, men and women of the purest moral character and best minds in the nation. They were usually spoken of in the early days as "an illiterate, ill-mannered, poverty-stricken, crazy set of long-haired Abolitionists." While the fact is, some of the most splendid specimens of manhood and womanhood, in physical appearance, in culture, refinement, and knowledge of polite life, were found among the early Abolitionists. James G. Birney, John Pierpont, Gerrit Smith, Wendell Phillips, Charles Sumner, Maria Weston Chapman, Helen Garrison, Ann Green Phillips, Abby Kelly, Paulina Wright Davis, Lucretia Mott, were all remarkably fine-looking.
In the early Anti-Slavery conventions, the broad principles of
human rights were so exhaustively discussed, justice, liberty, and
equality, so clearly taught, that the women who crowded to listen
readily learned the lesson of freedom for themselves, and early began
to take part in the debates and business affairs of all associations.
Women not only felt every pulsation of man's heart for freedom, and by
her enthusiasm inspired the glowing eloquence that maintained him
through the struggle, but earnestly advocated with her own lips human
freedom and equality. When Angelian and Sarah Grimke began to lecture
in New England, their audiences were at first composed entirely of
women, but gentlemen, hearing of their eloquence and power, soon began
timidly to slip into the back seats, one by one. And before the
public were aroused to the dangerous innovation, these women were
speaking in crowded, promiscuous assemblies. The clergy opposed to
the abolition movement first took alarm, and issued a pastoral letter,
warning their congregations against the influence of such women. The
with anti-slavery associations took alarm also, and the initiative steps to silence the women, and to deprive them of the right to vote in the business meetings, were soon taken. This action culminated in a division in the Anti-Slavery Association. In the annual meeting in May, 1840, a formal vote was taken on the appointment of Abby Kelly on a business committee, and was sustained by over one hundred majority in favor of woman's right to take part in the proceedings of the Society. Pending the discussion, clergymen in the opposition went through the audience, urging every woman who agreed with them, to vote against the motion, thus asking them to do then and there, what with fervid eloquence, on that very occasion, they had declared a sin against God and Scripture for them to do anywhere. As soon as the vote was announced, and Abby Kelly's right on the business committee decided, the men, two of whom were clergymen, asked to be excused from serving on the committee.
Thus Sarah and Angelina Grimke and Abby Kelly, in advocating liberty for the black race, were early compelled to defend the right of free speech for themselves. They had the double battle to fight against the tyranny of sex and color at the same time, in which, however, they were well sustained by the able pens of Lydia Maria Child and Maria Weston Chapman. Their opponents were found not only in the ranks of the New England clergy, but among the most bigoted Abolitionists in Great Britain and the United States. Many a man who advocated equality most eloquently for a Southern plantation, could not tolerate it at his own fireside.