Although no military battles took place on Massachusetts soil during the Civil War, the abolitionists’ battle for the emancipation of slaves began in Boston as early as the 1830’s. When one thinks of Boston abolitionists, names such as Garrison, Governor Andrew, Douglass, and Sumner often come to mind; however, the women of Boston played a significant role in educating the public and raising funds for anti-slavery activities.
One example of the contributions of female Boston abolitionists can be found in the Special Collections of the State Library. In 1899, Samuel May donated a 15 volume set of The Liberty Bell to the State Library, an annual gift book first published in 1839 by the American Anti-Slavery Society and edited by Maria Weston Chapman. These ornate publications were sold at the annual Boston Anti-Slavery Bazaar, a fair founded by Lydia Maria Child and Louisa Loring and sponsored by the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society.
Each volume of The Liberty Bell contains poems, essays, and other pieces, as Weston described, “from those whose names are dear to the abolitionists.” Contributions such as these were made by New England and European literary figures and abolitionists including Lydia Maria Child, Harriet Martineau, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Lucretia Mott, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, and Alex de Tocqueville, among many others.
You don’t have to be a published historian or State House employee to visit Special Collections. Anyone can come to view our collections and spend time exploring the Commonwealth’s history. For more information about our location and hours, please visit our website at http://www.mass.gov/anf/research-and-tech/oversight-agencies/lib/.
Casey E. Davis
Special Collections Department