Angelina Grimke addressed a Committee of the Legislature of the State of Massachusetts, the first time a woman was invited to speak before a legislative body. She spoke against slavery, and also defended women’s petitioning both as a moral and religious duty and as a political right. Abolitionist Robert F. Wallcut stated that “Angelina Grimké’s serene, commanding eloquence enchained attention, disarmed prejudice and carried her hearers with her.”
By this time she was an accomplished orator, having spoken publicly eighty-eight times to an audience of approximately 40,000 people. Her appearance created a furor. Most people believed a women’s place was in the home, NOT in the public, and certainly not being a public speaker, and certainly not on such an inflaming topic – slavery. Angelina later wrote:
I never was so near fainting under the tremendous pressure of feeling. My heart almost died within me. The novelty of the scene, the weight of responsibility, the ceaseless exercise of the mind thro’ which I had passed for more than a week – all together sunk me to the earth. I well nigh despaired.
The Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, led by Col. Charles Fox, triumphantly marched into Charleston. The 55th was the sister regiment of the renowned Massachusetts 54th Volunteers. The enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation by United States President Lincoln on January 1, 1863 had opened the way for the enlistment of free men of color and newly liberated slaves to fight for their freedom within the Union Army. As the ranks of the 54th Massachusetts quickly reached its full complement of recruits, an overflow of colored volunteers continued to pour in from several other states outside Massachusetts-many of whom simply had not arrived in time-prompting Governor John Albion Andrew to authorize yet another regiment of colored soldiers sponsored by the Commonwealth. Thus, the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry came into being.