Sue Young Histories

Theodore Dwight Weld, the Grimke Sisters and Homeopathy

March 09, 2008

Theodore Dwight
WeldTheodore Dwight Weld 1803 - 1895 was a member of an extended family of Boston Brahmin most remembered for the philanthropy of its members. Theodore Dwight Weld was an abolitionist, a health and education innovator and a supporter of homeopathy.

Theodore Weld was born in Connecticut and was converted to Presbyterianism by Charles G. Finney in 1825.

By 1830 he was a committed abolitionist. At Lane Seminary in Cincinnati four years later, Weld was the leader of a group of antislavery students called the Lane Rebels. When the trustees of the school ordered the group to disband, Weld left the school.

He became a lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society in the same year and two years later was a trainer and leader of the traveling agents. By 1836 seventy of his trained lecturers were in the field. These proved to be such a success that the society put all of its resources into speakers, canceling their pamphlet campaign. It was Weld who converted Gerrit Smith to abolitionism.

The American Anti-Slavery Society was founded by and William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan. Frederick Douglass was a key leader of the society and often spoke at its meetings. William Wells Brown was another freed slave who often spoke at meetings.

By 1838, the society had 1,350 local chapters with around 250,000 members. Famous members included Theodore Dwight Weld, Lewis Tappan, Lydia Child, Maria Weston Chapman, Henry Highland Garnet, Samuel Cornish, James Forten, Charles Lenox Remond, Robert Purvis, and Wendell Phillips.

Angelina grimke weldAngelina Grimke wrote a letter to the editor of William Lloyd Garrison’s paper, The Liberator, which he published without her knowledge. Immediately both sisters were rebuked by the Quaker community and sought out by the abolitionist movement.

Grimke SistersThe Grimke Sisters had to choose: recant and become members in good standing in the Quaker community or actively work to oppose slavery. They choose the latter course…

Their public speaking for the abolitionist cause continued to draw criticism, each attack making the Grimke Sisters more determined.

Responding to an attack by Catharine Beecher on her public speaking, Angelina wrote a series of letters to Beecher, later published with the title ”Letters to Catharine Beecher.” She staunchly defended the abolitionist cause and her right to publicly speak for that cause.

By the end of the year, the sisters were being denounced from Congregationalist pulpits. The following year Sarah responded to the ministers’ attacks by writing a series of letters addressed to the President of the abolitionist society which sponsored their speeches. These became known as ”Letters on the Equality of the Sexes,” in which she defended women’s right to the public platform.

By 1838, thousands of people flocked to hear their Boston lecture series.

In 1838, Angelina Grimke married the feminist and abolitionist Theodore Weld. Initially… it was intended that… Angelina remain active in the abolitionist movement. But the time demands of running a home and being a wife and mother forced Angelina to retire from public life.

Her sister Sarah Grimke moved in with the Welds and also retired from public life. Although the sisters no longer spoke publicly, they remained privately active as both abolitionists and feminists.

In 1839 the sisters edited American Slavery as It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses, a collection of newspaper stories from southern papers written by southern newspaper editors.

Angelina bore three children, in 1839, 1841, and 1844, following which she suffered uterine prolapse. Until 1844, Theodore was often away from home, either on the lecture circuit or in Washington. After that, financial pressures forced him to take up a more lucrative profession. For a time they lived on a farm and operated a boarding school. Many abolitionists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, sent their children to the school.

Eventually, it grew to become a cooperative, Raritan Bay Union developed according to the principals of Charles Fourier (a utopian community in Perth Amboy, New Jersey from 1853 to 1860. The Union established a progressive boarding school that was a pioneer in co-education. Girl students were encouraged to speak in public, engage in sports, and act in plays, activities that were frowned upon in other schools. Abolitionists Angelina Grimké and Sarah Grimké were teachers in the school which was run by Angelina’s husband, Theodore Weld).

In the 1860s, Theodore worked with homeopath Diocletian Lewis at his Boston Normal Institute for Physical Education.

Theodore and Angelina were close to the transcendentalists, homeopaths and homeopathic supporters and radical activists of the time, and close friends of Theodore Parker, whose social circle glittered with homeopaths and their supporters Moncure Daniel Conway, Mary Gove Nichols (who wrote one thousand professional letters a year), Mercy Bisbee Jackson, Carolina Maria Seymour Severance, Caroline Wells Healey Dall, the Peabody sisters, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Peabody and Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis, the Wesselhoeft family, Bronson Alcott and Louisa May Alcott, Lucretia Coffin Mott, Henry David Thoreau, and many others were supporters of homeopathy and a friend of homeopathic supporters, and Charles Thomas Jackson (who was homeopath Mercy Bisbee Jackson’s cousin and the brother in law of Ralph Waldo Emerson), and Ednah Dow Cheney, Paulina Kellogg Wright Davis, Ernestine Rose, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, Angelina Grimke Weld, Antionette Brown Blackwell and Lucy Stone, Margaret Fuller, William Wesselhoeft and Caroline Wells Healey Dall.

After the Civil War, the sisters took in their two mulatto nephews: Archibald Grimké, and Francis J. Grimké. Francis J. Grimké was a Presbyterian minister who graduated from Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) and Princeton Theological Seminary.

In December 1878, Francis married Charlotte Forten, a noted educator and author, and had one daughter, Theodora Cornelia, who died as an infant. The daughter of Archibald, angelina weld
grimkeAngelina Weld Grimké, (named after her aunt) became a noted poet.

When Sarah was nearly 80, to test the 15th Amendment, the sisters attempted to vote.

[Angelina Grimke remained at the university a week, learning how, with the coming of freedom, the Negro mother had reared her children in a dilapidated little house in Charleston](; how Gilbert Pillsbury, brother of Weld’s acquaintance [Parker Pillsbury](/archives/2008/03/25/parker-pillsbury-and-homeopathy/#more-2316), came to Charleston to be mayor during reconstruction, and his wife Frances, opening a school for colored children, had given the Grimké boys their first opportunity for education.

Through her efforts Archibald and Francis were sent North into white families who agreed to see to their education in return for the work they did, but who ignored this obligation once the boys were under their control.

Discovering the unfaithfulness of these supposed white friends, Mrs. Pillsbury had eventually got the boys admitted to Lincoln University, despite the inadequacy of their preparation. Here they made outstanding records, earning part of their way by waiting on table and teaching small Negro schools in the South in summer.

Theodore Weld remained dedicated to the abolitionist movement until slavery was ended by the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865.

In 1854, Weld established a school at Eagleswood, New Jersey. The school accepted students of all races and sexes. In 1864, he moved to Hyde Park, Massachusetts and opened another school dedicated to the same principles as his first academy… Weld agreed with his wife’s desire for equality between men and women and became an outspoken supporter of the women’s rights movement. He continued to champion the rights of African Americans and women until his death in 1895.

Weld advocated homeopathy:

Weld told Ellen that Milo had written to him asking that he try to find a position for Willie Howells (perhaps a son of Henry C. Howells) and that “he and his wife had been casting about to see what they could do for Willie but so far had met with no success” (Angier).

While Weld was still at the academy, a homeopathic doctor to whom Ellen Angier had spoken about taking Willie into his office, arrived. Angier wrote,

"Weld gave Willie such a recommendation that the doctor is anxious to have him with him."

Theodore and Angelina’s correspondence made its way into the Garrison family archives:

The fourth subseries, Friends and associates, consists of the same type of materials as subseries three with the addition of published writings and memorabilia.

This subseries contains information on many noted people. Although most of the material included here concerns friends of the Garrisons and William Lloyd Garrison, there is also information about others that that the family collected. They include Susan B. Anthony; Alice Stone Blackwell (homeopath and daughter of Lucy Stone); Josephine Elizabeth Butler; Frederick Douglass; Henry George; Thomas Wentworth Higginson; Harriet Martineau; Lucy McKim Garrison, the May and Pankhurst families; Theodore Parker; Wendell Phillips; Parker Pillsbury; Joseph Lindon Smith (including drawings and sketches); Harriet Tubman; Booker T. Washington; Theodore Dwight Weld; and Marie Zakrzewska.


Any views or advice in this site should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment, especially if you know you have a specific health complaint