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Lydia Maria Child on the role of women and politics


Lydia Maria Child is known for her advocacy for women rights as well as her work in anti-slavery movements. She was a famous writer and an abolitionist, who, together with her husband, were activists channeling their course to ending slavery that was at its peak during their time. During her writing career, she was able to write several books for children, a number of people were appreciating the books, and at some point, she was a literary sensation among the people familiar with her work. However, this changed when she published a book that a number of people would consider as anti-slavery. In the book, “An appeal in favor of that class of Americans called Africans,” Child was able to indicate that slavery was an evil thing.

During her writing career, Child was able to write popular literary items in the National Anti-slavery Standard, which were in her column, “Letters from New York” (Goodman, 2000). In her writing, she was able to combine personal reflection writing skills, as well as social musings and social protests. In her writing, she was able to give a reflection of the modern state of New York, whose population was heterogeneous.

The stories that she was writing were instrumental in enabling her to explore some of the aspects in her life. After a while, she was able to change her focus to embrace an abolitionist cause, through which she was able to embrace activism once again. Through her writings, she was making responses to some of the mounting crisis taking place during the 1850s, focusing more on the violence in Kansas, as well as some of the antislavery campaigns that were popular at the time. Through her writing, she was able to instill Christ’s teaching superiority in the readers’ minds, which was one way that she could influence the human mind to gain support for her abolitionist cause.

Child’s views on women and slavery

Child was fighting a cause that would ensure the end of slavery in the region. Among some of her priorities at the time was to end slavery in the country, and she was for the use of force if it meant that emancipation was achievable through force. However, she was heavily reliant on printed work, through which she could easily reveal her anger with some of the social evils that were taking place in the country. In comparison to her letters, some of Child’s writings were dismissed as sheer propaganda, more specifically her writing on “The Kansas Immigrations.” This intention of writing this piece was to give an alert to the American people on some of the horrific things that were taking place in Kansas, which constituted a number of stories that were inclusive of some of the social concerns at the time, as well as advocacies for religious tolerance and women rights (Goodman, 2000). It is possible to determine that she was determine to awaken the women in society, which is an idea depicted on her writing. She had a way of handling the paradoxes that women faced in public during the nineteenth century, further challenging the domestication cult laid upon women who could not afford an alternative status.

Together with her husband, Child was pushing for the anti-slavery cause through influences from William Garrison. Child was an advocate for women’s rights, but her belief demanded that people be free from enslavement so that they could realize women’s rights in society. Her idea of enslavement was inclusive of white women, who together with the black slaves were sharing the same status (Sizer, 2000). Both slaves and white women were regarded as the white man’s property, which is determines the reason as to why her advocacy was focusing on ending slavery before ensuring women’s rights. She was for the idea that women in society could become more productive only if they could be able to work with men. With this belief, she was able to work together with other abolitionists to fight for equal treatment of women in her society.

Contrary to her letters, her first anti-slavery work was through the book, An appeal in favor of that class of Americans called Africans, which advocated for an immediate slavery emancipation without compensating the slaveholders. She was able to analyze the idea of slavery from different angles, including the political moral, legal and economic angles, which was a way of indicating the practicability of slavery and to indicate that the black population was equal to the Africans on an intellectual capacity. Apart from writing the anti-slavery books, she was involved in supporting and organizing anti-slavery societies, which were assisting her in efforts to finance some of the anti-slavery fairs (Goodman, 2000).

With the stated knowledge about her work, it is possible to indicate that she was in violation of the general expectations of how women were to behave during her time, through which quite a number of critics came up. Through her literary work, she was able to expand some of the known prescriptions of womanhood into literature that was offering advice to women to think beyond the set provisions. Through her work, she was able to offer advices to women on the best way that they could fulfill their domestic responsibilities, but she did not give advice in relation to motherhood. Her advice on mothers included ensuring that they encouraged their children, especially girls, to reading different books that were inclusive of historical accounts and biographies. Through this, the parents would ensure that their children grow up independently, therefore enabling them to support themselves instead on depending on the efforts of other people. Her subsequent publication supported the fact women were to be encouraged to pursue several fields that were largely dominated by the males. Through this advocacy, she could ensure that the women would become free from being regarded as the properties of their male counterparts (Sizer, 2000).

Through some of her works, she was able to encourage contemporary women to work in a political manner advocating for abolition. Child was considering the cultural limitations and their roles in society as similar to some of the limitations that the women in Biblical times were undergoing. In order to encourage some of the women to subscribe to her cause, she was able to convince them that there were different historical settings, where women’s influence ensured that society was able to benefit from the culture in an economic, as well as moral manner (Goodman, 2000). From this depiction, she was able to influence quite a number of women to collect signatures on petitions that discouraged slavery, which was one of the very first political actions that included the participation of women.

Through her letters, Child was able to outline several arguments, most of them in favor of voting for women to get into some of the political offices. She was able to argue in this manner, citing that women were also subject to the taxation system, and they were subject to prosecution by the laws that they did not take part in making (Sizer, 2000). Together with the belief that regarding women as property was wrong, Child was able to subscribe to the belief that the slavery problem in Africa could be solved gradually through colonialism. It is possible to confirm these arguments by comparing some of her writings, which were systematic in advocating for freedom. The systematization emanates from the fact that in her earlier writings, she was able to impart knowledge to the women in society, thereby preparing them for a fight to advocate for equality as well as ending slavery in the society. Even though her work was not universally recognized, it had an impact on the women of the then American society, influencing them to stand up and be considered equal to their male counterparts (Goodman, 2000).


Goodman, P. (2000). Of one blood: Abolitionism and the origins of racial equality. Berkeley:         University of California Press.

Sizer, L. C. (2000). The political work of Northern women writers and the Civil War, 1850 –          1872. Chapel Hill [u.a.: Univ. of North Carolina Press.