Pastoral Letter: From Massachusetts Clergy
(The New England tour of Sarah and Angelina Grimke, the first female agents of the Anti-Slavery Society, shocked and angered the traditional Massachusetts clergy who issued this "Pastoral Letter" in August 1837.)
We invite your attention to the dangers which at present seem to threaten the female character with wide-spread and permanent injury.
The appropriate duties and influence of women are clearly stated in teh New Testament. Those duties and that influence are unobstrusive and private, but the souce of mighty power. When the mild, dependent, softening influence of woman upon the sterness of man's opinions is fully exercised, society feels the effects of it in a thousand forms. The power of woman is in her dependence, flowing from the consciousness of that weakness which God has given her for her protection, and which keeps her in those departments of life that form the character of individuals and of the nation. There are social influences which femalses use in promoting piety and the great objects of Christian benevolence which we cannot too highly commend. We appreciate the unostentatious prayers and efforts of woman in advancing the cause of religion at home and abroad:--in Sabbath-schools, in leading religious inquirers to the pastors for instruction, and in all such associated effort as becomes the modesty of her sex; and earnestly hope that she may abound more and more in these labors of piety and love. But when she assumes the place and tone of man as a public reformer, our care and protection of her seem unnecessary; we put ourselves in self-defence against her; she yields the power which God has given her for protection, and her character becomes unnatural. If the vine, whose strength and beauty is to lean upon the trellis-work and half conceal its clusters, thinks to assume the independence and the overshadowing nature of the elm, it will not only cease to bear fruit, but fall in shame and dishonor into the dust.
We cannot, therefore, but regret the mistaken conduct of those who encourage females to bear an obtrusive and ostentatious part in measures of reform, and countenance any of that sex who so far forget themselves as to itinerate in the character of public lecturers and teachers.
We especially deplore the intimate acquaintance and promiscuous conversation of females with regard to the things "which ought not to be named"*; by which that modesty and delicacy which is the charm of domestic life, an which constitutes the true influence of woman in society, is consumed, and the way opened, as we apprehend, for degeneracy and ruin. We say these things, not to discourage proper influences against sin, but to secure such reformation as we believe in Scriptural, and will be permanent.
*This refers to the Grimkes' explicit discussion in their speeches of the fact that slave women were prohibited from marrying and subject to the sexual demands of white masters and overseers.