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Hearts Beating for Liberty

Women Abolitionists in the Old Northwest

Stacey M. Robertson

Publication Year: 2010

Stacey Robertson argues that the environment of the Old Northwest--with its own complicated history of slavery and racism--created a uniquely collaborative and flexible approach to abolitionism. Western women helped build this local focus through their unusual and occasionally transgressive activities. They plunged into Liberty Party politics, vociferously supported a Quaker-led boycott of slave goods, and tirelessly aided fugitives and free blacks in their communities. Western women worked closely with male abolitionists, belying the notion of separate spheres that characterized abolitionism in the East. The contested history of race relations in the West also affected the development of abolitionism in the region, necessitating a pragmatic bent in their activities. Female antislavery societies focused on eliminating racist laws, aiding fugitive slaves, and building and sustaining schools for blacks. This approach required that abolitionists of all stripes work together, and women proved especially adept at such cooperation.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xiv

This book was a joy to research and write in part because of all the wonderful friends, colleagues, librarians, archivists, and students who have provided assistance, support, encouragement, and advice. I apologize if I neglect anyone among the dozens of people who contributed in one way or another to this project over the past decade. ...

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pp. 1-10

The cheese was enormous. It created quite a stir at the lucrative antislavery fair in Boston, an event renowned more for its elegant and tasteful European imports than its dairy products. Fairgoers listened to the eloquence of anti-slavery luminaries Wendell Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison; perused the slogans on delicately embroidered Scottish-made handbags; ...

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1. Grassroots Activism and Female Antislavery Societies

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pp. 11-35

The two knew each other by reputation only. Lucy Wright, sister of famed abolitionist Elizur Wright, had just returned home to Tallmadge, Ohio, after spending nearly two years working as a teacher in African American schools in Cincinnati.1 Betsey Mix Cowles, who lived only eighty miles from Wright, had recently founded the Ashtabula County Female Anti-Slavery Society, ...

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2. Abolitionist Women and the Liberty Party

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pp. 37-66

Mary Davis must have been scandalized when a “gentleman” sat in her lap. She had gone to Chicago’s City Hall to hear famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass discuss the state’s Black Laws, the importance of political antislavery, and the Fugitive Slave Act.1 A longtime admirer of Douglass, Davis was eager to listen to his lecture. ...

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3. Free Produce in the Old Northwest

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pp. 67-90

In March 1833, Michigan abolitionist Elizabeth Chandler shrewdly used her ladies’ column in the Genius of Universal Emancipation to publish a letter from Ohio’s Green Plain Free Produce Society. Hoping to highlight the compelling rationale for rejecting slave-made goods in favor of “pure” free-labor products, ...

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4. Antislavery Fairs, Cooperation, and Community Building

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pp. 91-126

They sent the box to Cincinnati. This infuriated the Salem, Ohio, Garrisonians. Sarah MacMillan made every effort to remain polite in her letter to Anne Warren Weston, but the exasperation behind her words burst through. Why, MacMillan inquired, had Weston’s powerful Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society failed to send ...

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5. Women Lecturers and Radical Antislavery

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pp. 127-160

The Quakers accosted her. An experienced and road-weary Garrisonian lecturer from Massachusetts, Abby Kelley had encountered hostile audiences across the Northeast for nearly a decade. She had come to the Old Northwest in June 1845 at the invitation of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society. ...

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6. Abolitionists and Fugitive Slaves

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pp. 161-182

In the late summer of 1854, as the nation confronted the growing controversy around the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which reaffirmed the West as a battleground between slavery and freedom, abolitionists met in Salem, Ohio, for the twelfth annual meeting of the Western Anti-Slavery Society.1 ...

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7. Woman’s Rights and Abolition in the West

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pp. 183-200

Eliza T. Frantz wrote to the Anti-Slavery Bugle in March 1856 to update readers on the reform environment in her small northern Indiana town, Warsaw, which she characterized as “dark and benighted.” She confessed that she had spent much of her two years there “sunk in hopeless despair thinking, that no good could come out of Sodom.” ...

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pp. 201-204

In reply to a request from Susan B. Anthony to write down her memories of woman’s rights activism in the antebellum West, Emily Rakestraw Robinson included a brief antislavery reminiscence. In “Our Old Anti-Slavery Tent,” Robinson described the life span of a canvas tent, a piece of which she included in the letter. ...


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pp. 205-262


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pp. 263-294


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pp. 295-303

E-ISBN-13: 9781469606330
E-ISBN-10: 146960633X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807834084
Print-ISBN-10: 0807834084

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 676698382
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Hearts Beating for Liberty

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Subject Headings

  • Women abolitionists -- Northwest, Old -- History -- 19th century.
  • Abolitionists -- Northwest, Old -- History -- 19th century.
  • Antislavery movements -- Northwest, Old -- History -- 19th century.
  • Women -- Political activity -- Northwest, Old -- History -- 19th century.
  • Northwest, Old -- History -- 19th century.
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