Civil War Wiki

File:Sarah Moore Grimke.jpg

Sarah Moore Grimké (November 26, 1792 – December 23, 1873) was an American abolitionist, writer, and suffragist.

Early life[]

She was born in South Carolina, the daughter of Mary and John Faucheraud Grimké, a rich plantation owner who was also an attorney and a judge in South Carolina. Sarah’s early experiences with education shaped her future as an abolitionist and feminist. Throughout her childhood, she was keenly aware of the inferiority of her own education when compared to her brothers’ classical one, and despite the fact that all around her recognized her remarkable intelligence and abilities as an orator, she was prevented from substantive education or from pursuing her dream of becoming an attorney. She received education from private tutors on appropriate subjects for young women of the time.[1]

Sarah’s mother, Mary was a dedicated homemaker and an active member in the community. She was a leader in the Charleston’s Ladies Benevolent Society. Mary was also an active Episcopalian and gave some of her time to the poor of the community and women incarcerated in a nearby prison . Even though she had many responsibilities, Mary found time to read and comment her readings with her son Thomas. Sarah’s mother as a busy woman and Sarah did not have her attention because “she couldn’t be bothered with child’s concerns.”[2]

Perhaps because she felt so confined herself, Sarah expressed a sense of connection with the slaves to such an extent that her parents were unsettled. From the time she was twelve years old, Sarah spent her Sunday afternoons teaching Bible classes to the young slaves on the plantation, and she found it an extremely frustrating experience. While she wanted desperately to teach them to read the scripture for themselves, and they had a longing for such learning, she was refused. Her parents claimed that literacy would only make the slaves unhappy and rebellious; they also suggested that mental exertion would make them unfit for physical labor. And then teaching slaves to read had been against the law in South Carolina since 1740.

She secretly taught her personal slave to read and write, but when her parents discovered the young tutor at work, the vehemence of her father’s response proved alarming. He was furious and nearly had the young slave girl whipped. Fear of causing such trouble for the slaves themselves prevented Sarah from undertaking such a task again.

When her brother Thomas went off to law school at Yale, Sarah remained at home. Thomas continued teaching Sarah during his visits back home from Yale with new ideas about the dangers of Enlightenment and the importance of religion. These ideas, combined with her secret studies of the law, gave her some of the basis for her later work as an activist. [3]. Her father supposedly remarked that if Sarah had only been a boy, "she would have made the greatest jurist in the country"[4] Not only did the denial of education seem unfair, Sarah was further perplexed that while her parents and others within the community encouraged slaves to be baptized and to attend worship services, these believers were not viewed as true brothers and sisters in faith.

From her youth, Sarah determined that religion should take a more proactive role in improving the lives of those who suffered most; this was one of the key reasons she later joined the Quaker community where she became an outspoken advocate for education and suffrage for African-Americans and women.[5]

In 1819 Sarah accompanied her dying father to Philadelphia.[6]. . Sarah stayed in Philadelphia a few more months after her father died and then met Israel Morris, who would introduce her to Quakerism.[7] She went back home and decided to go back to Philadelphia to become a Quaker minister. She chose to leave her Episcopalian upbringing behind, and became a Quaker. She returned to Charleston, South Carolina, in the spring of 1827 to “save” her sister Angelina. Angelina visited Sarah in Philadelphia from July to November of the same year and returned to Charleston, committed to the Quaker faith. In November, 1829, Angelina joined her sister in Philadelphia. [8] The influence Sarah had on Angelina may had come from the relationship they had since they were young. For years, Angelina called her sister Sarah “mother.” Sarah was her godmother and her main caretaker since youth.[9]), this may explain why she felt the need to “save” Angelina from the limitations she faced in Charleston.


These South Carolinian women, daughters of slave owning plantation owners, had come to loathe slavery and all its degradations that they knew intimately. They hoped that their new faith would be more accepting of their abolitionist beliefs than had been their former. However, their initial attempts to attack slavery caused them difficulties in the Quaker community. Nevertheless, the sisters persisted despite the additional complication caused by the belief that the fight for women's rights was as important as the fight to abolish slavery. They continued to be attacked, even by some abolitionists who considered their position too extreme. In 1836, Sarah published Epistle to the Clergy of the Southern States. In 1837, Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women was published serially in a Massachusetts newspaper, The Spectator, and immediately reprinted in The Liberator, the newspaper published by radical abolitionist and women's rights leader William Lloyd Garrison. The letters were published in book form in 1838.

Sarah Grimke's role as both an able and vocal advocate of immediate emancipation and of women's rights were hugely controversial, not only in the South, but in the North also. It could easily be underestimated by people living at a different time in history how riled up New Englanders of the first half of the 19th Century could become over the issue of public speaking by women. These sisters were the first women agents of the abolitionist movement; and many believe that they were also the first women to speak in public to large crowds. Even more shocking, they were the first women to speak publicly to mixed audiences of both women and men. These Southern-bred women had to be intrepid as they publicly pronounced novel arguments to crowds, not all of whom were admirers.

In 1838, her sister Angelina married the leading abolitionist Theodore Weld. She retired to the background of the movement while being a wife and mother. Sarah Grimké too continued to work for the abolitionist movement in a less public role.

During the Civil War, Sarah wrote and lectured in support of President Abraham Lincoln. Philadelphia: When the sisters was both together in Philadelphia they we then able to fully devote themselves to the Quakers' Society of Friends and other various charity work. Sarah then began working towards becoming a clergy member. While Sarah was pursuing this she was continually discouraged by other male members of the church. It was at this time that Sarah came to the realization that though the church was something she agreed with in theory, it was however not delivering on its end of the deal. It was at this time that anti-slavery rhetoric began entering public discourse. Feminist: Sarah Grimke is categorized as not only an abolitionist but also a feminist because she challenged the church that touted their inclusiveness then denied her. It was through her abolitionist pursuits that she became more sensitive to the rights that women were denied. She opposed being subject to men so much to the point that she refused to marry. Both Sarah and Angelina both became very involved in the anti-slavery movement, they both published volumes literature and letters on the topic. When they became well known, they began lecturing around the country on the issue. At the time women did not speak in public, this was another way that Sarah was viewed as a feminist groundbreaker. Sarah openly challenged women’s domestic roles, and she believed that in order for women to be able to challenge slavery they also needed to be equal.

See also[]

  • Grimké sisters
  • History of feminism


  • Template:BBKL
  • Downing, David C. A South Divided: Portraits of Dissent in the Confederacy. Nashville: Cumberland House, 2007. ISBN 978-1-58182-587-9
  • Harrold, Stanley. (1996). The Abolitionists and the South, 1831-1861. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky.
  • Lerner, Gerda, The Grimke Sisters From South Carolina: Pioneers for Women's Rights and Abolition. New York, Schocken Books, 1971 and The University of North Carolina Press, Cary, North Carolina, 1998. ISBN 0195106032.
  • Perry, Mark E. Lift Up Thy Voice: The Grimke Family's Journey from Slaveholders to Civil Rights Leaders. New York: Viking Penguin, 2002 ISBN 0142001031


  1. Taylor, Marion A., & Weir, Heather E. (2006). Let her speak for herself: nineteenth century women writing on women of genesis.p.42
  2. Durso, Pamela R. (2003). The Power of Woman: The life and writings of Sarah Moore Grimke. Mercer University Press
  3. Durso, 2003
  4. Lerner, p. 25.
  5. Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, addressed to Mary S. Parker, President of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society
  6. Ceplair, Larry. (1989). The Public Years of Sarah and Angelina Grimke: Selected Writings. New York: Columbia University Press.(p.xv)
  7. Lerner, Gerda. (1998). The Feminist Thought of Sarah Grimké, Oxford University Press.
  8. Ceplair, 1989
  9. Lerner, 1998

External links[]

fr:Sarah Grimké pl:Sarah Grimké ru:Гримке, Сара Мур