Document 2: Mary Mahan to Theodore Dwight Weld, Oberlin, Ohio, 21 February 1836 [1837] in Gilbert H. Barnes and Dwight L. Dumond, eds. Letters of Theodore Dwight Weld, Angelina Grimké Weld and Sarah Grimké, 1822-1844 (New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1934), I:360-61. Original letter in William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Introduction

       Mary Mahan, wife of first Oberlin College President Asa Mahan, wrote to Theodore Dwight Weld, a former student the Mahans had known at the Lane Theological Seminary, where they had joined together in the antislavery revivals that led to the exodus of the "Lane Rebels" from the school. Although many of the Rebels had come to Oberlin, Weld instead became a full-time antislavery lecturer for the American Antislavery Society.[10] Southern-born sisters Angelina (1805-1879) and Sarah (1792-1873) Grimké trained as speakers for the American Antislavery Society. Originally talking only to other women, they soon began to address large public audiences of both men and women. By lecturing to mixed gender, promiscuous, audiences, they challenged notions of woman's sphere.

Oberlin Feb. 21. 1836

Brother Weld,

       We have several things we wish to say to you, and Mr. Mahan has much to occupy his time, therefore I write. We have resently received a letter from Mr. Robert Stuart[A] of Detroit; he wished Mr. Mahan when writing to Mr. Finney[B], to request him to engage you to attend the Anti Slavery Anniversary at that place. I will give you his words; "engage for us, (positively, the Lord permiting,) the presence and aid of Mr. Weld, at our Anti Slavery Anniversary at this place, on the first Wednesday of June next; and he must make up his mind to remain with us a week or ten days; it is of great importance that a happy impression be made at this place, the whole state will be effected by it. Will you or Mr. Finney get Mr. Weld to write to me immediately stating whether we can depend upon him, his expences will be defrayed." Here you have his request, I feel that you might do great good there, and hope you may make such arrangements that you can go. There are but few abbolitionists in Detroit, and you know it is an important post; the whole of Michigan may undoubtedly be affected by such an effort. If it is previously known that you will be there, men of business from the country, will make their arrangements to be in Detroit at that time, also it is at a season of the year when many strangers from all parts of our country will be traviling in that region. Mr. Mahan says, he thinks it very important that you go.

       And now for another subject, which also interests me greatly; it is this; What would you think of Miss Angelina Grimké, (if she could be obtained,) for an assistant teacher in our Female department. Mrs. Cowles[C] must have assistance, and does have it from some of the young ladies, and a sister[D] of Prof. Cowles[E] also assists her; but we need a teacher here whose manners as well as mind is cultivated. Since the little that I have seen of Miss Grimkè, it appears to me her influence in this respect would be good, with a mind so highly cultivated, would be what we need. Mrs. Cowles is good, uncommonly good; fills her place admirably. I know of no one that would do better. But as she must have assistance, would it not be for the interest of our Institution to have Miss Grimkè here; Let it be one part of her duty to attend to the compositions of the Young Ladies. You know her style, and you know the effect that such a mind would have over its pupils. Another object in geting Miss Grimké here is this; Mr. Kingsbury of Cleveland wishes to have a part of his paper devoted to Female Education, and wishes assistance from some Lady, and who is there in this region that can engage in this work? Mr. Kingsbury told me that I had been mentioned to him; this will show you that they must have been put to their wits end, or they never would have thought of me. Now could not Miss Grimkè be induced to come here, and at the same time aid in this paper? She could be greatly assisted by the young Ladies; their compositions are many of them excellent; I have never heard such good compositions in any Female Seminary as here, and have often wished they might be published.

       The publick in this vicinity are greatly interested on the subject of Female Education, and our Faculty as well as others, are decided in thinking that such a paper is now called for. Cannot the two objects be united at Oberlin in Miss Grimkè, and a powerful moral and religious influence be sent out among the females in this part of our country, if no farther, and we at the same time received great advantage.

       I know Miss Grimkè is Quaker in sentiment; what would be her influence in this respect? Had I known or thought of this, when I was in N. Y. I should have sought a more intimate acquaintance with her. How long has she engaged in the Anti Slavery cause? Could she not come in the spring or summer? This about her coming to Oberlin is not mentioned here. We thought it best to get your opinion on the subject first, as you were more acquainted with her. Now if you will write to us soon, on this subject we shall be much obliged to you. I wish Miss Grimkè would write to our Young Ladies Anti Slavery society[F] or Literary Society[G]; present this request to her, from me, if you please. It would give a new impuls[e] to them. Mr. Mahan joins with me in wishing you to p[resent] our kindest regards to Mr. and Mrs. Tappan[H] and to the Yo[ung] Ladies.

Yours respectfully, M. H. Mahan

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A. Robert Stuart (1785-1848), "the friend of the Indian," famous as an explorer to the far West, was for many years United States Commissioner for the Indian Tribes of the Northwest. At this time he was Treasurer of Michigan.
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B. Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875), perhaps the country's foremost evanglical preacher of the Second Great Awakening, was hired to head the Oberlin theological department; he served as Professor of Theology and Philosophy, and as the second president of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute, 1851-1865.
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C. Alice Welch Cowles (1804-1843), was Principal of the Female Department, 1837-1839. Wife of Professor Henry Cowles, she and Henry had six children. She resigned her position in 1839, and died of tuberculosis in 1843.
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D. Maria Cowles (d.1843).
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E. Henry Cowles (1803-1881), was a graduate of Yale University and a Congregational minister. He was appointed Professor of Classical Languages in 1835, where he remained until 1880. Following the death of his wife Alice, Henry married Minerva Dayton Penfield (1800-1880).
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F. The Young Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society was organized at Oberlin College in December 1835 with eighty-six charter members.
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G. The Ladies' Literary Society was founded in July 1835 for the promotion of literature and religion.
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H. Lewis Tappan (1788-1876), merchant and evangelical, generously provided funding for the struggling Oberlin Collegiate Institute in its early days, as a part of the arrangement that brought the Lane Rebels from Cincinnati to Oberlin.
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