AMERICAN AND FOREIGN ANTI-SLAVERY SOCIETY
We have seen that the participation of women in the antislavery movement caused serious differences of opinion among antislavery men in the East. This was not true of the West, where women were present at the formation of the various state antislavery societies and attended conventions religiously. By the 1850's they had assumed leadership in these societies. It is a significant fact that only one delegate from Michigan and Illinois voted for the denial of votes to women in the 1839 meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society.1 That was in harmony with the equalitarianism of the western region. Women were coworkers, not subordinates. They shared every part of the perils, the responsibilities, and the pleasures of building a new civilization. Women in the East were more sophisticated, and those who ventured into public affairs were considered fanatics. This was not true in the West. There were some objections raised against women participating in some activities, but in the antislavery movement they were invited to assume leadership, as shown by the many resolutions to that end in the state conventions. There were women's local societies, but they were so closely affiliated with the men's groups that they held no conventions as in the East but came together in the state organizations.
The second important difference between the two regions was the underground railroad which, as we shall see, was largely operative west of the mountains. An underground railway station was a friendly home where fugitives were concealed until they could be moved northward. It was risky business because it was against the law. It was laborious business because the fugitives had to be fed and nursed, sometimes for days, and clothed. The women in the societies combined their efforts to prepare clothing. They conducted fairs for money to buy shoes and other articles which could not be made. The Boston ladies sold gift books to get money to send out lecturers; the Western women sewed rag carpet and sold it to buy shoes for barefooted fugitives. Practically every article of clothing otherwise was spun and woven in their homes, and they moved 40,000 fugitives through Ohio between 1830 and 1860.2
The third important difference between the two regions was that the Liberty Party, organized in 1839, came out of the West. In the East, particularly in Boston, the women were closely associated with Garrison and his anti-Constitution, antigovernment, anti-political action vagaries. Women in the West could not vote, but they did not subscribe to that sort of nonsense, and they moved naturally and easily from circulating petitions to supporting the Liberty Party along with their men- folk. Moreover, they later moved right on into the Civil War with their fairs and their sewing to provide vegetables and hospital supplies for the Western armies. In 1839 they were not identified with Garrisonian radicalism, and were maintaining a close association with the men in the movement, and this was regarded as both expedient and proper.
In the East, when the churchmen launched an attack against the Grimké sisters, the executive committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society took no part in the argument. Every one of these
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Publication information: Book title: Antislavery:The Crusade for Freedom in America. Contributors: Dwight Lowell Dumond - Author. Publisher: University of Michigan Press. Place of publication: Ann Arbor, MI. Publication year: 1961. Page number: 282.
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