Across the Generations: Exploring U.S. History Through Family Papers
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The Garrison Family

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Garrison Family on Thanksgiving Day, 1886 or 1887
Garrison Family, Thanksgiving Day
1886 or 1887

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Family History

Five generations of the Garrison and related families are represented in this collection. The patriarch, William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879), radical abolitionist and social reformer, edited the influential Liberator between 1831 and 1865. His sons William Lloyd, George Thompson, Wendell Phillips, and Francis Jackson carried on his specific reforms and general activism. William Lloyd Garrison (1838-1909) married Ellen Wright in 1864. She was the daughter of Martha Coffin Wright who (with her sister Lucretia Coffin Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane Hunt, and Mary Ann McClintock) organized the 1848 Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York.

The Coffin and Wright families are strongly represented in the Garrison Family Papers. William Lloyd Garrison (1838-1909), along with his brothers, sisters, associates, and friends, became involved in the last stages of abolition and then in movements for freedmen's welfare, women's rights, free trade, socialism, the single tax, anti-imperialism, immigration reform (especially for the Chinese), anti-vaccination, and anti-vivisection. Like her mother Martha Coffin Pelham Wright (1806-1875), Ellen Wright Garrison (1840-1931) was an advocate of women's rights, especially woman suffrage. Her daughter, Eleanor Garrison (1880-1974), carried on the family fight for women's rights as a paid organizer for the National American Woman's Suffrage Association.

Garrison Family Tree
Description of Papers
Garrison Family Reunion, 1962
Garrison Family Reunion, 1962

The Garrison Family Papers consist of circa 150 linear feet of material and contain thousands of primary sources that document the family's involvement in politics, business, art, literature, religion, education, and most of the major reform movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The collection spans the years 1694 to 1997, but the bulk of the material dates from 1840 to 1950 and includes extensive correspondence, diaries, clippings, articles, speeches, photographs, memorabilia, and a wide variety of printed sources.

These materials trace the activities of the Garrison, Coffin, Mott, and Wright families and their friends and associates in England, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York, among other places. The largest part of the collection relates to William Lloyd Garrison (1838-1909) and his wife, Ellen Wright Garrison and their children. The papers are an especially important source on women's rights because they include the correspondence of Martha Coffin Wright with other leaders of the movement. Major correspondents on abolition, women's rights, and other reforms include Susan B. Anthony, Alice Stone Blackwell, Henry B. Blackwell, Carrie Chapman Catt, Lucy Conant, Kate Daniel, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Henry George, Lucretia Coffin Mott, Emmeline and Sylvia Pankhurst, Theodore Parker, Wendell Phillips, Parker Pillsbury, Louis Prang, Caroline Severance, Anna Howard Shaw, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, Booker T. Washington, Theodore Dwight Weld, Frances E. Willard, and Marie Zakrzewska. The collection is also a fine source for social history as it documents five generations over three centuries.

Finding Aid to the Garrison Family Papers

Ellen Wright Garrison and Lucy Gibbons Morse, circa 1926
Ellen Wright Garrison and
Lucy Gibbons Morse, circa 1926
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©2002 Sophia Smith Collection

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