And the Spirit Moved Them

And the Spirit Moved Them


Helen LaKelly Hunt
The Lost Radical History of America's First Feminists

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Paperback Edition
Publication Date: 05-16-2017

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Foreword by Cornel West

“Let me suggest, then, that the opening Chapter go farther back than 1848. . . . From the time of the first Convention on Women—in New York 1837—the battle began.” — Lucretia Mott, to Elizabeth Cady Stanton

A decade prior to the Seneca Falls Convention, black and white women joined together at the 1837 Anti-Slavery Convention in the first instance of political organizing by American women, for American women.

United by their determination to reshape a society that told women to ignore the mechanisms of power, these pioneers converged abolitionism and women’s rights. Incited by “holy indignation,” they believed it was their God-given duty to challenge both slavery and patriarchy. Although the convention was written out of history largely for both its religious and interracial character, these women created a blueprint for an intersectional feminism that was centuries ahead of its time.

Part historical investigation, part personal memoir, Hunt traces how her research into nineteenth-century organizing led her to become one of the most significant philanthropists in modern history. Hunt’s journey to confront her position of power meant taking control of an oil fortune, being deployed on her behalf but without her knowledge, and acknowledging the feminist faith animating her life’s work.

"Enlightening work. . . . A reminder that women have always been political and loud and brave in the faces of those who say we can't be." Bust magazine

"A powerful and pleasurable read. . . . Hunt has done the feminist movement a service by breathing new life into the memory of its earliest days." Bitch magazine

"Timely reading." Kirkus Reviews

"An inspiring look at a neglected part of history. Recommended for readers interested in women's rights, feminism, and political organizing." Library Journal

"We may never know why Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony chose to start their history of women's suffrage with Seneca Falls, not the earlier convention of abolitionist suffragists who fought against cruelties imposed by race and sex, but thanks to the revelations in And The Spirit Moved Them, this crucial and inspiring history is no longer lost to us. A must read for all who care about the past and present intertwining of sex and race—in other words, who care about human rights." —Gloria Steinem, author of My Life on the Road

“Helen Lakelly Hunt brings to life a lost chapter in American history of great historical importance—and of direct relevance to our turbulent times.  It shows how working together across races and classes women can challenge entrenched beliefs justifying domination and injustice.  I highly recommend this beautifully written book for everyone, young and old.” —Riane Eisler, author of The Chalice and the Blade 

“Helen LaKelly Hunt has a rare talent for illuminating lost chapters of history. She sheds light on the little-known intersectional beginnings of American feminism, reminding us that human relationships lie at the heart of every lasting social movement. This is a story to be shared with all the women in your life.” —Sheila C. Johnson, co-founder BET

“Helen Hunt tells us a little known but profoundly moving story from the annals of American history. It is a story that needs to be told, now more than ever before; a story of sisterhood that is as deeply spiritual as it is political, a sisterhood that defied the racial barriers of its day to create a movement with lasting impact. More than a century later, we have lessons we need to learn from them. Let their brave and fierce voices no longer be lost to history." —Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Center

“These stories can’t be hidden any longer, just as we can no longer deny the bias and prejudice that resides so deeply in our systems, culture, and ourselves. Thank you, Helen LaKelly Hunt, for discovering and bringing forth the contribution of these women, willing to risk all to stand for justice and human dignity.”  —Lauren Embrey, Founder, Dallas Faces Race

Interested in reading this book with a group? Download group discussion questions here!