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Women's Rights and Transatlantic Antislavery in the Era of Emancipation

Women's Rights and Transatlantic Antislavery in the Era of Emancipation

Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    Women's Rights and Transatlantic Antislavery in the Era of Emancipation
    Book Description:

    Two epochal developments profoundly influenced the history of the Atlantic world between 1770 and 1870-the rise of women's rights activism and the drive to eliminate chattel slavery. The contributors to this volume, eminent scholars from a variety of disciplines, investigate the intertwining histories of abolitionism and feminism on both sides of the Atlantic during this dynamic century of change. They illuminate the many ways that the two movements developed together and influenced one another.Approaching a wide range of transnational topics, the authors ask how conceptions of slavery and gendered society differed in the United States, France, Germany, and Britain; how women's activism reached across national boundaries; how racial identities affected the boundaries of women's activism; and what was distinctive about African-American women's participation as activists. Their thought-provoking answers provide rich insights into the history of struggles for social justice across the Atlantic world.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13786-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. x-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxiv)

    At an international conference sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, held at Yale University in October 2002, a group of historians gathered to consider the relationship between transatlantic antislavery and transatlantic women’s rights. Titled “Sisterhood and Slavery: Transatlantic Antislavery and Women’s Rights,” that conference proved enormously productive, generating many of the chapters included in this book and prompting the recruitment of others that also appear here. Building on that event, and drawing together recent scholarship that views women’s antislavery and women’s rights–seeking activity in a transatlantic context, this book came to...

  5. Part I: Context—Then and Today

    • 1 Declaring Equality: Sisterhood and Slavery
      (pp. 3-18)

      Looking back over the last century-and-a-half, many of today’s defenders of genuine female equality would agree with the 1849 declaration of the radical German feminist¹ Louise Dittmar: “The freedom of women is the greatest revolution, not just of our own day, but of all time, since it breaks fetters which are as old as the world.” Inspired by the soon to be crushed Revolutions of 1848, Dittmar called on German reformers to include women in their emancipations, “otherwise women must pass on their slave-chains from generation to generation.” Still drawing on Professor Bonnie S. Anderson’s chapter in this volume, we...

    • 2 Sisterhood, Slavery, and Sovereignty: Transnational Antislavery Work and Women’s Rights Movements in the United States During the Twentieth Century
      (pp. 19-54)

      Mining the interaction between antislavery work and women’s rights is a rich enterprise. Others writing in this volume consider the history of women’s involvement in antislavery movements, the centrality of slavery to the early women’s rights movements, and the reliance by activists for gender equality on analogies between women’s oppression and slavery. The many victories of the past centuries have not, however, eradicated slavery, whose horrors persist as does the need to complete the project of equality for women.

      In this chapter, I focus on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to analyze the issues faced today as women and men...

  6. Part II: The Impact of Antislavery on French, German, and British Feminism

    • 3 How (and Why) the Analogy of Marriage with Slavery Provided the Springboard for Women’s Rights Demands in France, 1640–1848
      (pp. 57-81)

      In the Paris springtime of 1848, the new leaders of the revolutionary French Second Republic accorded all French men the vote, in a move too long known as “suffrage universel”—without the qualifier “masculin.” A small group of revolutionary French women protested their exclusion from the suffrage. To the male republicans’ claim that there were “no more proletarians in France,” the women responded that “if the revolution had been made for all,” women were assuredly “half of everyone,” and that “there could not be two liberties, two equalities, two fraternities,” that “the people” is “composed of two sexes.”¹ They almost...

    • 4 Frauenemancipation and Beyond: The Use of the Concept of Emancipation by Early European Feminists
      (pp. 82-97)

      In my bookJoyous Greetings: The First International Women’s Movement, 1830 to 1860,I maintained that early radical feminists in both Europe and the United States seized upon the concept of emancipation to advance their unpopular cause. In this chapter, I will briefly recapitulate my reasoning there and expand it with regard to women in the German states and France. Throughout, I come to this subject from the direction of feminism, rather than antislavery. Although the two causes were often intertwined by American and British feminists in this era, who applied the concept of emancipation to women’s situation relatively easily,...

    • 5 Women’s Mobilization in the Era of Slave Emancipation: Some Anglo-French Comparisons
      (pp. 98-120)

      Opportunities for women’s participation in the public arena expanded in the period of the French Revolution. Voices in favor of European women’s rights and against Atlantic slavery became more distinct and more sharply focused on demands for action. It is less clear, however, that challenges to women’s subordination and black slavery in the Americas became equally salient or “inextricably paired”¹ even during the Revolutionary era. A comparative perspective on two leading sites of agitation, Britain and France, may prove helpful in this regard. We must ask just how much public attention converged upon these two causes, and how salient each...

    • 6 British Abolition and Feminism in Transatlantic Perspective
      (pp. 121-140)

      This chapter seeks to throw new light on the relationship between antislavery and feminism in Britain by examining the link from two perspectives, the transatlantic and the imperial. In so doing, it addresses the broader questions posed by this book concerning the varied connections between abolitionism and feminism in different national contexts within the Atlantic world, and the significance of racial difference in shaping female activism. It begins by briefly surveying from a transatlantic perspective the historiography of female anti-slavery activism and its link to feminism, and then outlines an alternative imperial context within which to place the link between...

  7. Part III: The Transatlantic Activism of African-American Women Abolitionists

    • 7 Sarah Forten’s Anti-Slavery Networks
      (pp. 143-157)

      At first glance, the career of Philadelphia abolitionist Sarah Louisa Forten hardly seems to exemplify the international dimensions of the antislavery movement. Here was a woman apparently rooted in her native city. With the exception of one memorable visit to New York City to attend an antislavery convention, she never traveled more than fifty miles beyond Philadelphia. And yet, if she did not cross the Atlantic to promote the abolitionist cause, as did other members of her circle, her words, in one form or another, reached antislavery audiences an ocean away. Moreover, through her reading, her correspondence, her many conversations...

    • 8 Incidents Abroad: Harriet Jacobs and the Transatlantic Movement
      (pp. 158-172)

      The life of fugitive slave, antislavery activist, and author Harriet Jacobs, and the publishing history of her autobiography,Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,provide a personal focus to the history of the contributions of African-American feminists to the transatlantic antislavery movement in the nineteenth century. Like the fugitive slave Ellen Craft and the freeborn Sarah Parker Remond, Jacobs—who traveled abroad three times—participated directly in the international movement.¹

      Harriet Jacobs’s Edenton, North Carolina, childhood provided her with an easy familiarity with the international context characteristic of the cultures of the Atlantic rim, and after her escape...

    • 9 “Like Hot Lead to Pour on the Americans . . .”: Sarah Parker Remond—From Salem, Mass., to the British Isles
      (pp. 173-188)

      Months before the attack on Fort Sumter signaled the start of America’s Civil War, members of England’s Ulverston Ladies’ Anti Slavery Society and a “large and respectable audience” gathered to listen to an unusual guest from the United States. Anticipating the approaching storm in the land of her birth, Sarah Ann Parker Remond stated her case in no uncertain terms. She had made her way across the ocean to “gather up polite sentiment and pour it like hot lead on the Americans.”¹ Attempting such a voyage to place her ideas on public display would have been unusual for any woman...

    • 10 Literary Transnationalism and Diasporic History: Frances Watkins Harper’s “Fancy Sketches,” 1859–60
      (pp. 189-208)

      Between November 1859 and March 1860The Anglo-African Magazinepublished a series of five brief stories, or, as the second half of each title indicates, “Fancy Sketches.” The first sketch’s title begins with “Chit Chat,” suggesting that readers are being invited into a parlor to eavesdrop on—and perhaps imaginatively participate in—a conversation that is lighthearted, maybe even frivolous and gossipy; and given assumptions about gender characteristics, we may readily speculate that the conversationalists are women. Indeed, we soon discover that the sketches’ main characters, all drawn from a northern free black community, consist of the narrator Jane, her...

  8. Part IV: Transatlantic Influences on the Emergence of Women’s Rights in the United States

    • 11 “The Throne of My Heart”: Religion, Oratory, and Transatlantic Community in Angelina Grimké’s Launching of Women’s Rights, 1828–1838
      (pp. 211-241)

      Angelina Grimké was thirty-two years old in 1837 and one of the most popular speakers for the American Anti-Slavery Society when, on a speaking tour of Massachusetts, she defied custom and her abolitionist colleagues by defending women’s rights as a cause equal in importance to slavery. Her actions created a new path for women in the antislavery movement, who, with women in the temperance and moral reform movements, inspired the emergence of an autonomous women’s rights movement in 1848. An analogous women’s rights movement did not take shape within the British antislavery movement. How and why did Angelina Grimké successfully...

    • 12 The Redemption of a Heretic: Harriet Martineau and Anglo-American Abolitionism
      (pp. 242-265)

      Harriet Martineau’s long and prolific career was intimately implicated in what she termed America’s “reign of terror” and “martyr age,” its “Second Revolution”—in other words, the abolition of slavery. The early decades of nineteenth-century America were marked by accelerating tension as proslavers aimed to protect their economic interests while anti-slavers sought emancipation on humanitarian grounds. Distinguishing between economics and human rights is essential for understanding Martineau’s writing on slavery: as a political economist who was also a positivist, and as a Unitarian liberal committed to social reform, she was less motivated by numbers or theories or by political ideologies...

    • 13 “Seeking a Larger Liberty”: Remapping First Wave Feminism
      (pp. 266-278)

      On July 14, 1848, Frederick Douglass printed two announcements on the front page of theNorth Star.The first called on “the Friends of Freedom in Western New York” to “commemorate the day which gave freedom to 800,000 human beings in the West Indian Isles, and also tender a tribute of gratitude for the recent French demonstration of ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.’ ” The second invited readers to attend a woman’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York, five days hence.¹ The two events seemed perfectly paired toNorth Starsubscribers who had spent the previous decade fighting for the abolition...

    • 14 Ernestine Rose’s Jewish Origins and the Varieties of Euro-American Emancipation in 1848
      (pp. 279-296)

      Transnational approaches allow for insights into dimensions of history that are elusive in national contexts, either because they are so large or so small that we miss them. Such is the case with the Protestant culture that surrounded antebellum reform, including abolition and women’s rights, including even dissenters and freethinkers such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Historians have debated the role of “religion” in the formative years of American women’s rights, too often forgetting that religion meant Anglo-American Protestantism. Attention to the role of Ernestine Rose, the only non-Christian on the antebellum women’s rights platform, can throw into higher relief the...

  9. Part V: Transcultural Activism Against Slavery by African-American Women

    • 15 Writing for True Womanhood: African-American Women’s Writings and the Antislavery Struggle
      (pp. 299-318)

      The eras of the early republic and antebellum America opened doors for many northern African-Americans. As the new nation grappled with the rhetoric of freedom following the Revolutionary War, and a transforming capitalist economy, the dismantlement of slavery took root in northern urban centers. For Philadelphia, gradual emancipation began in 1780, slowly destroying the “peculiar institution” within the nation’s birthplace. The “city of brotherly love” moved into the antebellum era without the fetters of enslavement attached to its African-American residents. From slave to indentured servant to free wage earner, most men and women of African descent found themselves confronted with...

    • 16 Enacting Emancipation: African American Women Abolitionists at Oberlin College and the Quest for Empowerment, Equality, and Respectability
      (pp. 319-345)

      Enrolling at Oberlin College in 1860, after her careful preparation at Myrtilla Miner’s school for African American girls in Washington, D.C., Emma V. Brown expected success; but during a Sunday visit that November to the wife of the college president, she found herself assailed by the president himself. Evangelical preacher Charles Grandison Finney called the young woman into his study and proceeded to attack the abolitionist agitators she embraced: “He said Theodore Parker was a liar and infidel, John Brown an enthusiast and fool, Wendell Philips and Garrison fanatics.” Unshaken, Brown confessed to her friend, “I dared to argue with...

    • 17 At the Boundaries of Abolitionism, Feminism, and Black Nationalism: The Activism of Mary Ann Shadd Cary
      (pp. 346-366)

      The nineteenth-century African American journalist, lawyer, educator, and reformer Mary Ann Shadd Cary offers a complex model of female radicalism that constantly transgressed the boundaries between race, gender, class, and national identity. She played an active role in the intersecting movements to abolish slavery, elevate the status of women, and build an incipient black nationalism. But her social and political labors did not follow a simple trajectory. It is impossible to know precisely what structured Shadd Cary’s engagement with these political projects, as she left few records that offer insight into her interior life. But it is not difficult to...

  10. List of Contributors
    (pp. 367-368)
  11. Index
    (pp. 369-385)