Series: A Great Inheritance: Examining the Relationship between Abolition and the Women’s Rights Movement

This series was written by Victoria Elliott, an intern at Women's Rights National Historical Park. The abolition and women’s rights movements are deeply connected. This series looks at the connections, as well as how the movements differed for Black and white women.

  • Article 1: A Great Inheritance: Introduction

    Black and white photo of a tall building. Site of the 1869 AERA meeting. Library of Congress

    The abolition movement was one of the leading factors in the formation of the 19th century women’s rights movement. This series explores the connections between the abolition movement and the women’s rights movement to reveal the relationship between the two campaigns. Read more

  • Article 2: A Great Inheritance: Abolition and the Women's Sphere

    Drawing of the exterior of a five story, rectangular building

    Prior to the 1830s, American antislavery organizations were formed and controlled by white men. This changed in December of 1833 when African American men were invited to participate at the first convention of the American Anti-Slavery Slavery Society (AASS) held in Philadelphia. Some women were also invited to the convention, but as spectators rather than as members. Excluding women from full participation was customary of the period’s social conventions. Read more

  • Article 3: A Great Inheritance: Prejudice, Racism, and Black Women in Anti-Slavery Societies

    A Black woman kneels, her hands are chained and raised asking for help

    The establishment of Female Anti-Slavery Societies in the 1830s facilitated the formal beginnings of women’s political participation in the abolitionist movement. One women’s antislavery society that formed in the wake of the first American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) convention was the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (PFASS). The AASS organized itself as an interracial organization, and PFASS was founded in the same manner. Read more

  • Article 4: A Great Inheritance: Abolitionist Practices in the Women's Rights Movement

    Color drawing of Pennsylvania Hall, a three story building with peaked roof

    Some abolitionist women found the confidence needed to reject social conventions and participate in public activities by denying the authority of clerical rules. Abolitionist feminists also found resolve to contradict gender roles in the abolitionist belief of the common humanity of all people. The belief in common humanity was used by abolitionists to argue for the definition of African American slaves as people, not property. Read more

  • Article 5: A Great Inheritance: The Abolition Movement and the First Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls

    Portrait of Lucretia Mott wearing a bonnet

    The Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention is regarded as the beginning of the US women’s rights movement. The organizers of the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls were neighbors, friends, and relatives who decided to arrange the convention over their shared convictions. Each had backgrounds in the abolitionist movement and were dedicated to the anti-slavery cause which prepared them to organize the first women’s rights convention in 1848. Read more

  • Article 6: A Great Inheritance: Reflected Shortcomings in Abolition and the Women's Rights Movement

    It is a disservice to consider the abolitionist movement for all of its triumphs and none of its problems. It is likewise naïve to consider the positive influences of abolition on the women’s rights movement without acknowledging the negative. The following is an examination of the problems within the abolition movement and how these issues are reflected in the early women’s rights movement. Read more

  • Article 7: A Great Inheritance: Conclusion and References

    Black and white drawing of the exterior of a building, three stories with a peaked roof

    The abolition movement helped form and influence those who built and led the women’s rights movement. The beliefs and practices of the abolition movement provided a backdrop against which antislavery women could challenge gender roles and leave the woman’s sphere to enter the public sphere. Read more