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Author photo. courtesy Boston Public Library

courtesy Boston Public Library

Maria Weston Chapman (1806–1885)

Author of The Liberty Bell. By Friends of Freedom

Includes the names: Maria Weston Chapman Ed.

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Maria Weston Chapman was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, the eldest of eight children. During her childhood and youth, she lived with the family of an uncle in England, where she received a good education. She returned to the USA in 1828 to serve as principal of the newly-founded, progressive Young Ladies’ High School in Boston. In 1830, she married Henry Grafton Chapman, a wealthy Boston merchant, with whom she had four children. He and his family, were dedicated abolitionists, and they introduced Maria into their circles. She quickly took up the cause, as did her four sisters. With 12 other women, Maria founded the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society. They endured pro-slavery mobs, social ridicule and public attacks on their character. In 1835, Maria became the leader of the Boston Anti-Slavery Bazaar, which had been founded the previous year by Lydia Maria Child and Louisa Loring. In addition, she served on the executive and business committees of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society -- where she served as the right hand of William Lloyd Garrison -- the New England Anti-Slavery Society, and the American Anti-Slavery Society. From 1839 to 1858, she edited The Liberty Bell, an annual anti-slavery gift book sold at the Boston Bazaar to raise funds. It published contributions from various notable writers such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Harriet Martineau, and Bayard Taylor. She also served as editor of The Liberator in Garrison's absence. Maria was a prolific writer in her own right, publishing books such as Right and Wrong in Massachusetts (1839) and How Can I Help to Abolish Slavery? (1855), along with poems and essays that appeared in abolitionist periodicals. In 1877, she helped publish the autobiography of her friend Harriet Martineau, to which she added a lengthy memoir.
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