The Gremke’ Sisters

When you think about the world around you, or when you are watching the news, do you ever hear about something and think “That’s just wrong. Or, that is really unfair.” You might even think that someone should do something about that it. Those are compelling thoughts, but it’s the next one that’s the kicker:

  • What did you do about it?

I know what I’ve done most of the time—–Nothing! Most of the time I just did nothing at all. I’m not proud of that but unfortunately it’s true. And, my guess is that it’s true for most of us, most of the time.

With that i mind I want to introduce you to two sisters who chose to do something about what they saw that was wrong: Slavery and women’s rights. Their names were Sarah and Angelina Gremke’. They grew up on a plantation in Charleston, South Carolina in the 1800’s. They lived with slavery on their plantation and all the others around them.

They also lived with the limitations the culture imposed on women. Their education was mainly focused on how to be a lady and get a marriage proposal from a prominent family. They weren’t allowed to study anything of significance or pursue any type of career. That was especially an issue for Sarah who was very intelligent and wanted to become a lawyer like her brothers. Sarah was forbidden to pursue a law career by her father. He felt so strongly about it that he locked her out of his library and strictly forbade her to try to enter the library or to read any of the books in it.

The book I referenced in my previous blog, The Invention of Wings, was based on the Gremke’ sisters. Sarah and her sister, Angelina, led the anti-slavery crusade and were the only Southern white women known to be part of the abolitionist movement. I didn’t realize that while I was reading the book. I continue to be amazed at the things that real women have done in the past and I’ve never even heard of them. I do remember reading about abolitionists in school but I don’t recall reading about any female abolitionists.

Sarah and her sister, Angelina, used their individual talents to take a stand against two societal issues they recognized as wrong: Slavery and Women’s right to equality. Angelina was a gifted speaker and traveled to many different cities. often speaking as many as six times a week on these these two issues. Sarah, traveled with her sister, but only spoke occasionally. Her gift was writing. Sarah  wrote a series of letters that were published in the New England Spectator and later were collected under the title Letters on the Equality of the Sexes.

The sisters began their crusade in the 1830’s and continued it for several decades; eventually living to see their dream of abolition come to pass.

These two women saw that slavery wasn’t right and they did something about it. The following quotes are from Angelina. They provide insight into what they thought, what they did and what they were willing to suffer as a result:

Can you not see that women could do and would do a hundred times more for the slave, if she were not fettered?

If a law commands me to sin I will break it; if it calls me to suffer, I will let it take its course unresistingly.

These two women responded to their observance of a wrong by speaking out and by writing. This makes me wonder if the next time I see something I know is wrong if I would have the courage to speak out or to write about it.

I hope I do!

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