JANUARY 15, 1811–JANUARY 14, 1887
Abby Kelley Foster was born in Pelham, Massachusetts, in 1811. She was a radical abolitionist, social reformer, and suffragist. Kelley was considered an extremist when she rose to prominence in the abolitionist movement in the late 1830s. A member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, she served on committees with men and, like the Grimké sisters, spoke in front of audiences that contained both men and women. She believed that Black Americans deserved not just freedom from slavery, but full social equality. Kelley was also firm in her stance that women should be considered completely equal to men, and was so well-known as a radical that other activist women began to be called “Abby Kelleyites.”
Kelley married activist Stephen Foster in 1845. She continued to tour and speak even after becoming a wife and mother, which was uncommon and even scandalous for the time. She worked as an activist for both African American civil rights and women’s rights (including the right to vote) until the 1870s. She influenced many later suffragists: Lucy Stone said that Foster “earned for us all the right of free speech.” She died in 1887 at age 85.
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