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The contribution of women's anti-slavery societies to the Abolition Movement in Britain 1823-1833

Jones, Ann Maree (2004) The contribution of women's anti-slavery societies to the Abolition Movement in Britain 1823-1833. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis looks at the abolition of slavery in Britain and the role played by women’s anti-slavery societies. Whilst traditional abolition historiography has focused on William Wilberforce as the main player in abolishing slavery, I will argue that women’s anti-slavery societies were valuable contributors to the movement and played an influential role. Nineteenth-century ideology posited women in the private world and because of this restriction, women developed a gendered approach to abolition. However, women’s anti-slavery societies pushed the domestic boundaries by undertaking activities that also involved them in the economic and political world.

The public/private divide that historians so often use to exclude women from the public sphere is often found to be illusionary when assessing women’s involvement in abolition. Women’s anti-slavery societies were involved in economic boycotts and public petitioning, actions that transgressed accepted notions of female behaviour and resulted in women beginning to become political. Women accessed the language and power available to them, especially from within their position of moral guardians of society, to become actively involved in abolition. Religious ideology was an enabler for women who could participate in abolition because they were doing God’s work in seeking an end to an unjust and inhumane activity that was an affront to Christian principles.

I will argue that the different approach taken by women’s anti-slavery societies was a blueprint for male abolitionists and provided some policy frameworks for the male anti-slavery societies to utilise when their own political and legal approach was proving unsuccessful in abolishing slavery.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Brash, Helen
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