Encyclopedia Womannica

Warriors: The Hart Sisters

Episode Summary

Elizabeth Hart (1772-1833) and Anne Hart (1773-1834) were writers, educators, education activists, and abolitionists whose work challenged the status quo. The sisters were outspoken opponents of slavery and supporters of women's education and total emancipation. They became two of the first African-Caribbean women writers to be published and two of the first educators of slaves and free blacks alike in the Caribbean.

Episode Notes

Every weekday, listeners explore the trials, tragedies, and triumphs of groundbreaking women throughout history who have dramatically shaped the world around us. In each 5 minute episode, we’ll dive into the story behind one woman listeners may or may not know -- but definitely should. These diverse women from across space and time are grouped into easily accessible and engaging monthly themes like Pioneers, Dreamers, Villainesses, STEMinists, Warriors & Social Justice Warriors, and many more. Encyclopedia Womannica is hosted by WMN co-founder and award-winning journalist Jenny Kaplan. The bite-sized episodes pack painstakingly researched content into fun, entertaining, and addictive daily adventures.

Encyclopedia Womannica was created by Liz Kaplan and Jenny Kaplan, executive produced by Jenny Kaplan, and produced by Liz Smith, Cinthia Pimentel, and Grace Lynch. Special thanks to Shira Atkins, Edie Allard, and Luisa Garbowit. Theme music by Andi Kristins.

This week of Encyclopedia Womannica is brought to you by Native. For 20 percent off your first purchase, visit nativedeodorant.com and use promo code ENCYCLOPEDIA during checkout.

Follow Wonder Media Network:

Episode Transcription

Hello! From Wonder Media Network, I’m Jenny Kaplan and this is Encyclopedia Womannica.

In case you’re just tuning in, here’s the deal. Every weekday we’re telling the stories of women from throughout history and around the world who you may not know about, but definitely should. Each month is themed and this month we’re talking about Warriors. 

As Encyclopedia Womannica is created by two sisters, I am extra excited about today’s episode. We’re talking about two Antiguan writers and educators whose work challenged the patriarchal order. These two sisters are believed to be the first women African-Caribbean writers to be published. Meet Elizabeth and Anne Hart or the Hart sisters. 

Elizabeth Hart was born in 1772 in Antigua and Anne followed suit in 1773. They grew up in a wealthy household with slaves, though their parents were freed slaves themselves. 

The sisters had access to education and helped to teach their younger siblings after their mother died in 1785. 

The following year, both sisters were baptized as Methodists. Their religion would play a huge part in their activism. The sisters cited Christian theology as a rationale for equality and they argued that women should be able to participate in holy work, in addition to men. 

Anne and Elizabeth both married white men who were active participants in Antigua’s Early Methodist evangelical movement. Anne married a preacher named John Gilbert, while Elizabeth married an evangelical teacher by the name of Charles Thwaites. Their relationships were not received well by white society as interracial marriages were uncommon and frowned upon. Still, all signs point to the sisters both having happy relationships with their partners. 

Anne and Elizabeth’s faith was a significant part of their writing. Both wrote histories of Methodism in Antigua. Anne also finished her husband’s memoir on his life, and Elizabeth wrote poems about slavery and her spirituality. Elizabeth was more outspoken about emancipation than her sister. Her attack on slavery was also connected to her religious devotion. She believed that abolishing slavery would restore the faith, which had been tainted by oppression and injustice. 

The sisters profoundly believed in the power of education. They advocated that slaves should be educated, and emphasized that slaves were intelligent and capable of greatness.

In 1801, Elizabeth founded a private school in St. John’s. A few years later, the sisters opened the first Sunday school in Caribbean. They strove for the school to accept people of all genders and races, and even held school meetings in the dark so that the students wouldn’t feel ashamed of disparities in their clothing. 

In 1816, Anne and Elizabeth founded the Female Refuge Society, an organization to serve orphans and women. The society fed, clothed, and supported the hungry and poor. 

The sisters were passionate and outspoken about lifting up the voices and lives of black women. Anne wrote about her disdain for prostitution and her belief that it stemmed from the institution of slavery, while Elizabeth wrote about sexual abuse and its role in keeping Black women from gaining social mobility. 

Elizabeth died in 1833 and Anne died a year later. They were both 61 years old when they passed away. 

The Hart Sisters’ work impacted discourse about Methodism and slavery, and their actions affected and improved the lives of many around them.

Tune in tomorrow to hear about another warrior!

This week of Encyclopedia Womannica is brought to you by Native. No matter what you're fighting for, Native Deodorant ensures you smell good doing it. Many deodorants contain aluminum, which forms a plug in your sweat glands to keep you from sweating. Not Native. Native is made with ingredients you’ve heard of. It’s also vegan and never tested on animals. Annnd, it works! I've tried many a deodorant and I really do think Native deodorant is the way to go. There are over 10 scents and there are options for those who prefer unscented or have sensitive skin. Personally, I'm a big fan of the Cucumber & Mint. For 20 percent off your first purchase, visit nativedeodorant.com and use promo code ENCYCLOPEDIA during checkout. That's nativedeodorant.com with the promo code ENCYCLOPEDIA for 20 percent off your first purchase.

Special thanks to Liz Kaplan, my favorite sister and co-creator. 

Talk to you tomorrow!