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Black and White Women Abolitionists

Abolitionist was the word used in the 19th century for those who worked to abolish the institution of slavery. Women were quite active in the abolitionist movement, at a time when women were, in general, not active in the public sphere. The presence of women in the abolitionist movement was considered by many to be scandalous -- not just because of the issue itself, which was not universally supported even in states that had abolished slavery within their borders, but because these activists were women, and the dominant expectation of the proper place for women was in the domestic, not the public, sphere.

Nevertheless, the abolitionist movement attracted quite a few women to its active ranks. White women came out of their domestic sphere to work against the enslavement of others. Black women spoke from their experience, bringing their story to audiences to elicit empathy and action.

The two most famous black women abolitionists were Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman. Both were well known in their time and are still the most famous of the black women who worked against slavery.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Maria W. Stewart are not as well known, but both were respected writers and activists. Harriet Jacobs wrote a memoir that was important as a story of what women went through during slavery, and brought the conditions of slavery to the attention of a wider audience. Sarah Mapps Douglass, part of the free African American community in Philadelphia, was an educator who also worked in the antislavery movement.

Other African American women who were active abolitionists included Ellen Craft, the Edmonson sisters (Mary and Emily), Sarah Harris Fayerweather, Charlotte Forten, Margaretta Forten, Susan Forten, Elizabeth Freeman (Mumbet), Eliza Ann Garner, Harriet Ann Jacobs, Mary Meachum, Anna Murray-Douglass (first wife of Frederick Douglass), Susan Paul, Harriet Forten Purvis, Mary Ellen Pleasant, Caroline Remond Putnam, Sarah Parker Remond, Josephine St.

Pierre Ruffin, and Mary Ann Shadd.

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