Angelina Grimké’s Mother Expresses Her Opinion

Letter

Background Notes

In March of 1838, just a few months after Angelina Grimké’s historic appearance before the Massachusetts Senate, she wrote to tell her mother that she was going to marry her fellow abolitionist Theodore Weld. Many of the Grimké sisters’ critics had made an issue of their unmarried state. Women who had stepped so far outside their “sphere,” they said, were obviously unsuitable for marriage. The response of Angelina’s mother Mary Grimké, a South Carolina slaveholder’s wife, reveals her enduring love for her militant abolitionist daughter despite their wide differences of opinion. She also expressed her relief that Angela would have a male “protector” and hoped that as a married women she would retreat from public life. Although marriage and the long years of childbearing that followed did greatly reduce Angelina Grimké’s public activities, neither of the sisters ever abandoned her belief in the equality of women, a belief born in the antislavery movement.

Transcription of Primary Source

Charleston, [S.C.] April 4th, 1838

My dearest Angelina

I have just received your last affectionate and interesting letter; the importance of the contents demand an immediate answer, which I will endeavour to give as well as the circumstances of the case will admit. I feel assured that my dear daughter will marry no one who is not equal to her in every sense of the word; and from the description given of your lover by Sarah and yourself, he seems to be suitable to you in all respects...You will now have a protector, and therefore whatever you do will be in future sanctioned by him; I shall myself [be] relieved from the same anxiety that has hitherto rested on me; for if he approves, I have no right to interfere: I have always believed you acted from conscientious motives, and have often prayed for your success, (altho’ differing so widely from you,) if it were indeed doing the work of the Lord: after you become a Matron, I hope you will feel that retir[e]ment is best suited to your station; and you will desire to retire from the busy scenes of publicity, and to enjoy that happiness which I hope your home will yield you: you have been always moderate in your wishes and I have no doubt will be satisfied with the comforts of life; this I trust, you will secure; for it would be prudent so to do; the struggle for a support destroys happiness, and is injurious to the temper; this I trust you will provide against, for you have never known what it is to want the necessaries of life while single, and would feel it much more in a married state; as many things would be requisite then that you can now do without; these considerations I would bring to your view, for tho’ I have never prayed for riches or honours for my Children, I would crave for them a competency*...You have not mentioned the time fixed; and whether you shall go to housekeeping* immediately, and what are your prospects: neither have you said what sort of a looking person he was. Now I should like to know everything concerning him...I do indeed most freely grant you my blessing, and can assure you, notwithstanding our difference of opinion, my love for you has in nowise diminished...

−− your affectionate Mother and Sincere Friend

M[ary] S G[rimké]

Glossary

  • competency − sufficient means for the necessities and conveniences of life
  • go to housekeeping − establish your own home

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Catalog Number: Old Sturbridge Village

Mary Grimké to Angelina Grimké, April 4, 1838 published in The Letters of Theodore Weld, Angelina Grimké Weld and Sarah M. Grimké, 1822−1844, Vol II, Gilbert H. Barnes and Dwight L. Dumond, eds. (1934; reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1970), 617−618. Used by permission. Edited by Old Sturbridge Village.