The sixth child of Judge John Faucheraud Grimké and Mary (Smith) Grimké, Sarah Grimké was born on November 26, 1792, into a prominent slaveholding family in Charleston, South Carolina. When she was four years old, she witnessed the whipping of a slave, an incident to which she later ascribed the genesis of her abolitionist thought. As a young child, she was closest to her brother Thomas; although her formal education reflected a feminine curriculum--for example, French, music, embroidery--she also studied the more academic subjects Thomas pursued until Judge Grimké forbade her to study Latin.
When Sarah was twelve, the last of her siblings, Angelina Emily Grimké, was born. Sarah became Angelina's godmother and cultivated a maternal relationship with her; Angelina addressed Sarah as "mother" into their adulthood. Through their speaking and writing on abolition and women's rights, these two Grimké sisters would eventually become closely associated in the public mind.
As an adult, Sarah experienced a series of religious conversions, the first in 1817 when she converted to Presbyterianism from her family's Episcopalianism. The following year, Judge Grimké became ill and was advised to consult a physician in Philadelphia. Sarah accompanied him there in 1819 and subsequently to the New Jersey shore where Judge Grimké died on August 8. Following his death, Sarah remained two months in Philadelphia, boarding with a Quaker family. Although she seems not to have expressed interest in Quakerism then, she began to explore its principles the following year.
In 1821, Sarah made the unconventional decision as a single woman (although she was initially accompanied by her recently widowed sister Anna) to leave Charleston, returning only for sporadic visits. She began regularly attending