Sarah Grimké


1. What are the impediments to full equality for women under the law? What does she focus upon? Explain

2. What are the traditional religious ideas she has to confront? Explain carefully look up odd words/people she notes for her context.

3. How are her ideas linked to those of Abigail Adams from back in Chapter Six? What similarities do you see?

4. From our reading and lecture materials to this point, why is the subject of equality of men and women in the USA such a divisive topic? Why is it controversial and opposed? Explain your perceptions.

Primary Source: Sarah Grimké calls for women’s rights, 1838

Antebellum Americans increasingly confined middle-class white women to the home, where they were responsible for educating children and maintaining household virtue. Yet women used these ideas to become more active in the public sphere than ever before, taking prominent roles in all the major reform causes of the era. Women’s participation in the antislavery crusade most directly inspired specific women’s rights campaigns. In this document, Sarah Moore Grimké calls for equality between men and women.

The lust of dominion was probably the first effect of the fall; and as there was no other intelligent being over whom to exercise it, woman was the first victim of this unhallowed passion. We afterwards see it exhibited by Cain in the murder of his brother, by Nimrod in his becoming a mighty hunter of men, and setting up a kingdom over which to reign. Here we see the origin of that Upas of slavery, which sprang up immediately after the fall, and has spread its pestilential branches over the whole face of the known world. All history attests that man has subjected woman to his will, used her as a means to promote his selfish gratification, to minister to his sensual pleasures, to be instrumental in promoting his comfort; but never has he desired to elevate her to that rank she was created to fill. He has done all he could do to debase and enslave her mind; and now he looks triumphantly on the ruin he has wrought, and says, the being he has thus deeply injured is his inferior.

Woman has been placed by John Quincy Adams, side by side with the slave, whilst he was contending for the right side of petition. I thank him for ranking us with the oppressed; for I shall not find it difficult to show, that in all ages and countries, not even excepting enlightened republican America, woman has more or less been made a means to promote the welfare of man, without due regard to her own happiness, and the glory of God as the end of her creation…

Man almost always addresses himself to the weakness of woman. By flattery, by an appeal to her passions, he seeks access to her heart; and when he has gained her affections, he uses her as the instrument of his pleasure—the minister of his temporal comfort. He furnishes himself with a housekeeper, whose chief business is in the kitchen, or the nursery. And whilst he goes abroad and enjoys the means of improvement afforded by collision of intellect with cultivated minds, his wife is condemned to draw nearly all her instruction from books, if she has time to pursue them; and if not, from her meditations, whilst engaged in those domestic duties, which are necessary for the comfort of her lord and master…

I believe it will be found that men, in the exercise of their usurped dominion over women, have almost invariably done one of two things. They have either made slaves of the creatures whom God designed to be their companions and their coadjutors in every moral and intellectual improvement, or they have dressed them like dolls, and used them as toys to amuse their hours of recreation…

I maintain that they [men and women] are equal, and that God never invested fallen man with unlimited power over his fellow man; and I rejoice that circumstances have prevented woman from being more deeply involved in the guilt which appears to be inseparable from political affairs. If woman had not almost universally been depressed and degraded, the page of history would have exhibited as many eminent statesmen and politicians among women as men. We are much in the situation of the slave. Man has asserted and assumed authority over us…

Now a new and vast sphere of usefulness is opened to her, and she is pressed by surrounding circumstances to come up to the help of the Lord against the giant sins which desolate our beloved country. Shall woman shrink from duty…and forget her brethren and sisters in bondage…whose husbands and wives are torn from them by relentless tyrants, and whose children are snatched from their arms by their unfeeling task-masters?… Shall she, because ‘her house is her home, ’ refuse her aid and her sympathy to the down trodden slave?…Did God give her those blessings to steel her heart to the sufferings of her fellow creatures?…

The page of history teems with women’s wrongs, and it is wet with women’s tears.—For the sake of my degraded sex every where, and for the sake of my brethren, who suffer just in proportion as they place woman lower in the scale of creation than man…I entreat my sisters to arise…in all the dignity of immortal beings, and plant themselves, side by side, on the platform of human rights, with man to whom they were designed to be companions, equals and helpers in every good word and work…

Thine in the bonds of womanhood,


Sarah Moore Grimké, Letters on the equality of the sexes, and the condition of woman (Boston: 1838), 11-12, 23, 27, 33, 40-41, 45.


                                               Sarah Grimké

Sarah Grimké started as an abolitionist and soon she found herself as an advocate for full equality of women under the law alongside her initial cause. Sarah wrote the “In her Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, and the Condition of Woman of 1838” where she highlights some various impediments to women right’s as well try to abolish the subordinate role of women.  

At first, regarding the impediments to full equality for women under the law, there is the notion that men and women should naturally occupy “separate spheres” in societies. That way, men should control the public sphere such as leadership, voting, and policymaking while women should control the private sphere mostly the affairs at home. Sarah gives an example of the women’s role in a private sphere where she states that “Antebellum Americans increasingly confined middle-class white women to the home, where they were responsible for educating children and maintaining household virtue” (Grimké, 1838). However, according to Sarah women were starting to go against this convectional philosophy by trying to become more active in the public figure such as participating in reform processes even though they possessed little knowledge and ideas. Additionally, she opposes this obstacle to women’s rights by arguing that both women and women are proper persons to participate in the public sphere thus women are not out of place when they advocate for equality under the law.

Even though the concept of “separate spheres” influenced women’s rights, Sarah’s main concern is the convectional philosophy that by God’s decree women were subordinate to men. This notion was among the main justification against the full equality of women under the law. Nonetheless, Sarah mostly focused on this impediment where she viewed it as a misunderstanding of the story of creation and the fall.  She argues that “in all the dignity of immortal beings, and plant themselves, side by side, on the platform of human rights, with man to whom they were designed to be companions, equals and helpers in every good word and work” (Grimké, 1838). According to Sarah’s argument, God had created men and women as equal since the lust of dominion attracted women first, neither men nor women should exercise it on one another. However, the lust of dominion has made mane make women their inferiors, slaves, and subordinates by enslaving their minds…………for help with this assignment contact us via email Address:

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