Constitution of the Massachusetts Female Emancipation Society . . . [caption title]. Anti-Slavery, Massachusetts Female Emancipation Society, Women.

Constitution of the Massachusetts Female Emancipation Society . . . [caption title].

[Boston? n. p., 1840?]. First edition. Unbound bifolium, 9.75 x 7.75 inches, [2] pages. Old light folds. Two small tears to the first leaf, touching a letter; generally somewhat toned over all; in very good condition. Item #19125

“Believing slavery to be a direct violation of the laws of God, and productive of a vast amount of misery and crime; and convinced that its abolition can only be effected by an acknowledgment of the justice and necessity of immediate emancipation; we hereby agree to form ourselves into a Society, to aid and assist in this righteous cause as far as lies within our power.” The ephemeral and uncommon governing document of this women’s anti-slavery organization, the product of a split in women’s antislavery activism between the Chapman-Weston factions of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society and the more evangelical, middle-class wing of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society—or between the Garrisonian and predominantly upper-class women antislavery activists and those who Anne Weston derisively referred to as the “boarding house abolitionists”—or those whom Maria Chapman branded in a private letter “the ‘wicked’ [Rev.] Amos Phelps’s ‘harem, the Boston “Spiritual Wives.” ’ ” (Jeffrey 44). Besides class differences and philosophical differences, acrimony between the factions grew over questions of political involvement, clerical approval, and disputes over who would have control of the organization: “Attempts to elect new officers broke down repeatedly. The Chapmanites’ tactic of shouting ‘I doubt the vote’ after Lucy Ball, the acting recording secretary, announced each tally prompted an exasperated president [Eliza] Parker to exclaim, ‘Then you may doubt it to the day of your death’ ” (Jeffrey 43). The original organization dissolved in April 1840, and the Massachusetts Female Emancipation Society was created two days later. Sisters Lucy Ball and Martha Ball (both Baptists) took leading roles in the new organization, as did the sisters Abigail Shute and Mary Clough. (Chapman disputed the validity of the vote to dissolve and soon reorganized the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society.) Despite the weight usually given to the Chapman organization (the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society papers and much correspondence survive, while none of the papers of the MFES have been found), this new organization proved effective (especially outside of Boston) at capitalizing on the ambivalence of other women’s organizations over Garrisonian tactics, as well as at capitalizing on evangelical sentiments to animate political activism; the populist roots of the organization are evident in this constitution, “With the acrimonious proceedings of the BFAS still ringing in their ears, they pointedly reinscribed the language from the BFAS constitution that emphasized the importance of ‘freely given’ opinions and of majority vote” (Jeffrey 46). See Jeffrey, Julie Roy. “The Liberty Women of Boston: Evangelicalism and Antislavery Politics.” The New England Quarterly 85, no. 1 (2012): 38-77. This separately published version of the MFES constitution not found on OCLC (5/2019); not in Dumond.

Price: $1,800.00