In an effort to make their voices heard during a time when anti-slavery groups were forming throughout the North, a team of women came together to form the interracial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (PFASS). Not only did these 60 members challenge slavery laws, but they also advocated for racial and gender equality.
Just three days after being encouraged by the members of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Quaker abolitionist Lucretia Mott met with 21 women in a school room on Dec. 9, 1833, and on Dec. 14 signed a constitution that outlined the society's mission.
"We deem it our duty, as professing Christians to manifest our abhorrence of the flagrant injustice and deep sin of slavery by united and vigorous exertions," they agreed.
Its African-American members included businessman James Forten's three daughters, Margaretta, Sarah and Harriet, who was married to Black abolitionist Robert Purvis. During their active years, they fundraised, established a school for African-Americans, conducted a boycott of slave-created goods and lobbied for emancipation with a petition to Congress bearing the signatures of 3,300 women. They also raised money for the Underground Railroad to clothe, feed, house and transport slaves fleeing the South.
During the Civil War, members of the PFASS concentrated their energy into the war effort and later focused on granting African-Americans the right to vote. The society dissolved in March 1870 after the ratification of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution that protected the rights of all those born or naturalized in the U.S. regardless of race and granted African-American men the right to vote.
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(Photo: Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College)
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