I’m opposed to war—to cutting down men like grass—but if ever war was holy, this one, in favor of the most oppressed, most forbearing, most afflicted, down-trodden, insulted part of humanity, is a holy war. But I am hoping that the weak, presumptuous, sickly, clamorous, selfish, traitorous South will be frightened…into subjection.
—Sarah H. Palmer to Abby Hopper Gibbons, May 5, 1861, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Gibbons 1897, 292)
Abolitionism, a major political and social reform movement of the early to mid-nineteenth century, was dedicated to the eradication of slavery. Northern women who became active in public and political life during the Civil War owed much to the pioneering efforts of abolitionist women during the antebellum era. Women—black and white—joined other social and political reformers in the quest to remold society into a more just, humane world. Female abolitionists of the 1860s agreed with SUSAN B. ANTHONY that the purpose of the war was “to establish the negro in freedom—against whom the whole nation, North and South, East and West, in one mighty conspiracy, has combined from the beginning” (Stanton et al. 1881, 2:57).
Although abolitionist activity in the United States had its beginnings in the late eighteenth century, it did not become an established reform movement until 1833 with the birth of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) in Philadelphia. In the 1830s, growing numbers of white and free AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMEN committed themselves to antislavery work. Throughout the Northeast, the Middle Atlantic seaboard, and the Midwest, women formed