lished a translation of Lamartine Joan of Arc: A Biography in 1867. Her Epistle is a pamphlet-length letter heavily reliant on biblical imagery, quotation, and style. Slavery, she argues, has "trampled the image of God in the dust" ( Ceplair92). After citing several scriptural references that appear to condemn slavery, she refutes American slaveholders' major arguments.
Her Letters are similarly based on her rereading of Christian scripture: "I shall depend solely on the Bible to designate the sphere of woman, because I believe almost every thing that has been written on this subject, has been the result of a misconception of the simple truths revealed in the Scriptures" ( Ceplair 204). Within these letters, she argues that men and women are created equally in the image of God, and she critiques social and professional limitations placed on women. Rather than argue against Christianity, she attempts to use its foundational text as a liberating document.
Even by those who agreed with her principles, Sarah was not admired as a public speaker. Catherine H. Birney describes her oratory as "never very fluent. . . . [T]he language was unvarnished, sometimes harsh, while the manner of speaking was often embarrassed" (191). Many audience members apparently tolerated Sarah in order to hear Angelina. Others, of course, objected to the very fact of a woman speaking publicly.
Her writing was received more sympathetically. Birney describes the Epistle as "written in a spirit of gentleness and persuasion, but also of firm admonition" (161). In her more recent biography, Gerda Lerner suggests, "Although her style was not as fluid and lucid as Angelina's and she showed no originality of style, her arguments were well-reasoned. Her boldness in directly challenging the church . . . was a sign of her intellectual and personal growth" (156). Contemporary readers would certainly find her style lacking in fluidity. What little critical work that has been done on her writing examines it in terms of its political and historical ramifications rather than as pieces that were ever read primarily for aesthetic pleasure.
Birney, Catherine H. The Grimké Sisters: Sarah and Angelina Grimké, the First American Women Advocates of Abolition and Woman's Rights. Boston: Lee & Sheppard, 1885. Reprint, New York: Haskell House, 1970.
Ceplair, Larry. The Public Years of Sarah and Angelina Grimké: Selected Writings 1835- 1839. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.
Lerner, Gerda. The Grimké Sisters from South Carolina: Pioneers for Woman's Rights and Abolition. New York: Shocken Books, 1971.