Abby Kelley Foster resumes lecturing

Late 1840s lithograph of Abby Kelley Foster
Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society

“Late in March 1849 Abby brought Alla to New Hampshire, where Stephen’s sister Caroline Foster was to take care of her, and then headed for New York and Philadelphia. Encountering her on the way, Lucy Stone remarked that she looked ill. No, Abby answered. ‘But when I left my little daughter I [felt] as though I should die. But I have done it for the sake of the mothers whose babies are sold away from them.’” (Sterling, page 249)

Later that year Abby and Stephen worked as a team in Duchess and Ulster counties in New York, lecturing and selling books and subscriptions to the National Anti-Slavery Standard. Abby reported her feelings to Milo Townsend.

Pleasant Valley Duchess Co., N.Y.

October 11, '49

My dear friend--

Thy tremendous letter-- not tremendous in size alone-- has upbraided me every time I have sat down to my portfolio to answer letters for some four months past, and no sprained ankle or detention in my journeys has bidden me answer it-- with me there is worse, 'tis unceasing toil-- "even Sunday shines no sabbath day to me" No! the peoples' rest is my toil peculiarly, And, to speak the truth, thee is the only person to whom I write purely friendship letters. For several years I have said to all my friends they must expect nothing but business notes from me-- So if I answer thee very briefly don't be surprised-- It should on the contrary be matter of surprise that I write at all. "Tis no easy matter to write while on the wing. From what bird did we ever require so much…Your A.S. Society is up and doing-- 'Tis delightful to feel the responsive beating of your western hearts to our own. We know our cause is steadily onward-- Stephen and myself are plodding gradually along, breaking up the fallow soil of Eastern N.Y. but it is a slow and wearisome, indeed almost discouraging work-- But we feel that it must be done and so we bend ourselves to the toil.

I presume thyself and Lizzie were at the Young Men's and Women's Convention-- I am looking very impatiently for the proceedings which are to come in this week's Standard - I hope you have laid out work to be done-- …

Stephen has just come in from the day's labor of getting a house in which to hold a series of meetings in this place to which the rain has confined us. By digging through mountains of prejudice and bigotry he has won a vestry of an Episcopal Church so we remain here longer-- Stephen says give my love to Milo & Lizzie and tell them to come and see us-- I answer him that I don't approve of useless forms and so I shall say nothing about it. True friends need no invitation.

Give my love to your father's family and others who may feel any interest in us. With most earnest love to Lizzie and thyself I remain

Yours affectionately

Abby K.F.

Educational Resources:

Milo Adams Townsend and Social Movements of the Nineteenth Century. “Letter 168”.

Sterling, Dorothy. Ahead of Her Time: Abby Kelley and The Politics of Antislavery. New York: W.W. Norton, 1991.