Abigail Folsom is difficult to locate in familiar narratives regarding the antislavery movement. The ostensible reason for the omission is that Folsom was insane. Notorious for disrupting antislavery meetings in high-pitched rants, Folsom violated generic ideals of womanhood and feminine discourse, thus challenging implicit Garrisonian dictates regarding radical reform praxis. Antebellum discourses of insanity provide a context for understanding Folsom's dynamic relationship with radical abolitionists, the significance of her menacing presence, and the mechanisms and motives of her silencing. Even through distorted historical memory, Folsom guides us in interrogating Garrisonian feminism, and helps us speculate about new rhetorical dimensions of radicalism employed by certain antebellum women. “To define true madness, What is't but to be nothing else but mad?” Shakespeare, Hamlet.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Gender Studies