Ref NoMS 3173
TitleRecords of the Birmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves
Date1825 - 1919
LevelCollection
DescriptionThis collection comprises minutes, reports, associated literature and a ledger relating to the Birmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves. The collection relates to the Birmingham Anti Slavery Society and the Birmingham & Midland Freedmen's Aid Association.
Extent0.09
FormatCubic metres
AccessStatusOpen
AccessConditionsThere are microfilm copies of all of the records in this collection [film numbers 110 - 111] and these will be served instead of the original material. The relevant microfilm number is included in the Finding Number for each item in the collection.
AdminHistoryTo understand the Ladies Negro's Friend Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves and its campaign to end slavery, it is necessary to look at the legal position of slavery at the time the society commenced and during the period in which the society existed. The common law of England did not recognise anyone as a slave (although in Scotland, which did not have common law, bondage existed until the late eighteenth century, when it was abolished by legislation). Slavery still existed in a number of British colonies, principally in the West Indies. The legal position of the slave in England caused confusion for slaves who were brought to England, as some thought themselves free because the common law did not recognise slavery while some English people argued that the slaves should be free. Parliamentary laws on the issue of slavery in the early 1800s were inconsistent and hampered by the reluctance of many who had an interest in slave plantations. An increasing groundswell of pressure started in the late 18th century and vigorous lobbying by campaigners eventually resulted in further laws against slavery. In The Foreign Slave Trade Act 1806 (46 Geo III c 52), which received the Royal Assent on May 23, 1806, British subjects were prohibited from transporting slaves to the territories of a foreign (non British) state. It came into force on January 1, 1807 while the British were at war with Napoleon and his allies. At the time it was promoted as a necessary war measure but it was also a covert strike against the foreign slave trade. One problem with this was that it did not prohibit the slave trade to British colonies which continued to practise. This was followed in 1807 by the Slave Trade Act, which became law on the 25th of March, which prohibited British ships from engaging in the slave trade but did not abolish slavery. The 1824 Slave Trade Act enforced tougher measures against the slave trade, for example Section 10 which made the slave trade a criminal offence and attacked the insurance and mortgages of enterprises involved in the slave trade, but there were still areas unaddressed. For example, Section 16 allowed slaves to be transported and this had harsh consequences for the slaves who participated in the slave insurrection in Demerara (now part of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana). These slaves were sentenced to penal servitude and transported to Australia.

Campaigners gained a substantial victory in the form of the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act, finally getting it passed through both Houses of Parliament, which received the Royal Assent of King William IV on the 29th of August and came into force from the 1st August 1834. Slavery in the British Empire was abolished from the date the law came into effect and automatically applied to new possessions (mainly in Africa) on their subsequent entry into the British Empire.The purposes of the Slavery Abolition Act were described in the preamble to the Bill as being 'the abolition of slavery throughout the British colonies'; 'for promoting the industry of the manumitted slaves'; and for compensating the persons hitherto entitled to the services of such slaves. The second purpose was achieved by providing for a period of apprenticeship. Anti-slavery campaigners had to compromise to achieve this bill and the price of this compromise is shown most clearly in the third purpose of the Bill. The slave owners had demanded compensation for the impact the loss of slave labour would have on their businesses so the Bill put aside the sum of £20 million to provide compensation for the slave owners. This compromise caused a division of opinion amongst leading figures in the anti-slavery movement, some of whom believed (with some truth if no practical or political acumen) that there were no moral or religious grounds for compensating slave owners who had no right to enslave people in the first place. Even this Bill was not universally applied, and the exceptions included the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope (now Cape Province in South Africa) where application of the bill was delayed for 4 months and Mauritius where it was delayed for 6 months. Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), St Helena and territories in the possession of the East India Company were excluded from the Bill but this was subsequently repealed. The Honourable East India Company, in theory, administered large parts of India as an agent for the Mogul Emperor in Delhi. Later on sections were enacted which prohibited certain officers of The Honourable East India Company from being involved in the purchase of slaves but slavery in India was not abolished. It was not until the Indian Penal Code in 1860 which effectively abolished slavery in India by making the enslavement of human beings a criminal offence.

The apprenticeship scheme introduced in 1835 was designed to replace slavery but campaigners discovered that the scheme was in some respects 'worse than slavery itself'. The apprenticeship system gave the planters the right to have their former slaves working for them for a further six years. During the six year period the former slaves had to stay on the plantation and work ten hours a day for the plantation owners. Absenteeism resulted in imprisonment for the unlucky black labourer and further attempts to curtail freedom were put into place. Ex slaves attempting to leave the plantations were penalised while ownership of lands outside the area of their former slave plots was made illegal. Ladies' associations all over Britain and Ireland campaigned against the apprenticeship scheme and the pressure they created as a result played a large part in toppling the scheme. Joseph Sturge and the Birmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society among others helped to expose the problems with this system and were there to celebrate when the 1st of August 1838 brought what the society described as 'complete emancipation'. Joseph Sturge, Dr Lloyd, John Scoble and Thomas Harvey had personally investigated the abuses of the apprenticeship system in the West Indian colony and it was to their strong effective appeal to the public which the Birmingham Ladies attributed the abolition of the scheme. Despite this there were still setbacks such as the Parliamentary Act of 1846 which reduced the duties on slave produced sugar which was heavily criticised by Wilberforce. The twenty second report of the Ladies Negro's Friend Society published a year after the Act describes the Act as a 'stain on the character of this country' and quotes Wilberforce as saying that the passing of this bill was a 'direct sanction' to the slave trade. He added that 'no step taken within' his memory was 'more adverse to the opinions, principles and convictions' of 'the people of England'.

One of the societies actively campaigning to bring about the end of slavery during the nineteenth century was The Birmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves. Birmingham, as a town at the centre of the Industrial Revolution, was linked to the slave trade through the sale of guns, engines, metal and industrial products which were often paid for by money made in the slave trade. Some Birmingham manufacturers went so far as to send a pro-slavery petition to Parliament in 1789 arguing that without the money from the slave trade the local economy would collapse. At the same time from late eighteenth century onwards there were people in Birmingham who saw the evils of the slave trade as outweighing the monetary benefits, for example men of the Lunar Society who often debated the issue of slavery. Not all industrialists were solely concerned with profit, the Lunar Society included industrialists and manufacturers like Matthew Boulton and James Watt as well as intellectuals. Active societies campaigning against slavery in Birmingham did not exist till the formation of the Birmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves.

The Birmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves has been described by Clare Midgley as the most active auxiliary of the British Foreign Anti-Slavery Society or BFASS. In 1859 the BFASS singled out two female societies for particular praise in forwarding the cause, the Birmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society for the Relief of Slaves was one of them. The BFASS's objectives were the universal extinction of slavery and the protection of the interests of the enfranchised population in British possession as well as people captured as slaves. The BFASS had come into being through the influence of Joseph Sturge of Birmingham (1793 - 1859) who was an active figure in the abolition movement. The BFASS was formed in 1839 and continued into the 1850's. Sturge was also a member of the Society for the Mitigation and Gradual Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Dominions, founded in 1807 as well as the BFASS. According to Clare Midgeley its support was mainly drawn from middle class Non-Conformists. Certainly the Sturge, Cadbury and Lloyd familys who were all heavily involved in the anti-slavery movement and the Birmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society were all Quakers. Members of non conformist religious groups had formed the core of antislavery activism in the 1820s and 1830s.

The Birmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves or 'The Female Society for Birmingham, West Bromwich, Wednesbury, Walsall, and their Respective Neighbourhoods, for the Relief of British Negro Slaves' was founded in 1825 by Lucy Townsend, Mary Lloyd and others. The first meeting of the society took place at Mary Townsend's home and she became an active secretary of the society from 1825 - 1836 as well as writing an anti-slavery pamphlet in the form of Scriptural quotations. Lucy Townsend was an evangelical Anglican as were her husband and father, both of whom were clergymen. Charles Townsend was a vicar in West Bromwich at the time the society was formed. The busy Lucy Townsend not only performed her duties as a vicar's wife but also became involved in many philanthropic organisations such as the Ladies' Bible Association, Dorcas meetings, campaigns for the suppression of vice and the abolition of cruel sports such as bull baiting. Mrs Townsend became interested in the anti-slavery movement after listening to the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson's campaign to boycott slave produced sugar during the battle against the slave trade in the late 1790s. Thomas Clarkson believed that as a result of his and others campaigning 300,000 people stopped using sugar. This was a significant victory as the consumption of sugar was seen as a mark of high status in the 18th century. It was Clarkson that Townsend wrote to when formulating the idea of a female society and she received encouragement from the man who had led the sugar boycott campaign and whom had toured England and Wales in 1823 - 1824 to promote the formation of male antislavery societies. According to Clare Midgley, Thomas Clarkson made suggestions about the title of the group and obtained pamphlets for Lucy Townsend from the Anti-Slavery Society. Clarkson also suggested that she enlisted the support of Samuel Lloyd, the Quaker antislavery campaigner and husband to her friend Mary Lloyd. In the event Lucy Townsend turned more to Mary than Samuel Lloyd in the foundation of the female society. Lucy Townsend's family members were also involved in the fight against slavery, and her husband had published a sermon on the theme while her daughter Charlotte wrote a pamphlet on the subject. Another married daughter Mrs Moillet became an officer of the society like her mother. Lucy Townsend died in 1847 after seeing many of the laws she had campaigned so hard for become reality. Her passing was mourned in the twenty second report of the society mentioning that it was in a large part due to her 'zeal and devotedness' that the society was founded and that she was responsible for a 'great degree' of the energy that 'animated' the society for many years until her death. A special 8 page memorial piece about Lucy Townsend was attached to the report eulogising her life, achievements and the campaigns she worked so hard for including the cause of slavery.

Lucy Townsend's friend and co founder of the society Mary Lloyd (1795 - 1865), like many others was a Quaker while her mother Mrs Honeychurch had been a Quaker minister. Later Mary Lloyd followed in her mother's footsteps when she became a travelling Quaker minister despite her many commitments. Her husband Samuel Lloyd,whom she married at the age of 28, was head of the firm Lloyds, Foster and Co. at Wednesbury, near Birmingham. He owned a colliery and an iron foundry with 3 blast furnaces which employed over 3,000 people as well as a grocery and candle-making business. The couple produced ten children between 1824 and 1839 whom Mary cared for as well as working with Lucy Townsend on many different projects including the Juvenile Society for the Deaf and the Dumb which they co-founded. She was a secretary for the Birmingham Ladies Society from 1825 to 1836 and treasurer from 1845 - 1861. Mrs Lloyd was an active member of the Temperance Society and encouraged the poor to save for the future by setting up a Provident Society. She also ran a school for colliery girls. Like Mrs Townsend, Mary Lloyd's family members were also heavily involved in the campaign, her mother in law Rachel Lloyd had participated in the boycott of slave trade sugar in earlier years and was another founding member of the Birmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society while Mary's husband was a leading member of the local men's auxiliary society. Both Mary and Rachel Lloyd are mentioned in the society report which celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the society, Mary as an 'honoured founder' along with Lucy Townsend and Rachel as 'untiring in service'. Mary Lloyd's daughter Sara was a member of the society her mother had founded also and later married Wilson Sturge of the Sturge family mentioned below.

The Birmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society was founded before the implementation of the 1833 Emancipation Act in 1834 and the end of the apprenticeship system in 1838 which abolished British Colonial Slavery. According to Midgley after this the focus of the British anti-slavery movement focused on the welfare of emancipated slaves and the universal abolition movement. The Birmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society was in the vanguard of this movement expressing its hope that negro women would see the day their children were born free. Midgley believes that the Birmingham society was the first women's anti-slavery society in Britain and it was societies like this that marked the change from abolition as an individual women's concern to anti slavery as a collective effort by women. It was not until a year later that the male Birmingham Anti Slavery Society was set up.

Male and female activists were often either married or were part of the same family such as Joseph Sturge (the BFASS leader) and his relatives Sophia Sturge, Mrs Lydia Edmund Sturge, Mrs Mary Charles Sturge, Lucy Sturge and Mrs Lydia Henry Sturge who were all members of the Birmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society. Joseph Sturge was described by the society in 1875 as an 'unfailing counsellor' to the society which recognised him as a great support. On his death a sum of money was presented to his widow in memory of her husband, which was spent on clocks and bells used in the industrial training of West Indian people. Eliza Sturge, nee Cropper (1801 - 1835), Joseph Sturge's first wife, was an anti-slavery activist. Eliza had provided her father James Cropper, a Liverpool East India merchant with strong support in his antislavery activities. Joseph Sturge's second wife Hannah Dickinson (c 1816 -1896) was an active member of the Birmingham ladies' anti-slavery society often putting forward ideas to help freed slaves. Hannah was a strong supporter to the Quaker Catherine Impey (1847 - 1923) who was one of a small band of activists still concerned with the plight of free black people after the 1860s. Catherine Impey's efforts involved editing a periodical called Anti-Caste between 1888 and 1895 devoted to the problems facing freed black people which was what drew the support of Hannah Sturge. As Hannah Sturge was president of the Birmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society, she was an influential and useful ally to have. She was also the founder of the Birmingham Ladies Temperance Society. Sophia Sturge (Joseph's sister) was such a tireless member and secretary of the society that her death was mourned in the Twentieth Report of the Ladies' Negroes' Friend Society for the year 1845. Five years later she was celebrated as 'untiring in service'. Mrs Lydia Edmund Sturge (1807 -1892) and her husband were strong antislavery campaigners but were also involved in movements for peace, abstinence and the suppression of the opium trade. The Sturge family donated many of the records that form part of this collection unsurprisingly considering many of the Sturge women acted as treasurers, district treasurers, secretaries and committee members throughout the existence of the society.

The Cadbury family also are linked to this society, and Benjamin Head Cadbury (one of the original Cadbury Brothers and partner of John Cadbury) appears to have stored the depository of the Ladies' Society at his house. Readers of the 1828 Female Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves Album are advised the depository is at Mr Benjamin H. Cadburys, Birmingham, and that subscriptions and documents mentioned in the album are furnished for resolution there. The women of the Cadbury family were just as committed to the cause, especially a Miss Cadbury (of Calthorpe Street, Harborne Road and later Carpenter Road) who served on the society committee and as a society treasurer and district treasurer throughout the 1840s, 1850s, 1860s and 1870s. Miss Sarah Cadbury served as a treasurer in the 1870s, Miss Emma Cadbury was a district treasurer and treasurer (1870s) and Mrs Emma Cadbury served as district treasurer in 1872. Maria Cadbury collected money for the society while Maria Cadbury Junior subscribed to the society. Other Cadburys who were subscribers and donated money to the society throughout the 1840s -1870s included C.B Cadbury, C. J. Cadbury, M & A Cadbury, E. R Cadbury, Mrs Benjamin Head Cadbury, Mrs Joel Cadbury, Mrs Richard Cadbury and Mrs George Cadbury.

During its existence the society went through several names, changing from the 'Female Society for the Relief of British Negro Slaves' to 'The Ladies Negro's Friend Society in 1831. This name change was so the society could continue its work even when slavery no longer existed in British dominions. Later the society became known as the Female Society for Birmingham. The society even had its own motto carefully chosen and reflecting the Christian values of philanthropy and public works so many of the members if not all believed in. The motto was 'Be not weary in well doing'. The first Committee meeting minutes are dated 8th April 1825 and the society records continue up to 1919. The society business was to be dealt with by secretaries and a committee of 10 district treasurers, to be chosen annually. The number of district treasurers later increased from 10 women in 1825 to 49 women in 1830, spread out across the country. They were empowered to add to the number of treasurers while the secretaries were to be members of the committee by virtue of their position. The district treasurers were to be responsible for the money collected by society members who were obliged to hand over the money yearly, quarterly or monthly. The committee was to have quarterly meetings, more if necessary, with an annual meeting of the society members. At the annual meeting the accounts and yearly progress reports were presented and the secretaries and committee chosen for the coming year. It was stipulated that the secretaries and committee were to be chosen by those who gave or collected £5 yearly. At the first meeting the aims of the society were laid out as follows:

1. That the ladies 'form themselves into a society for the amelioration of the condition of the unhappy children of Africa' especially that of 'female negro slaves' who 'living under British Laws receive from British hands 'their lot of bitterness'.

2. That in the 'performance of these efforts of mercy' they 'abstain as much as possible' from 'needlessly offending' their 'brothers' the West India planters. At the same time they want to use every 'proper exertion' to help the slaves and they reiterate their desire to protect the female slaves.

This latter aim of the society is undermined by the fact that their mission would inevitably bring them into conflict with the planters and the radical nature of members of the society such as Elizabeth Heyrick a Quaker and former schoolteacher from Leicester. In 1824 Elizabeth Heyrick had written a pamphlet called 'Immediate, not Gradual Abolition', which sold hundreds of thousands of copies. In this pamphlet she strongly rebutted all the arguments used in favour of gradual abolition going so far as to describe gradual abolition as the 'the very masterpiece of Satanic policy' and openly stated her sympathy for slave uprisings in West India. Open sympathy for the rebellious slaves was a controversial stance at that time and would pit her against powerful and wealthy men as well as the majority of people who would have seen sympathy for uprisings as dangerous and taking charity too far. She argued that it was ridiculous for the British to support the Greek efforts to free themselves from Turkish rule seeing it as a 'Christian' and 'meritorious' cause which justified supplying the Greeks with arms while many of the aristocratic supporters had approved the hanging and lashing of West Indian slaves rebelling to try and win their freedom. Her stance against gradual abolition also placed her in opposition to the anti-slavery society who suggested and supported the idea of gradual abolition. Other points raised in the article included the savage mistreatment of slaves by their owners, the need to boycott slave produced products such as sugar in favour of products produced by free labour and the pressure this would put on the planters, the protection given by Parliament to planters in the form of taxes on East India sugar produced by free men and the monetary assistance used to prop up the plantation slave owning system.

Elizabeth Heyrick became a treasurer for the society and displayed her fighting spirit against Wilberforce and his group the anti-slavery society when Wilberforce expressed his views on female antislavery campaigners. Although the Birmingham Ladies Society raised money for the Anti-Slavery Society, female campaigners were only tolerated at best. Heyrick in her capacity as Treasurer for the Society proposed that the women should threaten to withdraw funding from the anti-slavery society if they did not agree to call for immediate abolition of slavery. A resolution of the Female Society for Birmingham passed in April 1830 stated that the society was 'anxious' not to compromise their principles or 'to give a sanction to anything which falls short of Right'. They were willing to appropriate £50 to 'the London Gentleman's Anti Slavery Society' when the society gave up the word gradual in its title and as long as the society did not agree with the Resolutions that were being discussed in the House of Commons. The Birmingham women added that if the resolutions were made law then it 'would only serve to legalise iniquity'. As Clare Midgley pointed out the Female Society for Birmingham was one of the largest local society donors to their central fund and had influence over a network of ladies' associations. These associations had supplied over a fifth of the anti-slavery society's total income from donations and subscriptions in 1829. Seven weeks after receiving the Birmingham women's resolution the committee of the Anti Slavery Society resolved that the terms 'mitigation and gradual abolition' should be dropped from the society's title, and that their aim should be 'the entire abolition of slavery'. This demonstrates that women high in the hierarchy of the society and therefore by extension the society itself were not afraid to challenge the planters or fellow abolitionists and cause offence despite the seemingly conciliatory language in their mission statement. Sadly Elizabeth Heyrick died in 1837 before witnessing the end of slavery in the colonies. Elizabeth Heyrick's influence was not forgotten by the society, in 1875 her pamphlet 'Immediate not Gradual Abolition' and other works described as being of 'such signal service to the cause'.

Another point of interest in their mission statement is their belief that the progress 'hitherto made' towards 'removing' from England or 'this nation' the 'foul reproach' and 'deep sin' of African slavery by 'abolishing the detestable traffic in slaves' is to be ascribed in a great measure to 'the diffusion throughout the country' of the knowledge of cruelties or 'real horrors' inflicted on slaves. Part of their mission was to spread genuine information about the mistreatment of slaves, and each member was to have a collection book with appropriate news clippings and anti-slavery arguments by Mr Clarkson which they could show to people. In 1828 the Birmingham women supplied five thousand copies of 'a little directory for the use of those ladies who visit the poor to recommend the consumption of the produce of Free Labour'. This work was called 'What does your sugar cost? A Cottage Conversation on the subject of Negro Slavery' and this tract along with others aimed at children were lent from door to door by district treasurers. Lucy Townsend's daughter Charlotte produced a little booklet on abstention which was aimed at both children and their mothers entitled 'Pity the Negro; or an Address to Children on the Subject of Slavery'. This ploy to reach across class and age boundaries must have gained some success, as children are listed as donating small sums of money they had raised to the society as is a Lady's maid. Admittedly a lady's maid may have had a larger salary than some members of the servant class but it is still evidence of an attempt to reach out beyond the upper classes for support. The Birmingham women canvassed most, if not all, of Birmingham in their efforts to raise awareness of the evils of the slave trade and were determined that it was a cause that all classes of society could fight together to win. The lower classes were also encouraged to give small donations in what became known as the 'penny' donations. A different pamphlet entitled 'Reasons for substituting East India Sugar for West' was aimed at the higher classes. Surplus society funds were to be given to missionaries (supposedly those most acceptable to the planters) working in West Indies. The types of people to be given the money were to include the deranged, the elderly, the sick, the disabled and slaves currently without owners. The money was also to be used to found and support Sunday Schools for infants, children and adults as well as other schools. These were to be open to people descended from negroes also, while the rest of the money was to be used to promote the freedom and happiness of slaves.One member of the society Hannah Kilham made two voyages to Sierra Leone and set up a school there for girls rescued from slave ships.

The society wanted to stamp out the slave sales and the lashing of female slaves. Charlotte Elizabeth Phelan, author and Sandhurst district treasurer for the Birmingham Ladies Society wrote a piece entitled 'On the Flogging of Women' highighting the cruelties female slaves were subjected to which was included as part of an album of anti-slavery propaganda disseminated by the society. The society wanted universal abolition of slavery irespective of the colour or nationality of the slave and this goal can be seen in the society's 49th Annual Report for 1874. In the report they mention the Chinese Government's enquiry into the treatment of Chinese people in Cuba and Peru and express their hope that the Chinese people will be freed from what amounted to an 'Asiatic slave trade'. Colonel Gordon's entry into the service of the Khedive of Egypt and his plan to suppress the slave trade in the Upper Valley of the Nile is given support in the same report. In the same report the Birmingham ladies report their decision to campaign against the practise of removing South Sea Islanders from their homes and transferring them to Queensland. They quote Bishop Pattinson who remembered spending time in a place possibly called Vanua Lava a few years before and the friendly welcome he received from over 300 people. He contrasted that to the situation in the present time of 1874 where only thirty or forty people were left and any European arriving there would be greeted with mistrust and suspicion. They emphasise the dangers of depopulating the South Sea Islands as well as all the humane arguments against enslaving South Sea Islanders. The compiler of the report expressed the belief that a British takeover of Fiji might help to put a stop to this practise although it seems a somewhat drastic remedy to modern people. The 'Retrospect of the Work of Half a Century of the Ladies' Negro's Friend Society' emphasised the commitment of the society to ending slavery in America (particularly because England played an instrumental role in bringing slavery to the United States), their stance against the Coolie Immigration Scheme and campaigns for the slaves in Cuba, Brazil and the African slaves.

An annual membership subscription of 12 shillings was decided upon while further fundraising was outlined in the mention of extra voluntary donations by members and requesting donations from friends. As the society became established some people began to leave legacies to the society, suggestions on the wording of such legacies can be found in several of the annual reports. The legacies indicated the influence the society could have on those who had not been members of the society. For example in the annual report for 1874 a Miss E Clark listed as unknown to the society left £50 to them while the deceased Dowager Lady Buxton (of Northrepps Hall) bequeathed £10. It is noted in the entry of this donation that the Dowager Lady Buxton had donated the money as a result of reading a copy of a Birmingham Ladies Society Report sent to her by a friend. Miss Clark's donation is listed as made in 1861 and that of Dowager Lady Buxton in 1874. The compiler of the annual report for 1874 thought it was worth while to mention the amount received in donations and legacies both recently and over the last ten years. As well as the two ladies already mentioned there was a £50 donation from Reverend John Riland in 1864, £10 from Miss Pascha Sutcliffe and £50 from Miss Lucy Riland of Sutton Coldfield. Miss Sutcliffe had been a subscriber to the society for 30 years and also left a residuary legacy to the society which came to £167 14s 7d. A £100 of which went to worthy causes in Jamaica during a period of 'extreme stress'. Miss Riland was another supporter of the society and had previously given a donation of £15 5s. Further donations were received from deceased friends who gave £5 each and were named as William Albright of Charlburg, William Pollard of Hertford, Miss Smith of Edgbaston Grove and the Reverend John Riland.

The society also sold a variety of goods which advertised their cause as an additional source of money. Workbags, albums and portfolios filled with anti slavery literature and illustrations were sold or presented at the expense of the society to people of rank and influence. The workbags were sewn from East India cotton, silk or satin so as to avoid using the product of slave labour. People to whom albums and workbags were presented included King William IV (receipt was acknowledged by the King's Librarian Robert Gooch), Princess Victoria and her mother, the Duchess of Kent. Elizbeth Fry (nee Gurney of Gurney's Bank) the Quaker prison reformer was deputised to present Princess Victoria and the Duchess of Kent with their workbags. In a letter to Lucy Townsend dated the 28th April 1831 Elizabeth Fry wrote that they 'appeared to be much gratified' with the presents and Fry reports the Duchess as saying 'they were quite friends to the cause of the abolition of slavery'. Elizabeth Fry took particular joy in Princess Victoria's interest in the items she was presented with, hoping that Victoria would become an influential advocate of the abolition movement. During Victoria's reign the Birmingham Ladies' Negro's Friend Society organised a memorial to her, urging her to set an example by using only free labour produce and to give encouragement to the cultivation of cotton grown by free men in British India. The memorial was read out at the yearly meeting of the Society of Friends in London, and signed by 59,686 women from all parts of the country. The memorial was presented to Queen Victoria in March 1850, while the Queen did not respond to the requests it was regarded as a success by the women and the BFASS. This was because of the information diffused by the memorial and the revival of interest in the anti-slavery cause generated by a request to the Queen. Society Reports from the 1840s - 1880s promoted free labour goods by providing lists of manufacturers and shop owners who sold free labour goods and the addresses of their premises. According to the retrospect published to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the society by 1827 44,500 publications had been distributed, besides a very large number received from the London anti-slavery society. The society's success in raising funds can be seen in receipts of the society, the total raised from subscriptions, donation and the sale of workbags rose from £907 18s in 1825 to £183 3s 11d in 1857. Obviously the society receipts did not show a constant upwards progression, for example in 1847 the amount raised was £61 10s, whilst many factors including the financial prosperity of prospective contributors to society funds all play their part.

In February 1864 the Female Society for Birmingham set up a committee of 12 people to decide how to raise funds for aid to the freed slaves. A printed circular was distributed which urged the collection of money and this circular was sent to over a hundred places around Britain. It was also sent to ministers of all denominations in Birmingham itself. By June 1865 a total of £280 16s 8d had been received, mainly donated in small amounts, from over 300 people. The society did not always feel capable of implementing some of the suggestions made by members, for example a proposal made at the annual meeting in May 1864 by Mrs Hannah Joseph Sturge. Her proposal was that a ship loaded with clothing and agricultural implements should be sent for the use of freed slaves rather like the cargoes of breadstuffs sent from America during the Irish and cotton famines. In the event the society passed this proposal onto the male abolitionists who formed the Birmingham and Midland Freedmen's Aid Association who duly implemented the idea. The Birmingham and Midland Freedmen's Aid Association became one of the major Freedmen's Aid Associations in Britain and they worked closely with the Birmingham Ladies' Negro's Friend Society. Both societies published the other's activities. These links were forged by family connections like that of Mrs Lydia Sturge and her husband Edmund. Mrs Lydia Sturge was a secretary of the women's society while her husband Edmund was the founder of the Birmingham and Midland Freedmen's Aid Association. Lydia Sturge's brother Arthur Albright was a leading activist in Birmingham who in 1866 became the leader of the National Freedmen's Aid Union.

The ladies had links with societies all over England, in parts of Ireland and Wales and with influential people in other countries such as August Louis Baron De Stael, son of Erik Baron de Stael-Holstein, the Swedish ambassador to France, and the famous Germaine De Stael, the author and salon leader of intellectuals. France, Mauritius, The United States of America, Ceylon, Tunis, the Cape of Good Hope, Sierra Leone and Calcutta are further examples of how far the society reached to achieve its goals. This suggests the women were an influential and active group, despite being a local society they acted in a national capacity also.
ArrangementThe collection of records is made up of the following items:
MS 3173/1 Minutes
MS 3173/2 Reports
MS 3173/3 Financial Records
MS 3173/4 Albums containing anti-slavery leaflets and literature
Related MaterialBirmingham Anti Slavery Society [IIR 62]
Birmingham & Midland Freedmen's Aid Association [IIR 62]
For secondary reading on the topic of female anti slavery groups the main source is 'Women Against Slavery - The British Campaigns 1780-1870' by Clare Midgley.
CreatorNameBirmingham Ladies Negro's Friend Society for the Relief of Negro Slaves
    Powered by CalmView© 2008-2020