Before You Read
The following word in the document below may be new to you: fettered. You
may want to use a dictionary to look it up.
You seem greatly alarmed at the idea of our advocating the rights of woman . . .
Can you not see that women could do, and would do a hundred times more for
the slave if she were not fettered? Why! We are gravely told that we are out of our
sphere even when we circulate petitions; out of our “appropriate sphere” when we speak
to women only; and out of it when we sing in the churches. Silence is our province,
submission our duty . . . If we are to do any good in the Anti Slavery cause, our right to
labor in it must be firmly established . . . How can we expect to be able to hold meetings
much longer when people are so diligently taught to despise us for thus stepping out of
the ‘sphere of woman!’ Look at this instance: after we had left Groton the Abolition
minister there, at Lyceum meeting poured out his sarcasm and ridicule upon our heads
and among other things said, he would as soon be caught robbing a hen roost as
encouraging a woman to lecture . . . If we surrender the right to speak to the public this
year, we must surrender the right to petition next year and the right to write the year after
and so on. What then can woman do for the slave when she is herself under the feet of
man and shamed into silence? . . .
Anti Slavery men are trying very hard to separate what God hath joined together.
I fully believe that . . . no such attempt can ever be successful. They blend with each
other like the colors of the rainbow.
—Angelina Grimké, abolitionist and women’s rights advocate
Letter to abolitionists Theodore Weld and John Greenleaf Whittier
August 20, 1837
1. According to Angelina Grimké, what was expected of women at the time?
2. Why do you think Grimké began fighting for women’s rights as well the rights of slaves?