Discussion: Angelina Grimké

In her Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, Angelina Grimké is able to appeal to her readers by relating the abolitionist cause to their Christian beliefs and position as women. A Southern woman herself, Grimké is able to use her position to convince other Southern women of the "exceeding sinfulness of slavery... [and their] sense of duty as Christian women" (79) to do all they can to eradicate this evil. Presenting them with arguments that show the evils of slavery from a Christian and female perspective, she argues that, as Christians and women, they cannot support the cause of slavery. Grimké calls her readers to action in the same manner, asking them to follow in the footsteps of Christian martyrs, both male and female, in placing divine laws over human ones. By bringing attention to the disparity between the system of slavery and the ideals that Christians and women should hold, Grimké calls for Southern women to take up the antislavery cause.

Grimké directs her appeal to her fellow female Southerners by invoking their Christianity and womanhood. In her attempt to create abolitionist sentiment, she appeals to the Christian beliefs of her readers to make her statement. Much of her argument against slavery is undertaken from a Biblical perspective; using scripture, she refutes the claim that slavery is condoned in the Bible by analyzing Hebrew servitude and contrasting it with Southern slavery. She thus questions the linkage of Christianity and slavery:

"Where, then, I would ask, is the warrant, the justification, or the palliation of American Slavery from Hebrew servitude? How many of the southern slaves would now be in bondage according to the laws of Moses; Not one... no such thing existed among the people... let [slaveholders] not dare to say that the God of mercy and of truth ever sanctioned such a system of cruelty and wrong. It is blasphemy against Him" (47-48).

In addition to evoking Christianity, Grimké evokes her readers' likely status as mothers to gain sympathy for the plight of slaves. Contesting the claim that slaves are accustomed to or even benefit from slavery, Grimké asks her audience if they could impose slavery on their children. "I appeal to you, my friends, as mothers; are you willing to enslave your children?... Why, if as has often been said, slaves are happier than their masters... why not place your children in the way of being supported without your having the trouble to provide for them, or they for themselves? (51) In this way, Grimké is able to make her point by appealing to the position of the women who she is addressing.

Grimké uses the same methods to call her readers to action; by evoking the stories of Biblical martyrs and the heroines of the Bible, she inspires her readers to act in the same manner as those figures, who would have been held up as exemplars of moral virtue. As she compares the cause of abolition with that of Christianity, she recommends that her audience show the same virtues as Christian prophets in pushing divine truth over human law. "Why were the Apostles persecuted from city to city, stoned, incarcerated, beaten, and crucified? Because they dared to speak the truth... to break the unrighteous laws of their country, and chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God" (59-60). Grimké also urges her readers to identify with Biblical heroines, who did not ignore the cause because of their gender, but worked to support the cause of truth. "Women as well as men were to be living stones in the temple of grace, and therefore their heads were consecrated by the descent of the Holy Ghost as well as those of men. Were women recognized as fellow laborers in the gospel field? They were!" (62) Such invocations of the heroes and heroines of the Bible allowed Grimké to push her fellow Southern women to act in ways similar to the early Christians, propagating truth despite the persecution of the masses.

In her appeal, Grimké urges her audience to join the abolitionist movement by demonstrating that the practice of slavery ought to be repugnant to them, both as Christians and as women, and that they should emulate their Biblical predecessors by taking an effort to fight this evil. By invoking the values that Southern women would hold dear, she creates an argument with the potential to affect the Southern women who read it. In its evocation of the ethos of Christian womanhood, Grimké's appeal is able to reach an audience which seems unlikely to support the antislavery movement.

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