Sarah Parker Remond
|Sarah Kathleen Sequoia Parker Jacquelina Remond|
June 6, 1815|
Salem, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Died||December 13, 1894
|Alma mater||Bedford College for Women, London
Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova, Florence
|Parent(s)||John Remond (father)
Nancy Lenox (mother)
|Relatives||Charles Lenox Remond (brother)
Caroline Remond Putnam (sister)
Cecilia Remond Putnam (sister)
Marchita Remond (sister)
Sarah Parker Remond (June 6, 1815 – December 13, 1894) was an African-American lecturer, abolitionist, and agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society. She made her first speech against slavery when she was only sixteen years old. Late in life she became a physician in Italy. As a young woman, Remond delivered speeches throughout the Northeast United States against slavery. She was chosen to travel to England to gather support for the abolitionist cause in the United States and, after the American Civil War started, for support of the Union Army and the Union blockade of the Confederacy. She was the sister of orator Charles Lenox Remond and sometimes they toured together for anti-slavery lectures.
From England Remond went to Italy in 1866, where she started medical training and became a physician. She practiced medicine for nearly 20 years in Florence and married there, never returning to the United States.
Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Remond was one of eight children of John Remond and Nancy Lenox. Her mother Nancy was born in Newton, daughter of a Revolutionary War veteran; Sarah's father John Remond was a free person of color who was brought in 1798 to Massachusetts from the Dutch island of Curaçao at the age of ten. In Salem, the Remonds built a successful catering, provisioning, and hairdressing business. They prospered and valued education, encouraging their children's ambitions. They still suffered from racism and the children attended a segregated school. Remond was mostly self-educated, attending concerts and lectures, reading widely in books, pamphlets and newspapers borrowed from friends or purchased from the anti-slavery society of her community, which sold many titles at a cheap price. The Remond family also took in students who were studying at the local girls academy, including Charlotte Forten (later Grimké).
The family continued as entrepreneurs. Her three sisters: Cecilia Remond (wife of James Babcock), Maritchie Juan Remond, and Caroline Remond Putnam (married to Joseph Putnam), "owned the fashionable Ladies Hair Work Salon" in Salem, as well as the biggest wig factory in the state. She also had a sister Nancy, the eldest and wife of James Shearman, an oyster dealer. Their brothers were Charles, abolitionist; and John Remond, who married Ruth Rice.
Her family and associates included many activists of the times. The Remonds' home provided a haven for both black and white abolitionists. Remond regularly attended antislavery lectures in Salem and Boston. Along with teaching household duties of cooking and sewing, her mother taught her daughters to seek liberty lawfully. She reared them to take part in society.
Salem in the 1840s was a center of anti-slavery activity. The whole family was committed to the abolition movement. They hosted many of the movement's leaders, including William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips, and to more than one fugitive slave fleeing north. Her father was a life member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Her older brother Charles Lenox Remond was the American Anti-Slavery Society's first black lecturer and a leading black abolitionist. Along with her mother and sisters, Remond was an active member of the state and county female anti-slavery societies.
In 1853, Remond bought a ticket for the opera, Don Pasquale, at the Howard Athenaeum in Boston. When she refused to accept segregated seating, she was forced to leave the theatre and pushed down some stairs. Remond sued for damages and won her case. She was awarded $500, gaining an admission that she was wronged.
Remond’s sisters went into their parents' trade, becoming caterers, bakers, and hairdressers, but she chose a different path. With the support and financial backing of her family, she became an anti-slavery lecturer. Abby Kelley Foster, a noted abolitionist in Massachusetts, encouraged Remond when they toured together in 1857.
"I feel almost sure," Remond wrote to Abby, "I never should have made the attempt but for the words of encouragement I received from you. Although my heart was in the work, I felt that I was in need of a good English education ... When I consider that the only reason why I did not obtain what I so much desired was because I was the possessor of an unpopular complexion, it adds to my discomfort."
In 1856, the American Anti-Slavery Society hired a team of lecturers, including Remond, her brother Charles, already well known in the US and Britain; and Susan B. Anthony, to tour New York State addressing anti-slavery issues. Over the next two years, she, her brother, and others spoke in Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. She and other African Americans were often given poor accommodation owing to their race.
Although she was inexperienced, Remond rapidly became an effective speaker. William Lloyd Garrison praised her "calm, dignified manner, her winning personal appearance and her earnest appeals to the conscience and the heart." Over time, she became one of the society's most persuasive and powerful lecturers.
As a good speaker and fundraiser, Remond was invited to take the anti-slavery message to Great Britain, as her brother Charles had done ten years before. Accompanied by Samuel May, Jr., she sailed from Boston for Liverpool on December 28, 1858, on the steamer Arahia. They arrived in Liverpool on January 12, 1859, after a frightening trip in the winter. The ship had become covered with ice and snow. It rolled and tossed so much that many of the passengers were sick, including Remond.
Before she sailed, she told Abby Kelly Foster, she feared not "the wind nor the waves, but I know that no matter how I go, the spirit of prejudice will meet me." But, she met with acceptance in Britain. "I have been received here as a sister by white women for the first time in my life,” she wrote; "I have received a sympathy I never was offered before." She spoke out against slavery and racial discrimination, stressing the sexual exploitation of black women under slavery. At Tuckerman Institute on January 21, 1859, Remond gave her first antislavery lecture. Without notes, she spoke eloquently of the inhuman treatment of slaves in the United States. Her stories shocked many of her listeners. She also described the problems endured by free blacks throughout the United States. During her tour of Ireland, she focused on comparing the plight of the African slave to the working-class laborers in her audience, worrying her middle-class and elite British sponsors. In her short autobiography, written in 1861, she wrote that "prejudice against colour has always been the one thing, above all others, which has cast its gigantic shadow over my whole life."
Remond lectured to crowds in cities throughout the British Isles, raising large sums of money for the anti-slavery cause. Once the Civil War began, she worked to build support in Britain for the Union blockade of the Confederacy (which affected British shipping) and the Union cause. Because British textile factories relied heavily on American slave-harvested cotton, Remond particularly focused on this in her lectures. In an 1862 speech, she implored her London audience to "Let no diplomacy of statesmen, no intimidation of slaveholders, no scarcity of cotton, no fear of slave insurrections, prevent the people of Great Britain from maintaining their position as the friend of the oppressed negro." At the end of the war and emancipation of slaves, she lectured on behalf of the freedmen, soliciting funds and clothing for the ex-slaves. She was an active member of the London Emancipation Society and the Freedman's Aid Association in London. A lecture she delivered in London, "The Freeman or the Emancipated Negro of the Southern States of the United States," was published in The Freedman (London) in 1867.
Studies and second career: medicine
During her years in Britain, she also undertook extensive studies at the Bedford College for Women (later part of the University of London). She studied classical subjects: French, Latin, English literature, music, history and elocution. In this period, she also traveled to Rome and Florence.
In 1866 at age 42, Remond moved permanently to Florence, where she entered the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital as a medical student. After completing her studies and becoming a doctor, she remained in Florence. She practiced medicine for more than 20 years, never returning to the United States. Two of her sisters joined her there from the United States.
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