Two Female Bostonian Abolitionists You Should Know
In the 18th and 19th centuries, as the abolitionist movement caught steam, many women in the United States began to draw parallels between oppression they faced on account of their gender and the immorality of slavery. Black women spoke on the conditions of slavery to a broad audience and organized collective action. Meanwhile, many middle-class white women were able to identify with African American women through the struggles they faced within their marriages and with discriminatory law. This sense of camaraderie also manifested in the creation of female abolitionist networks and anti-slavery societies. As I was looking through the Massachusetts Historical Society anti-slavery collections, I came across several women who took on this mantel in the 1800s and paved a path for female anti-slavery work and women’s suffrage. Here are two women we must absolutely know.
In Brookfield, Massachusetts, in 1818, Lucy Stone was born into a historically revolutionary family: the first Stones arrived in the New World in 1635, pursuing religious freedom, and her grandfather was a captain during the Revolutionary War.
Growing up, Stone was heavily influenced by her father’s passion for racial equality. Frustrated by the lack of value placed on female education, Stone saved up for college, working as a teacher at the age of sixteen. She spent a semester in 1839 at Mount Holyoke University before ultimately graduating from Oberlin College in 1847, becoming one of the first women to graduate from University in Massachusetts.
After graduating, Stone went on to work under famed abolitionist Willaim Lloyd Garrison, writing and delivering abolition speeches for the American Anti-Slavery Society. As a lecturer, she faced jeers, thrown hymn books, and was even doused by a hose on one occasion. Yet, despite heckling and physical attacks, her growing popularity made her one of the highest-paid speakers of her time.
Lucy Stone also became very active in women’s rights. Two years after the famed Seneca Falls Convention in New York, she organized the Women’s Rights Convention in Worcester, Massachusetts. In 1870, she, along with her husband and associates, published the Woman’s Journal, a paper for supporters of women’s rights.
Sarah Parker Redmond
Sarah Parker Redmond was born in 1826 to a baker and a Curaçaon immigrant and hairdresser in Salem, Massachusetts. While attending public school with six siblings, she was discriminated against because of her skin color, ultimately forcing her family to move to Rhode Island to complete her education. There, she attended a private school for African American children.
Sarah’s activism started at a young age. She was a member of the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, founded by Black women, including her mother. She was heavily influenced by her older brother, Charles Lenox Remond, who became an Anti-Slavery lecturer after attending the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840. She soon joined him in his abolitionist speeches throughout the Northeast. In 1856, she was chosen to travel through New York and promote the messages of the American Anti-Slavery Society.
Redmond’s stand for equality directly paved paths for others. In 1853, when she attended a performance of Don Pasquale with a group of friends, her refusal to leave a “Whites only” section in the theater resulted in a confrontation with the police. When the policeman came to remove her, she fell down stairs and was able to successfully sue for 500 dollars, effectively ending segregation at the Howard Athenaeum.