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Women anti-slavery campaigners in Britain, 1787-1868.

Midgely, Clare (1989) Women anti-slavery campaigners in Britain, 1787-1868. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94527) (KAR id:94527)


This thesis deals with a subject which has received very little previous attention from historians: the involvement of women in the anti-slavery movement in Britain from the 1780's to the 1860's. It aims both to enrich our understanding of women's lives at this period and to provide new insights into the popular extra-parliamentary campaign against slavery.

Research for the present study has focused on those women who were involved in anti-slavery organisations. The bulk of evidence presented thus concerns the middle-class women who were subscribers to national societies or members of ladies' anti-slavery associations. Limited information uncovered about upper-class, working-class and black women's involvement in anti-slavery is, however, also presented.

Working within a broadly chronological framework, the contributions of women to the successive stages of the anti-slavery movement are delineated. It becomes evident that women, while denied formal power in the movement through their almost total exclusion from national committees and conferences, nevertheless exercised considerable autonomy and initiative. Ladies' anti-slavery associations, both auxiliary and independent, developed distinctive approaches to campaigning, and took national and well as local initiatives. Their contributions expanded the base of public support for anti-slavery to the female half of the population.

Most women campaigners described their anti-slavery motivations and justified their public actions against slavery within an evangelical framework, stressing issues of morality and religion. Even when petitioning, women denied that they wished to challenge the ideology of a "separate spheres" which proscribed their involvement in parliamentary politics.

A minority of radical Quaker and Unitarian women campaigners did, however, become supporters of women's rights from the late 1830's onwards, influenced both by their own experiences in the anti-slavery movement and by their close contacts with American abolitionist-feminists.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94527
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: History
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CB History of civilization
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2023 11:35 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2023 11:35 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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