Letter From Publisher, February 2020
A while back, my husband Wayne and I visited Charleston, South Carolina, for a short vacation. Although we had both visited the city before, neither of us had really explored its history and we decided that this was the time to do it. We stayed downtown at a small inn so that we could walk everywhere easily. It turned out to be a good choice. The inn had a lovely courtyard where breakfast was served in the morning and wine and cheese were offered at the cocktail hour. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed rambling around this historic and beautiful city.
I had read a book a few years before that made a lasting impression on me. The book, set in Charleston, was historical fiction authored by Sue Monk Kidd, entitled The Invention of Wings. It was about two sisters who were raised in Charleston during the pre-civil war period. Their father was a well-respected judge. The family, as one might expect, owned slaves. There was no mention by the author until the afterword that the two central characters in the book, the sisters, were based on real life women—women who had left an indelible mark on this nation’s history. Sarah and Angelina Grimke, raised in the cradle of slavery, were among the first female abolitionists to travel and speak out against the cruelty and injustice of the system.
Under the umbrella of the American Anti Slavery Society, the Grimke sisters first started speaking out to small gatherings in private homes. This naturally led to larger groups in public venues, and eventually they toured the country with their passionate message. In 1837, when the Congregational Association of Ministers of Massachusetts strongly denounced women preachers and reformers—referencing St. Paul’s edict that women should be silent—the sisters took on women’s rights with equal passion.
While reading the book, I was moved at the compassion young Sarah had for the slaves in her household, even to the point of breaking the law by teaching a young slave girl—“given” to her as a birthday gift—how to read.
A friend of mine who had visited Charleston and who had also read the book told me the original Grimke house, although not open to the public, was situated in Charleston’s historic district where Wayne and I were then staying. As an afterthought the night before we were to return home, I did an internet search on the Grimke sisters and, to my delight, found a Grimke sisters walking tour operating in the city. A quick phone call secured us space for the next morning.
I highly recommend the tour, http://grimkesisterstour.com, to anyone who appreciates the rich history to be found in the South. It was thought-provoking, historically educational, and sprinkled with anecdotes about the Grimke family and pre-civil war Charleston. It also painted a vivid portrait of two women, who holding fast to their ideals, helped change the course of history.
Peace and Blessings,