A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Invited by the Ladies


The efforts of women are critically important to the antislavery cause. They know how to organize, and they won't be defeated, though they are sometimes disheartened. These two documents, written eighteen years apart, reflect their methods, accomplishments, and the obstacles they continue to confront. Portraits of many of these women are available at the Portraits of American Abolitionists collection guide.


Selection from the Library of Congress: Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Fair... [Boston, 1841].

Questions to Consider


  1. According to the 1841 document, what have been the contributions of the women's antislavery committee in Boston to the statewide Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society? What goals have not yet been reached?
  2. Who are the readers being invited to meet in the 1859 document? Where will they meet? When? Why?


  1. What outside events have taken place in the intervening years between the writing of the two documents? How might those events have affected the mission and the methods of these antislavery women?
  2. What roles do the following women play in antislavery work and work of other reform movements of the nineteenth century: Maria Weston Chapman, Eliza Lee Follen, Lydia Maria Child, Sarah Blake Shaw, Abby Kelley Foster?


  1. What are the outcomes that the document signers are hoping for in each case? What do the signers want from the readers, and what do they want in general?
  2. What are the readers being asked to do? Is it the same or is it different for each document?


  1. How could local women's committees - such as this one in Boston - make contributions to antislavery efforts? What challenges or problems might women encounter in their work that the men do not have to confront? What evidence does each of these documents provide as the women update the recipients of these letters on their activities?
  2. Why do you suppose that you see so many women signers with the same last, middle, or maiden names? What might that tell you?


  1. How many of the women sign both documents? What does that tell you?
  2. What changes in their tone or approach from the earlier document to the later one, and what remains constant?