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Chandler, Elizabeth Margaret (1807–1834)

Chandler, Elizabeth Margaret (1807–1834)

American abolitionist and writer. Born on December 24, 1807, at Centre, near Wilmington, Delaware; died of fever on November 22, 1834; daughter of Thomas Chandler (a Quaker farmer); educated at the Friends' schools in Philadelphia; never married.

Elizabeth Margaret Chandler's writing called upon women to stand beside men in the battle against slavery, "the only means of avoiding participation in guilt." She was born near Wilmington, Delaware, in 1807. After the death of both her parents when she was still a child, Chandler was raised in Philadelphia by Quaker relatives. She was 18 when her poem "The Slave Ship" won a literary prize and was spotted by anti-slavery leader Benjamin Lundy. Chandler began writing for his paper, the Genius of Universal Emancipation, to which she contributed for the rest of her short life. A supporter of the free produce movement (in which women refused to purchase goods produced by slave labor), she called upon women to think independently from men. While her writing touched upon a variety of reform issues, she was primarily concerned with the immediate abolishment of slavery, and many of her poems, set to music, were rendered at anti-slavery meetings.

In 1830, Chandler and her aunt and brother moved to the territory of Michigan, settling near the village of Tecumseh, Lenawee County, on the river Raisin. She named her farm Hazlebank and continued contributing poetry on the subject of slavery until 1834 when she succumbed to remittent fever on November 22; she was in her 20s when she died. Two years later, in 1836, Benjamin Lundy published The Political Works of Elizabeth Margaret Chandler. Included in this volume is an 1830 letter from Chandler to abolitionist friends; the letter reads in part:

Your cause is a righteous one, and worth every effort. There are times when I feel as if I could go unflinching to the stake or the rack, if I might by that means advance it. I never expected to do "great things" in this cause—I have never indulged in speculations as to the effect of what I attempted to do, yet I sometimes feel as if I had been a mere idle dreamer, as I had wasted my time in nothingness—so disproportioned does the magnitude of the cause appear to all that I have done; so like a drop in the ocean are my puny efforts.

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