The Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony


SBA to Stephen S. Foster and Abigail Kelley Foster[1]

Dear Friends Stephen & Abbey

My will has been good to write you a long long time.—  Ever since I left Worcester, and through Dutchess, Columbia & Herkimer Counties have been breathing the atmosphere of moral growth, which seems to me the result of your early labors in the vineyard of Anti Slavery, your spirits have hovered over me, & mine longed to go out to yours— [2]
At Clinton Corners, Dutchess Co,[3] a young girl, at the close of our meeting stepped in front of the stand, & with an earnest spirit, sang an Anti Slavery Song— there was a freshness, an out gushing of soul that seemed inspiration itself—  I went to her & thanked her for her contribution to the Cause— learned her name— Shadbolt— her given name I have lost— said the tatterred song book she sang from was one she purchased of you— that she attended all your meetings, with her mother,— now passed from earth— that she was through and through an abolitionist—  Her Father & James Thorn, with whom we stopped attended the Poughkeepsie Convention.[4]
Mr. Thorns wife is still insane, and the daughter Frances, what shall I say of her—  I said to her— "You find some time for reading I suppose mid all your cares?["] She answered, "I have read more, I presume, than you will if you live to be ever so old,— and as to Philosophy I have philosophised more than you ever will if you live two life times— " She did not like the Liberator because it is too narrow & bigoted— did not sympathize with the Abolitionists, because they were are but agents of the British, & c, & c. A real touch me not— a Mono Maniac almost— in the direction of consummate egotism— but such a specimen of "house keeping"— such an exhibition of personal cleanliness & taste—   I told Parker Pillsbury of our descent upon them & he very much to my amusement anticipated me in my every effort to tell him the order of exercises—
But enough of that experience—  Surely Nature must have had an odd streak, when she moulded such a genius—  She remembered you very distinctly—
When at Worcester I told you of my lone visit to Winfield— [5Aaron & I were completely snowed in there last week, under the hospitable roof of Good Mrs. Green & her sister Laura—  We had an excellent time,— and Stephen, Aaron reports, that Susan was drawn on the Anxious Seat of Spiritualism— [6]  Mrs. Green & her sister are both mediums— and we did have very wonderful demonstrations— and I have just written Lydia Mott, that I rather guess I am as far forward as the foot of the Altar— there surely is intelligence not of the minds present in the body— if it be not of disembodied spirits, as it purports, whence is it?—  Thats the question—
Singular, quite, that I should have been intimate with those who first became believers, for the past Seven years— and never have my attention arrested, seriously, till this late day—
We had a dear good time at Winfield socially, with Mrs. Green & sister, Julius Bisby & Hiram Brown— [7]  Green Thomas family have moved to the far west—  Our meetings were small, not more than Thirty persons present at any one—  At Bridgewater,[8] the only abolitionist who lives there now, I forget his name, thought it of no use to try to hold a meeting there—  The snow storm of Tuesday 14th prevented our meeting appointments at Cedar Ville & Cedar Lake— [9]  When we left Winfield Thursday a.m. 16th the snow was three feet deep— had a six hours ride to Utica— and there resolved to abandon our appointments at Fairfield & vicinity— and Aaron went East & I westward— giving to the world a happy exhibition of a "Peaceful Dissolution of the Union— "
Thus has terminated our winter & spring Campaign—  And I can truly say— my spirit has grown in grace, and that the experience of the past winter is worth more to me than all my Temperance and Woman's Rights labors—  Though the latter were the school necessary to bring me into the Anti-Slavery work—
I am thinking to attend the Anniversary meeting at New York. How rejoiced was I to see Parker Pillsbury's name announced as one of the morning speakers—
Such burning, living words of truth as well forth from his great soul can but bless all who hear—
I wanted to see none but the tried spirits, the old standard bearers, brought forward at that first meeting—  For now is the moment for the words of the Prophecies of Twenty-Five ago to be faithfully arrayed before the people, & they shown how even the so called wildest Fanaticisms have been more than fulfilled by the Monster Power of Slavery—  And in addition to preaching the fulfilment of the old prophecies— to give to the world the New Revelation— that future generations may read & know that the Fathers & Mothers of this day are really the Lords own Prophets
Stephen I have gone into a worldly speculation— have bought 5,000 Raspberry Roots— & am going to engage in the Raspberry Culture—  Expect I shall prove a successful Gardener—
It has now snowed steadily for 36 hours— most of it melting as it falls—  This will postpone the Plowing for two weeks or one at least— and I feel considerable interest now— as my roots are ordered to leave Milton Ulster Co. tomorrow p.m.— Aaron has gone into the experiment too—  We shall have no fruit this year— but next year, we will see which will prove the most scientific Farmer—   We get our roots of Sarah Hallock— [10]
If your nephew still lives & is with you give him my kind regards & earnest wish for his recovery—  And the dear Alla[11] I have lots of love for her— have had to tell a great many people what I thought of her during the last six weeks—  Don't suppose I am hardly as extravagant in my estimation as Sallie Holley[12]— but nevertheless, it is a good word only that I can speak for her—   Yours Affectionately

Susan B. Anthony

ALS, Abigail Kelley Foster Papers, MWA.
    [1.] Abigail Kelley Foster (1810-1887) was a prominent antislavery lecturer and activist before she married Stephen Symonds Foster (1809-1881) in 1845; by her actions and example, Foster also encouraged other, younger women like Lucy Stone and SBA to become antislavery agents. She was the first woman nominated to sit on the business committee of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and her appointment in 1840 precipitated a walkout by clerical and conservative abolitionists. Her husband, Stephen, prepared for the ministry at Dartmouth College but broke with organized religion while a student at Union Theological Seminary and campaigned against slavery. Afterwards, he made it his special mission to confront churches with their failure to condemn slavery, publishing The Brotherhood of Thieves; or a True Picture of the American Church and Clergy in 1843. To hold fellowship with slaveholding churches was, he argued, to uphold slavery. After their marriage, the two great speakers and agitators toured together. (Notable American Women; Sterling, Ahead of Her Time; Dictionary of American Biography; Pease and Pease, Bound with Them in Chains, 191-217.)
    [2.] SBA stopped in Worcester between February 23 and 27 en route to Bangor, Maine, and resumed her antislavery tour with Aaron Powell in mid-March along the Hudson River. (SBA daybook, pp. 23-27, Film, 8:620ff; National Anti-Slavery Standard, 20 December 1856.)
    [3.] The lecturers spoke in Clinton Corners, a Quaker community north of Poughkeepsie, on March 17-18 and in nearby Clinton Hollows on March 19. (SBA daybook, pp. 26-27.)
    [4.] James Thorn (c. 1786-?) of Clinton Corners was a farmer, whose wife Sarah (c. 1789-?) was defined "insane" by the federal census taker. Their daughter Frances was about twenty-eight years old. The Poughkeepsie meeting occurred on 24 March. (National Anti-Slavery Standard, 4 April 1857; Federal Census, 1850.)
    [5.] After a stop in West Winfield, Herkimer County, on 16 January, SBA returned with Powell on April 11. (SBA daybook, pp. 12-13, 28-29.)
    [6.] SBA employs the language of evangelical revivals to describe her conversion to spiritualism. Those anxious for their souls moved to the "anxious seats" to be the object of special prayers. To move to the "foot of the altar" was to declare one's salvation.
    [7.] Julius Bisby (c. 1807-?), a merchant in Winfield, lived next door to Hiram Brown (c. 1805-?), a farmer. (Federal Census, 1850.)
    [8.] South of Utica, Bridgewater and West Winfield are neighboring towns.
    [9.] In Herkimer County.
    [10.] Sarah Hull Hallock (1813-1886) farmed in Milton-on-Hudson. Married in the Society of Friends, she and her husband joined the Friends of Human Progress. She presided over the antislavery meeting at Poughkeepsie on 24 March 1857; she was also active in the Women's Loyal National League, the American Equal Rights Association, and the National Woman Suffrage Association. (Anson and Jenkins, Marlborough Monthly Meeting, 60, 128, 131; Ulster County directory, 1871-1872.)
    [11.] The nickname of Paulina Wright Foster, born in May 1847, the daughter of Abby and Stephen Foster.
    [12.] Sallie Holley (1818-1893) was an abolitionist and woman's rights advocate who graduated from Oberlin in 1851. After graduation she was inspired by Abigail Kelley Foster's example to become a touring lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society. (Notable American Women.)