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Caroline Ashley (1824-1884)

Caroline Ashley was born in Ashford, Connecticut on July 14, 1824 to Samuel Ashley and Lydia Franklin (Olney) Ashley. Her mother Lydia descended from the original Olney and Whipple arrivals in Providence, beginning in the 1630s. Her father was an attorney in Providence, known for his unsurpassed morality. Caroline Ashley worked as a teacher and was deeply involved in the Providence Ladies Anti-Slavery Society. Elizabeth Buffum Chace, the great suffragist and abolitionist, thanked her in a speech about the roots of women’s suffrage that recalled the most significant contributors to the abolitionist cause in antebellum Rhode Island.

The Providence Ladies Anti-Slavery Society was founded in 1835, a fact that reminds us of women’s essential role in abolitionism at a time when their own rights were so limited. The female society mainly focused on fundraising, though they also engaged prominent orators and published antislavery pamphlets such as the 1845 volume Liberty Chimes.

Caroline Ashley’s name appears on the announcement for the Providence “Anti-Slavery Fair” that was published several times over the summer of 1844 in William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator. The advertisement stated that the ladies of the society felt that “more energetic and decisive action” must be taken and exhorted Rhode Islanders to participate. The language was incendiary, warning that the “foes of freedom are mustering strong, even now, and the battle waxes hot.”

Caroline continued to live with her siblings in Providence until her death in 1884, just months after her mother’s passing, and was interred alongside her parents. Read More...

Erik Christiansen, PhD, Rhode Island College