Angelina Emily Grimké Weld was an American political activist, abolitionist and supporter of the women’s suffrage movement. Born and raised on a large South Carolina plantation, Grimké’s parents were strong advocates of the traditional, upper class Southern values.
At thirteen, Grimké refused confirmation in the Episcopalian Church; at age 21, she converted to the Presbyterian faith. Mutually opposed to the institution of slavery, which they consdered morally deficient and in violation of Christian law and human rights, Grimké and her pastor, Rev. William McDowell, became close friends. Grimké, however, found McDowell’s strategy of patience and prayer unsatisfactory, and, in 1829, she implored all slave-holding members of her congregation openly condemn the practice. Disillusioned by their polite refusal, Grimké lost faith in the Presbyterian church, and, with her sister’s encouragement, joined the Quaker faith. Discouraged by the attitude of Charleston’s small Quaker community Grimké moved to Philadelphia to live with her sister.
In the fall of 1835, influenced by the work of William Lloyd Garrison, Grimké wrote him a letter stating her concerns and opinions on the issues of abolitionism and mob violence, as well as her personal admiration for Garrison and the values he symbolized. Praising Grimké’s passion, linguistic style and noble ideas, published Grimké’s letter in the next issue of The Liberator. without her consent. The letter, which stirred controversy within Quaker society, who openly condemned any radical activism, established Grimké’s position in abolitionist society.
Grimké was invited to speak at the Massachusetts State Legislature in 1837, and testified February 1838, becoming the first woman in the United States to address a legislative body. That same year, Grimké began to tour the Northeast, giving abolitionist and feminist lectures in churches, despite contemporary notions that women were unfit to express their opinions in the public sphere.
Two of Grimké’s most notable works are Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, in which Grimké attempts to convince Southern women of the moral necessity of ending slavery, and her series of letters to Catharine Beecher, a traditionalist who argued against the participation of women in the abolitionist movement.