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(1838) Angelina Grimke, “Address to the Massachusetts Legislature”

In February 1838, Angelina Grimke became the first woman in U.S. history to address the members of an American legislative body when she spoke to the members of the Massachusetts Legislature.  Her subject was the demand for the immediate end of the slave trade in Washington, D.C.  That speech appears below.


More than 2,000 years have rolled their dark and bloody waters down the rocky, winding channel of time into the broad ocean of Eternity, since woman’s voice was heard in the palace of an eastern monarch and womans petition achieved the salvation of millions of her race from the edge of the sword. The Queen of Persia, if Queen she might be called, who was but the mistress of her voluptuous lord, trained as she had been in the secret abominations of an oriental harem, had studied too deeply the character of Ahasuerus not to know that the sympathies of his heart could not be reached except through the medium of his sensual appetites. Hence we find he; arrayed in royal apparel, and standing in the inner court of the Kings house, hoping by her personal charms to win the favor of her lord. And after the golden sceptre had been held out, and the inquiry was made, What wilt thou, Queen Esther, and what is thy request? It shall be given thee to the half of the kingdom -even then she dared not ask either for her own life, or that of her people. She felt that if her mission of mercy was to be successful, his animal propensities must be still more powerfully wrought upon-the luxurious feast must be prepared, the banquet of wine must be served up, and the favorable moment must be seized when, gorged with gluttony and intoxication, the kings heart was fit to be operated upon by the pathetic appeal. If I have found favor in thy sight, 0 King, and if it please the King, let my life be given at my petition, and my people at my request. It was thus, through personal charms, and sensual gratification, and individual influence, that the Queen of Persia obtained the precious boon she craved-her own life,