Angelina Grimke & Catharine Beecher

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Angelina Grimke’s public appeal for the institution of the human rights of all moral beings is ultimately superior to Catharine Beecher’s doctrine of female supremacy limited to the domestic sphere. Both women are visionaries of their era offering contrasting views of women’s proper place in society as well as their moral duties. History has proven that Grimke is unwaveringly the contest winner of this debate . Compelling reasons for Grimke’s historical success can be seen in the women’s differing contextual arguments, the effective use of rhetorical mediums, and the personal embodiment of beliefs. Angelina E. Grimke’s Letters to Catharine Beecher is a contrasting response to Beecher’s Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism, which was addressed to Grimke herself. Specifically, Angelina’s 12th and 13th letters serve as a fervent vehicle for which Grimke meticulously counters Beecher’s affirmations of woman’s societal subordination. Grimke wrote the letters “because of a ‘deep and tender interest’ for the ‘present and eternal welfare’ of ‘Sisters in Chris’ whose eyes were closed to the Law” . Although Grimke addresses her letters to Beecher, her intended audience includes every American, regardless of gender, race, or social status that may come in contact with her publishing or be touched by it in any manner. By 1837, Grimke had gained significant clout from both the reverence and contempt of her followers and critics. She stood as a dedicated abolitionist who broke down multiple barriers for the advancement of women’s rights and moral social change. Catharine Beecher’s Essay sets out to rationalize women’s submissive role by claiming a rigid, social hierarchy- divinely instituted- placing men above women. She argues that women should only influence society through the activities of their separate, domestic sphere. Like Grimke, she ultimately sought to benefit American society through moral reform, but through different means. Angelina Grimke gains historical influence in part by her ability to appeal to the emotional intellect of feminine nature through her faithful articulation and egalitarian interpretation of the Bible. Angelina appeals to the intuitive dispositions of her female audience by imploring that they lift their voices to demand their basic human rights as moral creatures. She effectively argues that, “all humans, through liberation from sin by Christ’s gift of grace, have the same moral nature and, as a result, the same rights in religious and civil life” . It is woman’s sacred duty to exercise a political and public voice. Grimke uses the Bible to respond to Beecher’s claim of man as the superior sex. She writes, “Did Jesus then, give a different rule of action to men and women?” She quotes Scripture by stating: “said God, I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…they shall prophesy” . She calls on women to have faith in their struggles, “the disciples of Jesus were to walk by faith, not by sight. Did Abraham reason as to the probable results of his offering up Isaac? No!” . She passionately asserts that women suffer from “a violation of human rights…a violent seizure and confiscation of what is sacredly and inalienably hers” . She even effectively addresses the “clash between biology and religion” in the creation story. The formation of woman out of Adam’s rib serves as direct evidence that she is a part of him, made by his side so that she may be his companion and equal, “the last best gift of God to man” . Angelina’s open analysis and concise presentation of Scripture is a significant factor in her success.

Grimke’s ability to invoke passionate response and appeal to thousands of people is based in the powerful combination of literacy and speech. In her literature, Angelina is very succinct and analytical, using the far-reaching hands of the press to access all of society. Her writings appeal to logical and educated minds, stating accepted foundations for...
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