Sarah M. Grimke: It takes two to tango

In the year 1837, Michigan was admitted to the Union as the 26th state. Nearby, in the state of Illinois, the inventor John Deere began his agricultural implement company. He named it John Deere, probably after himself. The first electric motor was patented by Thomas Davenport on February 25th. Vroom!

Also in that year, a feminist abolitionist named Sarah Moore Grimke published an essay as part of a collection Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, and the Condition of Woman. The essay, On the Condition of Women in the United States is a letter to her younger sister, Angelina, about, generally speaking, the condition of women in the United States.

The gist of the letter, even though it’s a crime against humanity to have me distill it down so plainly, is that women should be allowed to be educated the same as men. Full stop. I kind of feel like I’m doing something wrong by putting my own, white male spin on this, so I’ll be brief. You should read the essay itself to make sure you get the whole deal. It’s a good’un. Don’t take my word for it.

Why the sexes should be equal in education, according to Sarah Moore Grimke and, really, according to common sense

I plucked some things from the essay to detail here as to what Grimke was trying to tell her sister. I’ll put them in simple words, without flair, and without my own opinion.

  1. A wife is a much better companion if she’s educated, smart, witty, resourceful, etc. She makes a better conversationalist and stimulus to her hubby.

The worst part of this for all women

Sarah Moore Grimke was, very vocally, an abolitionist. Many famous abolitionists from the time are Quakers, and Grimke is no exception. For her, the degradation of the female slave was the worst truth of America. The fact that women were separated from their families, from their children, underwent every manner of abuse, torture, destruction, all drove Grimke to a rage. She was not necessarily unselfish, either. In the letter she makes a point to say that it is a tarnish on the soul of the white woman who stands witness to the bonds of slavery and does nothing.

I think the Quakers believed everyone involved in the institution of slavery was going to burn in hell. Perhaps they are right.


Perhaps it’s disingenuous for me to write a post about something so singularly separated from me — in fact the perpetration of the crimes in this piece are my own ancestral legacy. But, to me, reading the piece, taking notes, and then writing about it is my own form of education. I think these works would be a great read for all white guys who think there is a firm equality of the sexes.

Peanut butter first, code second.

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