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"A Most Sacred Duty": Women in the Antiremoval Movement, 1829-1838

Abstract

Opposition to Indian removal is generally less well known than other reform movements of the antebellum period, but, like antislavery, it too was an international, interdenominational, and multiracial movement. It was also a movement, like antislavery, in which women played a crucial role. Throughout the 1830s women signed petitions protesting Indian removal in great numbers, the first time they had done so on a national issue.1 Some submitted their own petitions, separate from the men of their communities, and some signed their names to mixed-sex petitions. There were two major waves of antiremoval petitioning; both received significant participation from women. The first occurred between 1829 and 1830 in response to the Indian Removal Bill, a hallmark of President Andrew Jackson’s new administration. Largely orchestrated by Catharine Beecher, this fascinating episode has been the subject of recent scholarship.2 The second wave of female petitioning, which occurred in 1838, has not received the same degree of attention, despite its connection to both the earlier antiremoval petition campaign and the burgeoning antislavery movement.3 In my work I seek to understand how this later petition campaign against removal of the Cherokee Nation developed, its relationship to the first antiremoval petition campaign, and its intersection with abolition.

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