Let Her Speak for Herself: Nineteenth-Century Women Writing on the Women of Genesis

By Marion Ann Taylor; Heather E. Weir | Go to book overview

§5 Sarah Moore Grimké
(1792–1873)

Sarah Grimké was born in Charleston, South Carolina, the sixth of fourteen children born to John Grimké and Mary Smith. Her father, of French Huguenot descent, was a well-known judge, educated in England; her mother, of Irish and Puritan ancestry, came from a prominent Carolina family. Private tutors educated Sarah Grimké in subjects considered appropriate for young ladies. She also learned what she could of Greek, Latin, philosophy and law from her brothers and father. Grimké encountered the Society of Friends on a trip with her father to Philadelphia and New Jersey; afterwards Grimké left the Episcopal church and joined the Society of Friends. She was drawn to Quaker piety and their abhorrence of slavery, though later she would become disenchanted with orthodox Quakerism, and be dismissed from the society. Sarah Grimké and her sister Angelina Weld became well known for their antislavery work. At a time when women did not speak in public they spoke publicly to audiences of both men and women as a part of their abolition work. Opposition to their public speaking led the sisters to involvement in the early feminist movement.

Sarah Grimké wrote Epistle to the Clergy of the Southern States (1836) to refute the argument that slavery in biblical times justified slavery in the United States. She wrote Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, and the Condition of Women (1838) in defense of the right of women to have a public voice in the abolition movement.15 She was a major theoretician of the women's rights movement.

Grimké, like Crocker, was an American arguing for the rights of women. Like Crocker, she realized that the interpretation of Genesis 1–3 greatly influenced views on women's role in family and society. Grimké read the text in the original Hebrew, and used this knowledge in her interpretation. For example, the Hebrew word 'adam' can be used as a generic term for human-

15 Source: Betty L. Fladeland, "Grimké, Sarah Moore and Angelina Emily," in Notable
American Women 1607–1950: A Biographical Dictionary,
ed. Edward T. James, Janet Wilson
James, and Paul S. Boyer, vol. 2 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971), 97–99.

-42-

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