Sarah Grimké

American abolitionist

Sarah Moore Grimké (November 26, 1792December 23, 1873) was an abolitionist, and feminist.

I know nothing of man’s rights, or woman’s rights; human rights are all that I recognise.

Quotes edit

  • At sixty I look back on a life of deep disappointments, of withered hopes, of unlooked for suffering, of severe discipline. Yet I have sometimes tasted exquisite joy and have found solace for many a woe in the innocence and earnest love of Theodore's children. But for this my life would have little to record of mundane pleasures.
    • Letter to Harriot Hunt (1853), as quoted in The Grimké Sisters from South Carolina: Pioneers for Woman's [sic] Rights and Abolition, p. 241, by Gerda Lerner. Editorial Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0195106032.
  • Oh, had I received the education I desired, had I been bred to the profession of the law, I might have been a useful member of society, and instead of myself and my property being taken care of, I might have been a protector of the helpless, a pleader for the poor and unfortunate.
    • As quoted in The Grimke Sisters from South Carolina, by Gerda Lerner, ch.5 (1969).

Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Woman (1837) edit

  • Had Adam tenderly reproved his wife, and endeavored to lead her to repentance instead of sharing in her guilt, I should be much more ready to accord to man that superiority which he claims; but as the facts stand disclosed by the sacred historian, it appears to me that to say the least, there was as much weakness exhibited by Adam as by Eve. They both fell from innocence, and consequently from happiness, but not from equality.
    • Letter 1 (July 11, 1837).
  • All history attests that man has subjected woman to his will, used her as a means to promote his selfish gratification, to minister to his sensual pleasures, to be instrumental in promoting his comfort; but never has he desired to elevate her to that rank she was created to fill. He has done all he could to debase and enslave her mind; and now he looks triumphantly on the ruin he has wrought, and say, the being he has thus deeply injured is his inferior.
    • Letter 2 (July 17, 1837).
  • I ask no favors for my sex. I surrender not our claim to equality. All I ask of our brethren is, that they will take their feet from off our necks, and permit us to stand upright on that ground which God designed us to occupy.
    • Letter 2 (July 17, 1837).
  • I am persuaded that the rights of woman, like the rights of slaves, need only be examined to be understood and asserted.
    • Letter 3 (July 1837).
  • Fashionable women regard themselves, and are regarded by men, as pretty toys or as mere instruments of pleasure; and the vacuity of mind, the heartlessness, the frivolity which is the necessary result of this false and debasing estimate of women, can only be fully understood by those who have mingled in the folly and wickedness of fashionable life.
    • Letter 8 (1837).
  • The virtue of female slaves is wholly at the mercy of irresponsible tyrants, and women are bought and sold in our slave markets, to gratify the brutal lust of those who bear the name of Christians.
    • Letter 8.
  • There has been a comparatively greater proportion of good queens, than of good kings.
    • Letter 9 (August 25, 1837).
  • Intellect is not sexed;... strength of mind is not sexed; and … our views about the duties of men and the duties of women, the sphere of man and the sphere of woman, are mere arbitrary opinions, differing in different ages and countries, and dependent solely on the will and judgment of erring mortals.
    • Letter 9 (August 25, 1837).
  • One of the duties which devolve upon women in the present interesting crisis, is to prepare themselves for more extensive usefulness, by making use of those religious and literary privileges and advantages that are within their reach, if they will only stretch out their hands and possess them.
    • Letter 15 (October 20, 1837).
  • If the minds of women were enlightened and improved, the domestic circle would be more frequently refreshed by intelligent conversation, a means of edification now deplorably neglected, for want of that cultivation which these intellectual advantages would confer.
    • Letter 15 (October 20, 1837).
  • I want my sex to claim nothing from their brethren but what their brethren may justly claim from them.
    • Opposing unreciprocated acts of chivalry and deference toward women.
    • Letter 15 (October 20, 1837).
  • If the sewing societies, the avails of whose industry are now expended in supporting and educating young men for the ministry, were to withdraw their contributions to these objects, and give them where they are more needed, to their advancement of their own sex in useful learning, the next generation might furnish sufficient proof, that in intelligence and ability to master the whole circle of sciences, woman is not inferior to man.
    • Letter 15 (October 20, 1837).
  • I do deeply deplore, of the sake of the cause, the prevalent notion, that the clergy must be had, either by persuasion or by bribery. They will not need persuasion or bribery, if their hearts are with us; if they are not, we are better without them. It is idle to suppose that the kingdom of heaven cannot come on earth, without their cooperation.
    • The “cause” was two-fold: abolition of slavery and establishment of women’s rights, especially suffrage. Some abolitionists and feminists thought it essential to win the support of clergymen.
    • Letter 15 (October 20, 1837).
  • I know nothing of man’s rights, or woman’s rights; human rights are all that I recognise.
    • Letter 15 (October 20, 1837).

The Female Experience (1977) edit

Written by Gerda Lerner

  • The reason why women effect so little and are so shallow is because their aims are low, marriage is the prize for which they strive; if foiled in that they rarely rise above disappointment.
    • Written in 1852, as quoted in ch. 87.
  • It would be as wise to set up an accomplished lawyer to saw wood as a business as to condemn an educated and sensible woman to spend all her time boiling potatoes and patching old garments. Yet this is the lot of many a one who incessantly stitches and boils and bakes, compelled to thrust back out of sight the aspirations which fill her soul.
    • Written in 1852, as quoted in ch. 87.
  • Is it not clear that to give to such women as desire it and can devote themselves to literary and scientific pursuits all the advantages enjoyed by men of the same class will lessen essentially the number of thoughtless, idle, vain and frivolous women and thus secure the [sic] society the services of those who now hang as dead weight?
    • Written in 1852, as quoted in ch. 87.
  • [Girls] study under the paralyzing idea that their acquirements cannot be brought into practical use. They may subserve the purposes of promoting individual domestic pleasure and social enjoyment in conversation, but what are they in comparison with the grand stimulation of independence and self- reliance, of the capability of contributing to the comfort and happiness of those whom they love as their own souls?
    • Written in 1852, as quoted in ch. 87.
  • Many a woman shudders … at the terrible eclipse of those intellectual powers which in early life seemed prophetic of usefulness and happiness, hence the army of martyrs among our married and unmarried women who, not having cultivated a taste for science, art or literature, form a corps of nervous patients who make fortunes for agreeable physicians.
    • Written in 1852, as quoted in ch. 87.
  • Thus far woman has struggled through life with bandaged eyes, accepting the dogma of her weakness and inability to take care of herself not only physically but intellectually. She has held out a trembling hand and received gratefully the proffered aid. She has foregone her right to study, to know the laws and purposes of government to which she is subject. But there is now awakened in her a consciousness that she is defrauded of her legitimate Rights and that she never can fulfill her mission until she is placed in that position to which she feels herself called by the divinity within. Hitherto she has surrendered her person and her individuality to man, but she can no longer do this and not feel that she is outraging her nature and her God.
    • Written in 1857, as quoted in ch. 87.

Quotes about Sarah Grimké edit

  • I never saw that great woman, Mary Wollstonecraft, but I l have read her eloquent and unanswerable arguments in behalf of the liberty of womankind. I have met and known most of the progressive women who came after her — Lucretia Mott, the Grimké sisters, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone — a long galaxy of great women. I have heard them speak, saying in only slightly different phrases exactly what I heard these newer advocates of the cause say at these meetings. Those older women have gone on and most of those who work with me in the early years have gone. I am here for a little time only and then my place will be filled as theirs was filled. The fight must not cease; you must see that it does not stop. There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause — I wish I could name every one — but with such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible!
    • Susan B. Anthony speech February 15, 1906 — 38th Annual Convention, National American Woman Suffrage Association, Baltimore MD
  • "Thine in the bonds of Womanhood," the abolitionist and woman's rights advocate Sarah Grimké signed her letters.
    • Bettina Aptheker Tapestries of Life: Women's Work, Women's Consciousness, and the Meaning of Daily Experience (1989)
  • the essay by the Southern-born abolitionist, Sarah Grimké, The Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women (1838), represented, in the opinion of historian Eleanor Flexner, the first serious discussion of woman's rights by an American woman. Sarah Grímké argued for social, political, economic, and legal equality between the sexes. She condemned the rape of Black women under slavery and observed the injurious effects of that system upon the white women of the South. Likewise, she pointed to the effects of inequality upon marital relations, portending the future content of the feminist claim: "That there is a root of bitterness continually springing up in families and troubling the repose of both men and women, must be manifest to even a superficial observer; and I believe it is the mistaken notion of the inequality of the sexes. As there is an assumption of superiority on the one part, which is not sanctioned by Jehovah, there is an incessant struggle on the other to rise to that degree of dignity, which God designed women to possess in common with men, and to maintain those rights and exercise those privileges which every woman's common sense, apart from prejudices of education, tells her are inalienable; they are a part of her moral nature, and can only cease when her immortal mind is extinguished.”
    • Bettina Aptheker Woman's Legacy: Essays on Race, Sex, and Class in American History (1982)
  • Female anti-slavery networks, work on the Underground Railroad, club and church activities, and literary associations reflected a significant homosocial world. Some letters also reveal intimate, lifelong friendships that crossed racial lines. The Afro-American abolitionist, educator, and woman's rights advocate Sarah Mapps Douglass had such a relationship with Sarah Grimké; and Emma V. Brown, also an educator and an early graduate of Oberlin College, corresponded with Emily Howland, a white abolitionist and Quaker educator, for more than forty years. Given the taboo against interracial friendships, these personal alliances, and others like them, are notable…
    • Bettina Aptheker Tapestries of Life: Women's Work, Women's Consciousness, and the Meaning of Daily Experience (1989)
  • Of Sarah and Angelina Grimke I knew but little personally. These brave sisters from Charleston, South Carolina, had inherited slaves, but in their conversion from Episcopacy to Quakerism, in 1828, became convinced that they had no right to such inheritance. They emancipated their slaves and came North and entered at once upon the pioneer work in the advancing education of woman, though they saw then in their course only their duty to the slave. They had " fought the good fight" before I came into the ranks, but by their unflinching testimony and unwavering courage, they had opened the way and made it possible, if not easy, for other women to follow their example.
    It is memorable of them that their public advocacy of anti-slavery was made the occasion of the issuing of a papal bull, in the form of a " pastoral letter," by the evangelical clergy of Boston, in which the churches and all God-fearing people were warned against their influence.
  • I came into the study of history through my work on a biography of Sarah and Angelina Grimké... I was fascinated with the lives and characters of these two women, who had not had a biography written about them since 1885... They spoke to me in a very personal way and I wanted to transmit what I received from these women of another century to readers of my day.
  • Deriving their analytic framework from the work of an earlier generation of feminists, particularly such singular rebels as Mary Wollstonecraft and Sarah Grimké, the anarchist women insisted that the humanity of women was all the justification their cause required.
    • Margaret S Marsh, Anarchist Women, 1870-1920 (1981)
  • Anarchist-feminists would have concurred with Sarah Grimké's simple plea: "I ask no favor for my sex...All I ask our brethren is that they will take their heels from our necks and to permit us to stand upright on that ground which God designed us to occupy."
    • Margaret S Marsh, Anarchist Women, 1870-1920 (1981)
  • The widening of women’s sphere is to improve her lot. Let us do it, and if the world scoff, let it scoff — if it sneer, let it sneer — but we will go emulating the example of the sisters Grimké and Abby Kelly. When they first lectured against slavery they were not listened to as respectfully as you listen to us. So the first female physician meets many difficulties, but to the next the path will be made easy.
  • The anti-slavery cause had come to break stronger fetters than those that held the slave. The idea of equal rights was in the air. The wail of the slave, his clanking fetters, his utter need, appealed to everybody. Women heard. Angelina and Sarah Grimké and Abby Kelley went out to speak for the slaves. Such a thing had never been heard of. An earthquake shock could hardly have startled the community more. Some of the abolitionists forgot the slave in their efforts to silence the women. The Anti-Slavery Society rent itself in twain over the subject. The Church was moved to its very foundation in opposition.

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