But one day she unwittingly exposed a glimpse of the reverse side of the picture. She told the story of a young slave girl who had been accused of larceny. She had picked up some trifling article that ordinarily no one would have cared anything about; but at this time it was thought well to make an example of somebody. The wrists of the poor creature were fastened together by a cord that passed through a ring in the side of the barn, which had been put there for that purpose, and she was drawn up, with her face to the building, until her toes barely touched the ground. Then, in the presence of all her fellow-slaves, and with her clothing so detached as to expose her naked shoulders, she was flogged until the blood trickled down her back.
“I felt almost as bad for her,” said the narrator, “as if she had been one of my own kind.”
“Thank God she was not one of your kind!” exclaimed a voice that fairly sizzled with rage.
The speaker who happened to be present was a relative of the author and a red-hot Abolitionist.
Then came a furious war of words, the two enraged women shouting maledictions in each other’s faces. As a boy, I enjoyed the performance hugely until I began to see that there was danger of a collision. As the only male present, it would be my duty to interfere in case the combatants came to blows, or rather to scratches and hair-pulling. I did not like the prospect, which seemed to me to be really alarming, and was thinking of some peaceable solution, when the two women, looking into each other’s inflamed faces, suddenly realized the ridiculousness of the situation and broke into hearty peals of laughter. That, of course, ended the controversy, not a little to the relief of the writer.
If the influence of a great majority of the women of that day was thrown on the side of slavery, as was undoubtedly the case, the minority largely made up for the disparity of numbers by the spunk and aggressiveness of their demonstrations. A good many of the most indomitable and effective Abolition lecturers were women—such as Mrs. Lucretia Mott, the Grimke sisters, Abby Kelly, and others whose names are here omitted, although they richly deserve to be mentioned. Of all that sisterhood, the most pugnacious undoubtedly was Abby Kelly, a little New England woman, with, as the name would indicate, an Irish crossing of the blood. I heard her once, and it seemed to me that I never listened to a tongue that was so sharp and merciless. Her eyes were small and it appeared to me that they contracted, when she was speaking, until they emitted sparks of fire. Although she went by her maiden name, she was a married woman, being the wife of Stephen Foster, a professional Abolitionist agitator and lecturer. Although himself noted for the bitterness of his speech, when it came to hard-hitting vituperation he could not begin to “hold a candle” to his little wife.
The two traveled together and spoke from the same platforms. They were constantly getting into hot water through the hostility of mobs, which they seemed to enjoy most heartily. Foster’s life was more than once in serious danger, but they kept right on and never showed the slightest fear. The only meeting addressed by them that I attended, though held on the Sabbath, was ended by the throwing of stones and sticks and addled eggs.