Sarah Grimke: Grimke Sisters and Grimke Brothers (Womens Rights and Black Rights Together)
October 9, 2020
Our tween daughter and I finished watching the documentary “RBG” yestserday in preparation for our Cadette Girl Scout Meeting. It was a special night to have the time to watch it with her and answer her questions, and watch her expressions. It was meaningful for so many reasons. As someone who considers myself of a historical bent, I did earn my undergraduate degree in History of Science, I am always curious as the origins of quotes. The original quote that RBG credited but is often forgotten by our modern society comes from Sarah Grimke https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Moore_Grimk%C3%A9.
I just finished reading the Wikipedia entry on her which is worth a read. I am embarassed to say I never learned anything about abolitionist or much about the feminist in my studies. Perhaps that’s because the textbooks of my youth were censored to exclude these histories? Meandering through Sarah Grimke’s biography it demonstrates how complex the webs of family and politics and ideology are. She came from a Southern Planter family and became a quaker, and was aunt to mixed-race children who she recognized and helped to educate. Within that family are founders are generations of leaders in the NAACP, writers of the Harlem Renaissaince. As a first generation immigrant, it is amazing to me the racial discord in America is against a back drop of the complex legacy of families. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Grimk%C3%A9
“Slaves In The Family” by Mark Perry details some of this. Here is the New York Times review of it https://www.nytimes.com/2001/12/02/books/slaves-in-the-family.html. But it sounds like it falls short in exploring the true agency of the black members in the Grimke family and focuses on the white female abolitionists. The papers for much of the family is at the University of Michigan (The Weld-Grimke Family Papers) and interestingly includes a niece who was one of the first female physicians in the country https://quod.lib.umich.edu/c/clementsead/umich-wcl-M-400wel?view=text. Her nephew was Franics James Grimke, one of the leading African-American clergy of his time and a founder of the NAACP.
As a mother and pediatrician, I’m always fascinated by family dynamics. It has been wonderful to let my mind wander this morning to weave through the history of the abolition movement, founding of the NAACP, and the Grimke family. Being open to new ideas and forgotten or purposefully suppressed histories is invigorating. And reimaging ways to raise my own daughter has been a gift. Our daughter was enraptured watching the RBG documentary. Here is the patch she will earn after tonights discussion with her troop. And I’ll tell her what I learned about Sarah Grimke where the quote originated and the Grimke family. She will love it, as she is an active member in History Day at school.