Women Societies and the Abolition of the Slavery

Women Societies and the Abolition of the Slavery Act 1833


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Prior to the 18th century many parts of the universe accepted bondage as portion of their civilization. Much of this was embraced by the spiritual constitution who thought that captivity was the best manner to convey ‘heathens’ into civilisation and closer to God.

By the late 17th century many persons who travelled to the ‘New World’ were horrified by the conditions with which they were faced in regard if the intervention of slaves. George Fox, a outstanding Quaker was appalled by the inhumane intervention he witnessed. The Quaker motion was closely involved in the anti-slavery docket, believing that every person, including the slave, could see God. The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, an entirely male administration was set up in 1783.

The Role of Women:

Women’s groups played a polar function in the abolishment of bondage but their part has frequently been ignored by historiographers, being seen as community based and hence inferior to the male part ( Walvin, 1986 ) . In the 1780s adult females began demoing their support for the anti bondage motion by declining to utilize slave grown green goods and composing anti-slavery poesy. Their boycott of slave grown sugar had an of import economic consequence.

Literature formed the largest portion of the early female part, with an estimated one-fourth of 18th century literature refering to slavery believed to hold been written by adult females ( Hogg, 1973 ) . Men, peculiarly evangelicals, attached great importance to the function of adult females as defenders of faith and morality, and as such set great shop in their sentiments on issues such as bondage ( Hall, 1979 ) .

The Slave Act of 1807 outlawed the slave trade, but the infliction of mulcts for mariners transporting slaves had small consequence, taking to a realization that the lone manner to efficaciously eliminate bondage was to do it illegal in all signifiers. This saw the rise of new administrations to run against bondage, the most of import of which was the Anti-Slavery Society founded in 1823. The society had many adult females members. Although they were excluded from the leading, it brought them to the head of a major political issue for the first clip. The anti-slavery anteroom became a strong force propensity towards general thoughts of societal reform.

Women’s Societies:

The first women’s anti bondage society was established in 1825 in Lucy Townsend’s place. It was named The Birmingham Ladies Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves, subsequently The Female Society for Birmingham. Other women’s groups shortly followed. By 1831 there were 73 women’s administrations runing against bondage. These groups highlighted the corporate nature of the female anti-slavery motion which included adult females from all societal categories and backgrounds. This was to hold major reverberations non merely on the function of adult females in the motion, but besides on the nature of the anti-slavery motion as a whole and on the function of adult females in British society ( Midgley, 1992, p.44 ) .

Among the cardinal adult females involved were Elizabeth Heyrick, Mary Lloyd, Jane Smeal, Elizabeth Pearse and Anne Knight. Anne Knight, a Quaker pacificist, played a really active function in the anti-slavery run. She organised meetings and requests and her attempts culminated in the formation of a subdivision of the Women’s Anti-Slavery Society. She gave frequent talks on the immorality of bondage reasoning for its immediate abolishment without compensation. From its earliest phases women’s engagement in the anti-slavery run raised inquiries about their changing function in society. Women’s functions within the motion were going more established. The political dimension of the anti-slavery motion and the function of adult females in this caused some malaise among the male leading.

Wilberforce expressed his antipathy when he commented that he thought adult females taking on an progressively active function would hold the undermentioned affect:

“I fright its inclination would be to blend them in all the multiform warfare of political life.” ( Isaac & A ; Wilberforce, 1838, p.94 ) .

Jane Smeal, in a missive written to Elizabeth Pearse in 1836, pointed out that it was the center and working category adult females in her metropolis who supported the anti-slavery motion, instead than the upper categories, making so with enthusiasm and an ability to work together. Smeal and Pearse joined forces to print a booklet ‘Address to the adult females of Great Britain’ in which they urged adult females to organize anti-slavery associations. The women’s motions did, nevertheless, effort to distance themselves from the black Resistance to Slavery motions and the societal battles characteristic of the working categories, reflective of their philanthropic in-between category beginnings.

Like Knight, Heyrick argued for the immediate abolishment of bondage, go forthing her adrift of the official Anti-Slavery Society place. Wilberforce, who feared that adult females would desire to follow a more extremist scheme than the male leading, ordered male leaders non to talk at the female led conferences. Wilberforce’s fears proved to be right when Heyrick began to organize a web of female anti-slavery groups, straight opposed the male hierarchy’s stance on the gradual abolishment of bondage. She suggested that the female groups withdraw their support, an of import beginning of gross for the Society, if the male leaders did non name for the immediate abolishment of bondage. An effectual scheme, in 1830, the Anti-Slavery Society agreed to drop the words ‘gradual abolition’ from its rubric. The undermentioned twelvemonth the Anti-Slavery Society petitioned Parliament naming for the ‘immediate liberation of newborn slaves’ .

Although actively involved in the anti-slavery run between 1825 and 1833, female candidates in Britain did non seek celebrity or acknowledgment for their work. By and large, they did non dispute their exclusion from places of power and authorization, being prepared to take back place to work forces at public meetings and conferences. Arising ab initio out of a philanthropic and Christian political orientation, the women’s anti-slavery motion is besides an illustration of an early homo rights run and the taking political reform docket of the twenty-four hours. In a motion that pioneered methods for conveying about legislative alteration, adult females were cardinal in using force per unit area to parliament and determining public sentiment. This led them to develop independent female administrations, to organize mass requests and to joint a comprehensive run concentrating on their concern sing enslaved adult females.

Womans were really acute that bondage be abolished at the earliest possible clip and on this issue they were prepared to dispute the dominant male authorization. Their run of petitioning brought larger and larger Numberss of adult females into the anti-slavery motion and in some towns more adult females than work forces signed anti-slavery requests ( Midgley, 1992, p.68 ) . These requests were effectual in promoting the authorities to move.

The 1833 Act:

1833 saw the Abolition of Slavery Act, the Act of Parliament which ended bondage throughout the British Empire. The Act did non convey about an terminal to the involvement in bondage with candidates turning their attending to the public assistance of liberated slaves. The experience of female candidates in Britain gave them assurance and sense of corporate individuality. Their feminine positions on anti-slavery political orientation were instrumental in the development of the feminist motion and their actions provided considerable drift for their opposite numbers on the other side of the Atlantic.


The women’s anti-slavery societies began to weave down after the passing of the 1833 Act, with many of the candidates turning their attending to other societal issues. In the memoirs of Wilberforce and others these adult females tend to be represented as helpful and inspirational married womans, female parents and girls, instead than as militants in their ain right ( Midgley, 1992, p.2 ) , a clear deceit of the priceless part of the women’s motion to the abolishment of bondage and the Passing of the 1833 Act.


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