Angelina Grimke (1805-1879)
Feb 21st Sat Spent all the forenoon mending Mr Ames
shopcoat. Cut Susan a pink long sleeve apron and
Orinthia sewed on it Have finished Mr Ames another
dickey which makes seven that I have made lately
This afternoon carr[i]ed Mrs Solomon Lothrop &
Orinthia to mothers. Orinthia stopt at a sing at
the Schoolhouse near Doct Swans Frank went and
brought her back. Mrs S Ames called this evening to
settle and paid me 1,70 cts which makes us even
Normal wintertime activities went on under a sky that Old Oliver described as “fair in the fornoon + cloudy afternoon + much warmer.”* Evelina mended, sewed and socialized with her friend and former boarder, Orinthia Foss; she also settled accounts with her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames. Per usual, Oakes Ames went into Boston.
It was in Boston, in fact, on this date fourteen years earlier that for the first time ever in the United States, a woman addressed a legislative body. On February 21, 1838, abolitionist Angelina Grimke presented the Massachusetts Legislature with an anti-slavery petition signed by 20,000 Massachusetts women. In a speech that was lauded by abolitionists, deplored by traditionalists and parsed by all, she not only called for the abolition of slavery, but declared the right of women to act politically. “We are citizens of this republic and as such our honor, happiness, and well-being are bound up in its politics, government and laws.”**
Daughter of a southern slave-holder, Angelina (known as “Nina” in her family) and her older sister, Sarah Grimke, also an active abolitionist, faced predictable opposition as they transgressed convention. Angelina’s speeches in Boston and elsewhere drew taunts, outrage, disbelief, and disrespect. The Congregational clergy of Massachusetts condescended together one Sunday and, across pulpits, accused Grimke of jeopardizing “the female character with widespread and permanent injury.” Others – men and women – were impressed. One member of the audience at the statehouse said, “Angelina Grimke’s serene, commanding eloquence [she spoke for two hours] enchained attention, disarmed prejudice and carried her hearers with her.”**
How might the Ames clan have reacted?