In 1831 Arthur Tappan and Lewis Tappan established the first Anti-Slavery Society in New York. When two years later it became a national organization, Tappan was elected its first president. William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Weld, Samuel Eli Cornish, Robert Purvis, Wendell Phillips, Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown soon emerged as the main figures in the organization. Its main supporters were from religious groups such as the Quakers and from the free black community.
Two sisters, Angelina Grimke and Sarah Grimke became the first women to lecture for the Anti-Slavery Society. This brought attacks from religious leaders who disapproved of women speaking in public. Sarah Grimke wrote bitterly that men were attempting to "drive women from almost every sphere of moral action" and called on women "to rise from that degradation and bondage to which the faculties of our minds have been prevented from expanding to their full growth and are sometimes wholly crushed." Refusing to give up their campaign, the sisters now became pioneers in the struggle for women's rights.
Women gradually became very active in the Anti-Slavery Society. Some of these women, including Susan Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Lucy Stone and Amelia Bloomer were later to play a leading role in the struggle for woman's suffrage.
The Anti-Slavery Society organised meetings, arranged the signing of petitions, printed and distributed anti-slavery propaganda and employed people to go on lecture tours of the United States. By 1840 the society had 250,000 members, published more than twenty journals and 2,000 local chapters.
Some members of the Anti-Slavery Society considered the organization to be too radical. They objected to the attacks on the US Constitution and the prominent role played by women in the society. Some leaders, such as William Lloyd Garrison, Theodore Weld, Wendell Phillips and Frederick Douglass were as committed to women's rights as they were to the abolition of slavery. Others, such as Arthur Tappan, Lewis Tappan, Gerrit Smith, Samuel Eli Cornish and James Birney disagreed with this view.
Great controversy was created when three women, Lydia Maria Child, Lucretia Mott and Maria Weston Chapman were elected to the executive committee of the Anti-Slavery Society. Lewis Tappan argued that: "To put a woman on the committee with men is contrary to the usages of civilized society."
In 1840 a group including Arthur Tappan, Lewis Tappan, James Birney, Samuel Eli Cornish and Gerrit Smith left the Anti-Slavery Society and formed a rival organization, the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. This new organization refused to support the woman's rights movement and instead concentrated exclusively on the subject of slavery.
The abolition of slavery became the policy of the Liberal Party (1840-48), the Free-Soil Party (1848-54) and the Republican Party (founded in 1854). The Anti-Slavery Society was dissolved after the passing of the 14th Amendment and the Reconstruction Acts in 1867.
Slavery in the United States (£1.29)