top of page

Angelina Emily Grimké was born on February 20, 1805 in Charleston, South Carolina on a slave-owning plantation.  As a thirteen year old, Angelina refused her confirmation in the church because of the church's support of slavery.  Angelina later tried to pursuade her mother to free the enslaved people in their household.  After going to Philadelphia with her older sister Sarah, she became a Quaker.  She was determined to stay in Charleston and persuade the community to opose slavery, but she soon moved north to Philadelphia with her sister.  Angelina joined the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society and in 1835 she wrote a letter to William Lloyd Garrison, which Garrison printed in the Liberator.  The sisters moved to Providence in 1836, where Angelina published an "Appeal to the Christian Women of the South" and although widely printed in New England, it was publicly burned in her native South Carolina.  Angelina and Sarah spoke in sixty-seven cities in less than half a years time. 


In February of 1838, Angelina became the first woman in US history to address members of a legislative body in America.  Her full speech is available here.  After Catherine Beecher wrote an Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism Addressed to Miss A.D. Grimke, arguing that women should not be involved outside the domestic sphere, Angelina  repsonded with thirteen “Letters to Catherine Beecher".  In 1838, Angelina married fellow abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld.  The wedding had black and white guests, including six former slaves of the Grimké family.  A white and black minister precided over the ceremony and Weld renounced his authority over his wife and she vowed to love, not obey him.  The cake was made by a black confectionist.  Two days later, Angelina gave a speech in front of three thousand abolitionists at the newly opened Pennsylvania Hall in Philadelphia.  An anti-abolition mob formed outside the building and began breaking windows of the building while Angelina spoke.  She did not stop her speech and addressed the actions of the mob, saying, “What would the breaking of every window be? What would the levelling of this Hall be? Any evidence that we are wrong, or that slavery is a good and wholesome institution ? What if the mob should now burst in upon us, break up our meeting and commit violence upon our persons -- would this be anything compared with what the slaves endure?” In 1839, Weld and the Grimké sisters published "American Slavery As It Is: Testimony From a Thousand Witnesses.”, which inspired “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.  In 1854, they moved to Eagleswood in New Jersey, where they remained until 1862. 


Rebecca Buffum Spring and Marcus Spring started the Raritan Bay Union, a utopian society, at Eagleswood (now part of Perth Amboy).  Theodore Weld was put in charge of the school at Eagleswood and the Grimké sisters were teachers there.  Other abolitionists who were part of the Eagleswood community included Edward Palmer, James Miller McKim, Henry Martyn Parkhurst and former Vice Presidential candidate, James Gillespie Birney.  His daughter-in-law, Catherine Hoffman Birney, who got to know the Grimké sisters while living at Eagleswood published a biography about the sisters in 1885.  According to Thomas Mundy Peterson’s own account, James Lawrence Kearny, Marcus Spring and Edward Palmer helped convince him to vote in a special election in Port Jervis after the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, making him the first African American to vote.  Eagleswood was home to a number of artists and authors including Caroline Kirkland, Steele MacKaye, William Page and George Inness.  Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Greeley, Henry David Thoreau and others visited and lectured at the school.  In 1856, Thoreau surveyed the Eagleswood property for Marcus Spring.  Caroline Kirkland invited George Inness to live at her house at Eagleswood until Marcus Spring had built him a home and studio.  George Inness gave Marcus and Rebecca Spring “Peace and Plenty” as a gift in return.  Aaron Dwight Stevens and Albert Hazlett, who were killed in John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry, were buried at Eagleswood cemetery before being reinterred in Upstate New York.  John Brown’s wife, Mary Anne Day Brown, stayed at Eagleswood with Rebecca Spring after the Harper’s Ferry Raid.  The school at Eagleswood was unique in being both coed and integrated. 

In 1863, the Grimké sisters published "An Appeal to the Women of the Republic," calling for a pro-Union women's convention, at which Angelina was a speaker.  The sisters moved to Boston, where they were officers of the Massachusetts Women’s Suffrage Association.  On March 7, 1870, Angelina and Sarah illegally voted as a protest with forty-two other women. 

bottom of page