Born in Pelham, MA January 15, 1811 Kelley was raised a Quaker and became a teacher at the Friends School in Lynn MA in 1829. In 1832, when she lived in Worcester, she was influenced by a speech from radical abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. She joined the Lynn Female Anti-Slavery Society, and in 1837, she, and others, gathered over six thousand signatures on anti-slavery petitions.
The Lynn Female Society named her a delegate to the first national Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women in New York City. The following year, at the second Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women, Abby Kelley gave her first speech against slavery with a mob threatening to burn down Pennsylvania Hall.
Abby and fellow radical abolitionist Stephen Foster married in 1845 and bought a farm in Worcester MA. Abby gave birth to their daughter, Alla, in 1847. Kelley faced hostile audiences from within and from outside the abolition movement in her five decades of advocating for immediate abolition of slavery and for advocating leaving churches that did not condemn slavery.
At 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 22, Stacey Robertson PhD. will present Abby Kelley Foster: A Radical Voice in the West, the first program in the annual afternoon Upstate Institute Inductee Symposia. Robertson states, “Abby Kelley Foster single handedly transformed the nature of the western antislavery movement in the 1840s. From her first visit in the summer of 1845 she inspired hundreds of abolitionists to reconsider their approach to the movement and embrace a more uncompromising position. Women found her irresistible and she helped to organize dozens of female anti-slavery societies in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. She also convinced several women to join her in the lecturing field, devoting themselves full-time to the movement. No other person impacted western antislavery more than Abby Kelley Foster.”
Dr. Robertson is the Oglesby Professor of American Heritage and the Director of the Women’s Studies Program at Bradley University (Peoria IL) where she has taught since 1994. She is the author of three books:
The Worcester Women’s History Project (
The public is encouraged to attend the Foster sessions. Admission at the door for each of the lectures and the induction ceremony is five dollars. (Admission for all four symposia programs is eight dollars.) Information and registration forms for the day-long induction event are available at
Photo: Abby Kelley Foster portrait created by artist Joseph Flores of Rochester NY for the abolitionist’s induction into the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum at ceremonies on Saturday, October 22 at Colgate University, Hamilton NY.