Sarah Parker Remond

Sarah Parker Remond

07, Mar Philippa Vishnyakov

To celebrate International Women's Day (IWD), read of the visit of an international woman to Manchester.

In 1859, African American Sarah Parker Remond gave a speech at the Manchester Athenaeum – the building now forms part of Manchester Art Gallery. One of a series of abolitionist lectures she gave in the UK, she addressed the reality for US slaves.

"The slaves are essentially things, with no rights, political, social, domestic or religious: the absolute victims of all but irresponsible power. For the slave there is no home, no love, no hope, no help: and what is life without hope?"

Manchester's role in slavery

Sarah Parker Remond didn’t hold back from highlighting Manchester’s complicity in this. Manchester - ‘Cottonpolis’ - was known globally for its sale of cotton cloth, produced in Lancashire mills, using raw cotton from the Southern US slave states, the ‘Cotton Kingdom’.

"When I walk through the streets of Manchester, and meet load after load of cotton, I think of those eighty thousand cotton plantations on which was grown the one hundred and twenty-five millions of dollars’ worth of cotton which supplied your market, and I remember that not one cent of that money has ever reached the hands of the labourers."

An ‘eloquent and powerful speaker’, her ‘gentle easy manner’ made the content of her UK speeches even more shocking for audiences, particularly as she relayed the sexual abuse of female slaves. In Manchester, she made a particular appeal –

“I ask especial help from the women of England. Women are the worst victims of the slave power.”

Women's Suffrage

In addition to lectures for the anti-slavery campaign, Sarah Parker Remond spoke on issues of women’s rights and enfranchisement in the UK. She recounted favourable treatment from the country’s women:

"I have been received here as a sister by white women for the first time in my life. I have been removed from the degradation which overhangs all persons of my complexion. I have received sympathy I never was offered before."

She would go on to sign the 1866 petition, the first mass petition for women’s suffrage in Britain, from which the organised suffrage movement took off. More than 200 Manchester and Salford women, including Marianne Gaskell, daughter of novelist Elizabeth, also contributed to the 1,500 signatures.

Find out more on the Little-Known Women tour.

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