Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society

Collection History

Please note that as of January 2022, the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society records, 1834-1862, and all future digital collections are now hosted on the library's new digital archive.

The Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society (SFASS) was formed in 1834. The preamble to the SFASS's constitution stated its three principles: that slavery should be immediately abolished; that African Americans, enslaved or free, have a right to a home in the country without fear of intimidation, and that society should be ready to acknowledge people of color as friends and equals. These principles, in addition to the American Anti-Slavery Society's principles, were in direct opposition to the American Colonization Society, which had been founded in 1817 with the objective to transport emancipated slaves and other free Black people to a perceived "homeland" in West Africa.

The majority of SFASS membership was comprised of wives and daughters of the members of the Anti-Slavery Society of Salem and Vicinity (ASSSV), who were drawn largely from Salem's middle and professional classes. Early activities of the society included distributing clothes to free African American residents in the area, supporting the National Anti-Slavery Bazaar at Faneuil Hall, organizing a sewing school for Black girls, and aiding fugitive slaves in Canada. Between 1844 and 1862, the society organized an annual anti-slavery lecture series. Abolitionists such as Lucy Stone, Wendell Phillips, Frederick Douglass, Charles Lenox Remond, and William Lloyd Garrison, who travelled on circuit tours across the country, were requested to speak. With its primary goal, the abolition of slavery, accomplished during the Civil War, the Society voted to dissolve on January 3, 1866.

The digital volumes below include three volumes of society records, consisting largely of meeting minutes, as well as a volume of loose correspondence to and from SFASS. These letters include two from William Lloyd Garrison; one in which he acknowledges receipt of a $100 payment (about $2,500 today) and an acceptance of an invitation to speak.

The original manuscripts in this collection are owned by our project partners, the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum. Further information about the collection can be found in the Phillips Library's finding aid.


Digital Materials

Society records, 1834-1846

This volume contains the society's earliest meeting minutes.

Society records, 1840-1845

This record book contains a history of SFASS's foundation and proposed guiding principles, a list of nominees and elected officers, meeting minutes, a list of visiting lecturers and other notable individuals, and a list of members. The volume also includes the society's annual reports from 1840, 1842, 1843, 1844, and 1845.

Society records, 1847-1862

This volume contains a preamble followed by the SFASS's constitution and meeting minutes.

Society correspondence, 1839

Various letters of correspondence between the SFASS and their members and donors, including several letters to and from William Lloyd Garrison.

1839 January 9 from L. A. Duncklee to SFASS request for membership
1839 January 5 from SFASS to William Lloyd Garrison letter awarding $100 to Lloyd Garrison from SFASS
1839 January 9 from SFASS to Harriet Webster acknowledgement of donation
1839 January 14 from William Lloyd Garrison to SFASS acknowledgement of $100 payment
1839 January 21 from Coloured Sabbath School to SFASS acknowledgement of $13 donation
1839 January 29 from Danvers Female Anti-Slavery Society to SFASS general correspondence
1839 April from SFASS to Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women general correspondence
1839 April 5 from SFASS to William Lloyd Garrison invitation to speak at Salem
1839 April 8 from William Lloyd Garrison to SFASS acceptance of invitation to speak
1839 April 5 from J. A. Collins to SFASS note advising lecture date for William Lloyd Garrison
1839 April 22 from J. A. Collins to SFASS confirmation of lecture date for William Lloyd Garrison
1839 April 26 from SFASS to Mr. Johnston acknowledgement of report on behalf of the New York Committee of Vigilance


Special Thanks

These digital resources have been made possible in part by the Council on Library and Information Resources, through a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the Council on Library and Information Resources.