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Chapman, Marie Weston.

Annual Report of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, with a Sketch of the Obstacles thrown in the way of Emancipation by certain Clerical Abolitionists and Advocates for the subjection of Women, in 1837.


[Abolition] Chapman, Maria Weston. Right and Wrong in Boston: Annual Report of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, with a Sketch of ... Advocates for the subjection of Women, in 1837. Boston: Isaac Knapp, 1837.
16mo, 120pp; + 2pp titled "Proceedings at the Annual Meeting," rebound in modern tan calf and coral paste paper over boards, title and date in gilt on spine, new endpapers, light foxing throughout, slight browning at top edge. Generally a very good copy. [The 1837 report had been preceded by those for 1835 and 1836].
First edition. Maria Weston Chapman (1806-1885), abolitionist and editor, was a founding member of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society and William Lloyd Garrison's principal lieutenant. "Firm in her convictions and a formidable opponent to those who disagreed with her, Chapman's leadership and influence in the American abolitionist movement were profound." (Women's Writing) From 1836 to 1838 she edited the BFASS annual report which proved more a platform for her opinions than a conventional account of BFASS activities. The report scathingly weighed in against clergy who seemingly support the abolitionist movement yet actually hobbled it. Chapman's denunciation of clergy caused BFASS colleagues to fume. She decried the "cant" so often offered over action and the so-called "sphere of women"-an issue that had intensified in 1837 when the Grimke sisters spent six months in Massachusetts speaking before promiscuous audiences (i.e., with men and women), rousing anti-slavery sentiment and also the feeling among clergymen that women were going too far.
And women were going too far-for it was out of the female anti-slavery societies that the women's movement was born. When women learned that male abolitionists refused to allow them to join their groups, they formed their own anti-slavery societies. They spoke before audiences; they raised monies for the cause; they circulated petitions (most importantly a petition to ban slavery from the national's capitol), walking the streets and knocking at strange houses. A national women's anti-slavery convention met in New York the spring of 1837. While newspapers heaped scorn upon it, the women began to appreciate their collective strength. Mary Parker urged Sarah Grimké to write on the issue of women's rights, which she did in a series of letters in July of 1837 that appeared in The New England Spectator (and were published the following year as "The Letters on the Equality of the Sexes"). That same July Congregational ministers issued a Pastoral Letter describing the role of woman as private and dependent. "If the vine, whose strength and beauty is to lean upon the trellis-work, thinks to assume the independence of the elm, it will not only cease to bear fruit, but fall in shame and dishonor into the dust." (A 19-year old Lucy Stone sat with a cousin in church when the letter was read out and recalled that her cousin's side "was black and blue with the indignant nudges of my elbow at each aggravating sentence.") Chapman felt compelled to speak to the issue of a woman's sphere which continued to intrude upon female anti-slavery societies, saying briskly "[Woman] is fettered in body and in mind by commentators and translators and partial reasoners, but by revelation never. What is the sphere and duty of woman, it rests with each one for herself to determine..." Chapman's three pages of digression are among the very early printed statements on women's equality in this country. It forecast that to address the issue of the servitude of a race, women must address the issue of the servitude of their own sex.
 After the report, a number of related documents are printed: the 1837-38 BFASS officers, a list of women's anti-slavery societies in Massachusetts, the Treasurer's Report. The volume also reprints tributes which had appeared in The Liberator (Garrison's abolitionist newspaper) to colleague Ann Greene Chapman who had died that year including one by Lydia Maria Child. The latter, though unrecorded by Blanck, is likely its first book appearance. OCLC locates only three copies. Dumond, 29. NAW I. Women's Writing, 162. Women Together.

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