Manuscripts Division William L. Clements Library University of Michigan
Finding aid for Weld-Grimké Family Papers, 1740-1930
Finding aid created by Bethany Anderson, 2009, and Shannon Wait, 2011
Title: Weld-Grimké family papers Creator: Weld family and Grimké family Inclusive dates: 1740-1930 Bulk dates: 1825-1893 Extent: 6 linear feet Abstract:
The Weld-Grimké family papers consist of correspondence, diaries, notebooks, autobiographical documents, printed materials, photographs, realia, and newspaper clippings. The collection addresses such subjects as abolition, women’s rights, temperance, religion, education, and the lives of members of the Weld-Grimké family, including Sarah and Angelina Grimké and Theodore Weld.
Language: The material is in English Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave. The University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190 Phone: 734-764-2347 Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
In addition to this finding aid, the Clements Library has created a list of personal names, geographic locations, and subjects in the Weld-Grimké family papers: Weld-Grimké Supplements.
Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.
Weld-Grimké Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
The collection is arranged into the following six series:
Notebooks and Writings.
Clippings and Miscellaneous.
John Faucheraud Grimké was born in South Carolina on December 16, 1752, the son of John Paul Grimké and Mary Faucheraud. While studying law in London, he was among a group of Americans who petitioned King George III concerning measures that he believed infringed on colonial rights. Upon returning home, Grimké served in the Revolutionary War as a lieutenant colonel, fighting at Eutaw Springs and Yorktown. Postwar, he practiced law and served as a judge on the Supreme Court of South Carolina. He published several works on law, including The Public Laws of the State of South Carolina (1790) and Duties of Executors and Administrators of Estates (1797).
In 1784, he married Mary Smith, the daughter of a wealthy and well-connected family in Charleston. Her ancestors included two colonial governors and a speaker of the Commons House Assembly. The couple, who by this time were wealthy slave-owners in Charleston, had fourteen children, three of whom died in infancy and early childhood. The Grimkés were an active and well-read family, and at least three of the sons, Thomas Smith Grimké (1786-1834), Frederick Grimké (1791-1863), and Henry Grimké (1801-1852), followed in the footsteps of their father and studied law. Frederick, who moved to Chillicothe, Ohio, was a judge of the Ohio Supreme Court and wrote on many topics pertaining to political science and philosophy. In 1848, he published his best-known work, Nature and Tendency of Free Institutions. Thomas Grimké was also a scholar, a philanthropist, and a member of the American Peace Society and the American Colonization Society. He had a particularly strong influence on his younger sisters, Sarah (1792-1873) and Angelina (1805-1879). During childhood, he supplemented Sarah's limited education by sharing his school lessons with her; she often expressed her desire to emulate her father and study law like her brothers.
As young women, Angelina and Sarah developed a very close relationship with their slaves and, in defiance of their parents' wishes, taught several of them to read and write. Both women taught Sunday school, and Angelina held daily prayer meetings for the slaves in the household. Though the Grimkés were raised as Episcopalians, Sarah and Angelina eventually explored other faiths. Sarah became interested in the Society of Friends, especially after becoming acquainted with Quaker Israel Morris. She moved to Philadelphia in 1821 and soon fully adopted a Quaker lifestyle. In 1826, Angelina briefly converted to Presbyterianism. Three years later, she joined Sarah in Philadelphia and joined the Quaker faith.
Although they had always disapproved of slavery, it wasn’t until 1835 that Angelina and Sarah were drawn into the anti-slavery movement. After reading about a pro-slavery riot in Boston, Angelina wrote to William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), who published her letter in The Liberator. This event marked the beginning of the Grimké sisters' careers as abolitionists. They directed their reading more and more toward anti-slavery literature and began corresponding with several notable abolitionists. In 1836, Angelina published her Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, and in 1837, the sisters embarked on a speaking tour of Massachusetts. During this period, they also became interested in women’s rights. In 1838, Sarah published Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Woman.
In 1838, Angelina married Theodore Dwight Weld (1803-1895), who was the son of Ludovicus Weld (b. 1766), a Congregational minister, and Elizabeth Clarke Weld (b. 1772). Born in Connecticut, Weld was raised in Pompey, New York. He initially studied at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. After suffering from a temporary loss of eyesight, he left Andover and became an itinerant lecturer on mnemonics. He eventually enrolled in Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, where he intended to study for the ministry. During this period, Weld met two men who had a tremendous influence on him. The first was Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875), the renowned revivalist preacher whom Weld assisted during the “Great Revival.” The second was Charles Stuart (1781-1865), a retired British East India army officer and abolitionist whom Weld met in 1825. Stuart became one of Weld’s closest friends, and exerted considerable influence on his decision to become an abolitionist. Stuart’s financial support allowed Weld to enter the Oneida Institute in 1827 to continue the study of theology.
In the early 1830s, Weld befriended brothers and fellow-abolitionists Arthur (1786-1865) and Lewis Tappan (1788-1873), who also shaped his views on emancipation. During this period, he joined the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), which the Tappans and William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) had established in 1833. Weld initially refrained from engaging in any public anti-slavery activities, and instead became a traveling agent for the Society for Promoting Manual Labor in Literary Institutions, another organization the Tappan brothers initiated. In 1833, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, to attend Lane Seminary. At Lane, Weld began to demonstrate his anti-slavery sentiments actively, leading the so-called Lane Seminary “debates” on slavery in 1834. Many Lane faculty members opposed these debates, in which most students expressed overwhelming opposition to slavery. This divide led approximately 40 students, led by Weld, to request dismissal from the school. This group soon became known as the "Lane Rebels," and many of them accepted an invitation to join the newly established and racially integrated Oberlin College.
In the late 1830s, Weld worked as an active agent for the AASS. As a highly skilled public speaker, he canvassed and spoke throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York. He often faced angry and violent mobs, and became known for his ability to subdue them successfully. By 1836, he began to lose his voice, which put his public speaking career on hiatus, though he continued to write for the anti-slavery cause. In 1838, he published The Bible against Slavery, and in 1839, American Slavery as it is: The Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses.
When Angelina first met Weld in 1836, she described him as the “lion of the tribe of abolition.” After a brief courtship, they married on May 14, 1838, and moved with Sarah to Fort Lee, New Jersey. Weld continued to work for the American Anti-Slavery Society. The couple had three children: Charles Stuart Weld (1839-1901), Theodore Grimké Weld (b. 1841), and Sarah Grimké Weld (b. 1844). In 1840, the family purchased a farm in Belleville, New Jersey, where they opened a school. However, the school struggled financially, and they eventually joined the Raritan Bay Union and opened and operated another school in Eagleswood, New Jersey. In 1864, they relocated to Hyde Park, Massachusetts. Sarah died on December 23, 1873, and Angelina died almost six years later on October 26, 1879. Weld lived the remainder of his life with his son Charles Stuart in Hyde Park, where he died in 1895.
Collection Scope and Content Note
The Weld-Grimké family papers contain approximately 2000 items spanning 1740 to 1930, with the bulk concentrated around 1825 to 1893. They form a comprehensive record of the lives of Sarah M. Grimké, Angelina E. Grimké Weld, and Theodore D. Weld. The collection includes letters, newspaper clippings, circulars, diaries, notebooks, essays, and miscellaneous items, which thoroughly document the family's involvement in several social reform movements, particularly the abolition of slavery. The papers are a good source of information on the major reform and political issues of the time, and also serve as a reliable source of familial correspondence for the Weld and Grimké families. In addition to covering a large time-span, the Weld-Grimké Family papers also encompass a wide array of subjects. Although abolition and the anti-slavery movement are central issues in the papers, the collection touches on the beginnings of the women’s rights movement, the American Colonization Society, temperance, political philosophy, religious introspection and commentary, education, literature, health and dietary reform efforts, and spiritualism.
The Correspondence series spans 1740-1889 and contains approximately four linear feet of material. The collection includes incoming letters to Theodore Weld from an array of prominent anti-slavery activists, including Lewis Tappan, Gerrit Smith, Elizur Wright, Jr., Beriah Green, James Armstrong Thome, Charles G. Finney, James Birney, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, Henry B. Stanton, Sereno Wright Streeter, Theodore Erastus Clarke, Dioclesian Lewis, and Samuel Dorrance. Numerous correspondence items also document Weld's friendship and working relationship with Charles Stuart. Other letters are from his parents, his siblings, and the Grimké sisters.
From approximately 1821 to 1836, letters pertaining to Weld refer to his early pursuit of a career in the ministry, his association with temperance, and his early activities in the anti-slavery movement. His discussions with other abolitionists on the Colonization Society are also present. Important events in his life are mentioned, such as his near drowning accident in the Alum River in 1832, and his attendance at the Oneida Institute, Lane Theological Seminary, and Oberlin College. In addition to being an itinerant speaker on behalf of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), incoming letters show that he received numerous requests to lecture at anti-slavery and temperance societies. His letters often mention the threats of violence that abolitionists experienced, and some shed light on the activities of the AASS.
Weld’s correspondence with the Grimké sisters begins in 1837. His letters to and from the sisters, especially Angelina, primarily concern the issues of women's rights and abolition. Weld's attitude was frequently didactic, and his letters convey much advice to the sisters on becoming political activists. On February 8, 1838, Weld wrote a letter to Angelina declaring his love for her; most of the correspondence between this time and May 1838 revolves around their courtship and wedding. Their wedding certificate, dated May 14, 1838, is also included in the collection.
Correspondence from 1839 to 1844 is mainly concerned with Weld’s publications, American Slavery As It Is and The Anti-Slavery Almanack, as well as the Amistad court case in 1841. Also included is a small amount of correspondence with Angelina and Sarah during Weld's brief tenure in Washington, D.C. In these letters, he highlights his work with John Quincy Adams, Joshua Reed Giddings, and others in keeping the slavery question a subject of debate in Congress. Weld's interest in the “Graham diet” also becomes apparent through his letters of this time.
The years between 1845 and 1853 marked a time of transition for Weld as he began his career as a schoolmaster. His letters from Charles Stuart indicate an increasingly strained friendship, and although he still corresponded with other abolitionists, fewer letters address the issue of slavery during this time period. From 1854 to 1867, much of Weld’s correspondence was with his children. He also received numerous letters from former pupils, many of whom fondly referenced their educations at Eagleswood. Letters from 1868 to 1895 revolve around the legacy of the abolition movement and family life. While Weld continued to receive letters from former students, several aging abolitionists and their children also wrote to him, especially to offer condolences after the deaths of Sarah and Angelina.
Sarah and Angelina Grimké’s correspondence is not only plentiful, but also markedly introspective; they typically wrote detailed and lengthy letters to their friends and family members. These letters provide insight into major events in their lives, such as their struggles with religious identity, their famous speaking tour throughout Massachusetts in 1837, and the birth of Angelina’s children. They often discussed various books they had read, such as Woman and her Era by Eliza Wood Farnham, or public talks they had attended. Among their correspondents are Sarah M. Douglass, Jane Smith, Julia A. Tappan, Rachel and Mira Orum, Elizabeth Pease, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Elizabeth Smith Miller, Susan Wattles, Sarah Wattles, Augustus Wattles, Harriot Kezia Hunt, and their brother Frederick Grimké, among others.
From 1825 to 1830, the correspondence of Angelina and Sarah mainly revolves around religious discussion and reflection. Letters during this period are especially pertinent to Angelina’s religious conversions, first to the Presbyterian faith and later to Quakerism. Letters written between 1831 and 1835 discuss Society of Friends meetings and Angelina’s encounters with Catherine Beecher in particular detail. Thomas Smith Grimké and Hester Snowdon, a slave whom Angelina had known in Charleston, also wrote letters during this period.
Between 1835 and 1837, the Grimké correspondence documents the beginnings of the sisters' involvement in the anti-slavery movement. Several items mention Angelina’s published letter to William Lloyd Garrison and others pertain to her book, Appeal to the Christian Women of the South. The vast majority of the letters written in 1837 and 1838 concern the abolition movement and women’s rights issues, highlighting the difficulties Angelina and Sarah encountered as female abolitionists and public figures. Some of the correspondents with whom the sisters discussed these issues include Sarah L. Forten, Sarah M. Douglass, Henrietta Sargent, Theodore Weld, Jane Smith, and Elizabeth Pease.
Angelina and Sarah received many letters from their mother, Mary Smith Grimké, during 1838 and up to her death in 1839. The letters reveal the sisters' continued involvement in abolition, especially their time spent doing research for American Slavery as it is. Motherhood, domesticity, and Angelina's children are frequent topics of discussion, especially from 1839 to 1847. Between 1848 and 1863, Sarah exchanged many letters with Harriot Kezia Hunt, a physician and women’s rights advocate; Frederick Grimké; and Augustus, Susan, and Sarah Wattles. In addition to discussing abolition and women’s rights issues, they also wrote about spiritualism, religion, politics, and other intellectual topics.
The latest letters in the series are primarily to and from the children of Angelina and Theodore Weld, particularly Charles Stuart Weld. Charles wrote on such topics as French and Romanian history, Napoleon III, and the Panama and Suez canals.
The Diaries series contains 16 diaries: 9 by Sarah Grimké and 7 by Angelina Grimké. Sarah’s diaries range from 1819 to 1836. They contain poetry, copies of Bible passages, and her thoughts on religion and marriage. In her entries, she also reflected on women’s issues and on her experiences as a Quaker, and provided some information about her daily experiences. Angelina’s diaries date from 1828 to approximately 1835 and record her struggles with her transition between the Presbyterian and Quaker faiths, her relationship with Sarah, her reasons for opposing slavery, and her courtship with Edward Bettle, who died of cholera in 1832.
The Notebooks and Writings series consists of essays, lecture notes, and 39 notebooks kept by various members of the Weld-Grimké family. Theodore Weld’s essays cover a diversity of subjects, including the oppression of women, Shakespeare's works, William Lloyd Garrison, abolition, and various subjects related to political philosophy. Approximately eight notebooks belonging to Sarah are also in the collection; these include essays on women’s political rights, the education of women, and the status of women in society. Her essays, “Sisters of Charity” and “The Condition of Women” are some of the notebooks with titles. The series also comprises Angelina's lecture notes, as well as several undated autobiographical essays by Weld and his children. Of particular note is a biography of Weld written on 22 notepads, likely in the hand of his daughter Sarah.
The Visual Materials series contains graphic materials representing several photographic formats, including cartes-de-visite, cabinet cards, developing out prints, daguerreotypes, and tintypes. Included are a Weld family album of cartes-de-visite, a photo album of students from Eagleswood Academy, a quarter-plate daguerreotype of the Weld-Grimké family by Greenleaf Weld, and many loose photographs of various family members.
The Realia series contains several linear feet of three-dimensional objects associated with the Weld-Grimké family, including Angelina's eyeglasses and watch, a family quilt, and a pocketknife belonging to Theodore Weld. Also included are a tea set, a Chinese fan, and an ivory sewing box. Most of the items date to the mid-19th century.
The Clippings and Miscellaneous series holds nearly 200 newspaper clippings, most of which are undated. The clippings mainly pertain to the topics of slavery and the abolition movement, although some also concern women’s rights and the legacies of Theodore Weld and the Grimké sisters.
In addition to this finding aid, the Clements Library has created a list of personal names, geographic locations, and subjects in the Weld-Grimké family papers: Weld-Grimké Supplements.