Transatlantic Feminism and Antislavery in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Activism Discourse

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The African American orator, abolitionist, and nineteenth-century slave, Frederick Douglass was a strong supporter of early feminism and women’s rights. Douglass was the only African American attendee at the Seneca Falls Convention and his final act was to attend a suffrage meeting of the National Council of Women in Washington, D.C., after which he collapsed and died, having suffered a suspected stroke. This work for suffrage in his final hours is a powerful reminder of how closely tied Douglass saw women’s rights and the cause of Black emancipation. This essay will examine that symbiotic relationship between US antislavery and US literature, and British feminism. Nineteenth-century activism did not conform to national boundaries but, rather, the transatlantic circulation of ideas, writing, orations and other forms of activism generated a vigorous and turbulent atmosphere about abolition, antislavery, and feminism that crossed boundaries of gender, nationhood, and colour, in related exchanges and campaigns. An important reminder of how these ideas about antislavery and feminism travelled is the fact that The Seneca Falls Convention was borne out of the experiences of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who were denied full participation at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 and so set off to form a similar conference for women in response: women’s suffrage grew out of antislavery in this significant intersection. This essay pays particular attention to the ways in which nineteenth-century writers and activists crossed the colour-line and gender and national boundaries to think about the raced and gendered body. I examine the British reformers and antislavery activists, Anna and Ellen Richardson and their antislavery and feminist writing, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s call to British women to help fight against US slavery, and Harriet Jacobs’s visits to Britain and her articulation about the feminism involved in antislavery activism.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Companion to Literature and Feminism
Editors Fiona Tolan , Rachel Carroll
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781000991420, 9781003429951
ISBN (Print)9780367410261
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023

Publication series

NameRoutledge Literature Companions


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