How Did Abolitionist Women and Their Slaveholding Relatives
Negotiate Their Conflict over the Issue of Slavery?

Abstract

       As the Civil War approached, many American families were split over the highly emotional subject of slavery. The differences in opinion were particularly extreme when relatives in the North were abolitionists and those in the South were slaveholders. This project focuses on abolitionists Martha Coffin Pelham Wright (1806-1875) and her daughter Marianna Pelham Mott (1825-1872) and their relationships with their slaveholding Pelham relatives. The project includes correspondence of Martha and Marianna with Martha's brother-in-law William Pelham and three of her nephews. To Martha, it was clear that she was in the right and slaveholders were in the wrong. Many Southerners were equally convinced that they were in the right, as is clear from letters included in this project. Yet Martha, Marianna, and the Pelhams also set great value on family relationships, and their differences over slavery did not significantly damage their ties to one another until the nation went to war.

               
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