An incredible example of a letter operating between several important female Abolitionists working together to reunify a mother and a son who had been sold to a different family.
The separation of families has often been described as "the primary trauma" of American institutionalized slavery.
Addressed to Mrs. M. W. Chapman | Summer Street, Or, Mrs. Wendell Phillips. These are crossed out and apparently it was then delivered to Mrs. Dr. Bowditch. All three women were likely handling this together as part of one American Anti-Slavery Society
The three women were all noted abolitionists themselves and two of them were married to leading men of the movement.
The letter's author is a W. Channing of Boston. It is not William Ellery Channing, who passed away in 1842. He was, however, associated with the abolitionists later in life and it was perhaps one of his sons, i.e. Walter or William.
Maria Weston Chapman was wife of Henry Grafton Chapman, a wealthy Boston merchant and also a staunch abolitionist after the more aggressive model of William Lloyd Garrison. They were married for 12 years before he passed away from tuberculosis in 1842. Maria served on the executive committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society and was editor of the anti-slavery periodical, The Non-Resistant. She also served as editor of Garrison's The Liberator when he was unable to fulfill those duties. She was one of the most, if not the most prominent female voice in the abolitionist movement.
Mrs. Wendell Phillips, or, Ann Terry Green-Phillips. Already an strong abolitionist when they met, it was actually Ann who convinced Wendell that abolition was all or nothing, but in effect and in their commitment. It was either the offense of America, or it was nothing, but it could not be a trifle. She was zealous and earnest and engaged for the entirety of their lives, as the present letter demonstrates.
Mrs. Dr. Bowditch, or, Olivia Jane Yardley-Bowditch. Olivia and her prominent abolitionist husband, Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, were perhaps the most aggressive of the group, advocating for violence in the cause of freeing the slaves. Fascinatingly, he became interested in abolition when he happened to be in England during Wilberforce's funeral, attended, and left a changed person. His wife was British and already committed to the end of slavery there before arriving in America. The result was the he and his wife formed one of the most radical organizations of the abolitionist period, The Anti-Man-Hunting League, which organized groups who would kidnap slave-hunters, who would then be held for ransom which was used to purchase slaves to freedom.
I have with great interest examined the case of this mother who is now laboring for the liberty of her son.
It seems he has been purchased by persons interested for her & to prevent his being sent into slavery from the place in which he lives. But those who have purchased him are willing to give him up for much less money than they have paid for him, and have already been very kind to her. They are not slaveholders.
Will you investigate this case? The mother has excellent . . . expenses herself with . . . propriety . . . She has the . . . love for her son, & is doing all she can for his redemption.
Will you let me know what course strikes you as the best in the present [?], & I will do all I can & put it forward.
What are her prospects from our abolition friends?
Very truly yrs.
July 24, '44"
Good + condition, a few illegible words; some staining and folds, corner loss as shown, not impacting text.