Episode 11: Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, by Sarah Grimke

Letters on the Equality of the Sexes

“I am in search of truth; and no obstacle shall prevent my prosecuting that search.”

Sarah Grimké

The Book

Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Woman was a series of letters written in 1837, in response to a prominent pastor’s letter that reinforced Biblical interpretations supporting women’s subordinate status. ⁠Sarah Grimke responded to this letter with scripture, encouraging women to fight back and take on the motto, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”⁠

The Author

Sarah Moore Grimké was the daughter of wealthy parents who enslaved African American people on their South Carolina plantation. Sarah defied her parents from a young age, eventually moving North and speaking out fervently against slavery and against restrictive practices limiting women’s lives. Sarah converted to the Quaker faith in her young adulthood and remained a committed Christian throughout her life.⁠

“Men and women were CREATED EQUAL; they are both moral and accountable beings, and whatever is right for man to do, is right for woman.”

– Sarah Grimké

Our Guest: Rebecca Archibald

Rebecca Archibald grew up in the mountains of Utah with 5 siblings. After graduating from BYU, she moved east for graduate school where she got her Master’s in Teaching Writing. Since, she has moved back and forth across the country, living in 7 states. In each place, one of the first things she did was to find the library. She loves to read, write, teach others to write, and do anything outside in the mountains or near the ocean. She now lives in Southern California with her husband Jared and their 5 kids. Rebecca is one of the world’s worst selfie takers (hence the picture) but one of the best at rationalizing a need for chocolate.

“Many women are now supported, in idleness and extravagance, by the industry of their husbands, fathers, or brothers, who are compelled to toil out their existence, at the counting house, or in the printing office, or some other laborious occupation, while the wife and daughters and sisters take no part in the support of the family, and appear to think that their sole business is to spend the hard bought earnings of their male friends.”

-Sarah Grimke

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Amy’s Takeaways

Sarah Grimke did. not. care. what other people thought. She had the ability to discern good and evil, and she didn’t doubt herself, even when her own parents and church and everyone else in her community told her otherwise. I venerate Sarah Grimke as a role model, and religious listeners will especially appreciate her letters as an inspiring example of how a person can maintain their faith even when their religion and culture doesn’t live up to its own values. Listeners will also be bowled over by my reading partner and dear friend, Becca Archibald, one of the wisest people I have ever known.

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“I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

– Ruth Bader Ginsburg, quoting Sarah Grimke

“I have blushed for my sex when I have heard of their entreating ministers to attend their associations, and open them with prayer. The idea is inconceivable to me, that Christian women can be engaged in doing God’s work, and yet cannot ask his blessing on their efforts, except through the lips of a man.”

Sarah Grimke

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