Language Arts, Reading, Reading Comprehension, Social Studies, United States History
Grade 3- 5
Students learn about women in history who worked to abolish slavery. They learn about the importance of goals and ambitions.
This activity can be done as part of a Women's History Month unit, or as a standalone activity.
Begin by introducing students to the Grimke sisters. Ask them, if they knew that in the early history of the United States many African Americans were kidnapped and brought to be sold as personal slaves of wealthy landowners in the United States, These people had very few rights and were often used and abused by their owners. Their struggle for freedom was aided by two very unlikely women in the early 1830s.
Angelina and Sarah Grimke grew up in a wealthy South Carolina family who owned land and slaves. Instead of taking the slaves for granted, they viewed them as equal playmates and friends. Sarah even taught many how to read and write. She could not bear to see them physically punished or abused and spoke out against it whenever she could.
As the two sisters grew older, they knew that they had to do something to stop the abuse of slaves. Women during those days could not vote or speak in public in many towns along the Eastern seaboard. Their task would be a difficult one. They risked everything, including their lives, to travel north to launch a campaign to educate people about the injustice of slavery.
On one occasion Angelina addressed a group of men and women gathered in Boston before a State Legislative Committee. Her topic was "Abolition," the elimination of slavery. People became so angry at her words about equality and the dignity of every human being that they burned down the building in which she gave her speech.
A few years later, Sarah, frustrated with the violent discrimination her sister had experienced when she spoke against slavery, wrote a book advocating equality for women. Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and Other Essays argued for equal rights for women under the law. Without her landmark effort perhaps it would have taken even many more years for women to gain the right to vote that they finally won in 1920. Both of these women were early pioneers in social reform that continues in our country today.