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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Stephen Sylnonds Foster

FOSTER, Stephen Sylnonds, abolitionist, born in Canterbury, New Hampshire, 17 November 1809; died near Worcester, Massachusetts, 8 September 1881. He learned the carpenter's trade, then studied with the intention of becoming a minister, was graduated at Dartmouth in 1838, and studied theology in the Union theological seminary, New York; but, because he was precluded from advocating abolition in the pulpit, he deserted that profession in order to engage in the antislavery contest. He was an earnest orator, a master of denunciation and invective, and was frequently the victim of mob violence. He is described in one of Lowell's antislavery poems as " A kind of maddened John the Baptist,, To whom the harshest word comes aptest, Who, struck by stone or brick ill starred, Hurls back an epithet as hard, Which, deadlier than stone or brick, Has a propensity to stick." While in the theological seminary he induced some of his classmates to join with him in a meeting, to protest against the warlike preparations then going on, arising from the dispute with Great Britain over the northeastern boundary. The refusal of the faculty to allow the chapel to be used for such a meeting made him dissatisfied with the Churches because they countenanced war, and when he became an antislavery agitator of the moral force school, instead of a Congregational minister, he directed his attacks chiefly against the Church and the clergy, because they upheld slavery. Since the people of the New England towns could not be induced to attend antislavery lectures, he was accustomed to attend Church meetings and claim there a hearing for the enslaved, and was often expelled by force, and several times imprisoned for disturbing public worship. Other abolitionists adopted the same plan of agitation, which was very effective. He lived for many years on a farm in the suburbs of Worcester. He published articles in periodicals on the slavery question, and in 1843 a pamphlet entitled "The Brotherhood of Thieves, a True Picture of the American Church and Clergy," in the form of a letter to Nathaniel Barney, a reprint of which was issued by Parker Pillsbury (Concord, 1886).

His wife, Abby Kelley, reformer, born in Pelham, Massachusetts, 15 January 1811 ; died in Worcester, Massachusetts, 14 January 1887. Her parents, who were descendants of Irish Quakers, removed to Worcester while she was an infant. Her education was finished at the Friends' school in Providence, R. I., after which she taught for several years in Worcester and Millbury, and in a Friends' school in Lynn, Massachusetts. She resigned her post about 1837, and began lecturing as an antislavery advocate, being the first, woman to address mixed audiences in favor of abolition. Though sincere in her convictions mid womanly in her delivery, she suffered many indignities in Connecticut during her lectures. While speaking in Pennsylvania, she met Stephen S. Foster, whom she married in New Brighton, Pennsylvania, 21 December 1845. The two continued their public addresses, and on one tour in Ohio Mrs. Foster spoke every day for six weeks. They settled on a farm near Worcester, which was their home up to the time of Mr. Foster's death.

About 1850 Mrs. Poster began to be actively interested in the cause of woman suffrage, making many speeches in its advocacy, and that of prohibition. She took an extreme view of these questions, and in argument was pronounced and aggressive. Alike in their belief regarding woman suffrage and their protests against taxation without representation, both Mr. and Mrs. Foster refused to pay taxes on their home estate because the wife was not permitted to vote, and this resolution was followed by the sale of the home for two consecutive years, but it was bought in by friends, and finally redeemed by Mr. Foster. Mrs. Foster's last public work was an effort made to raise funds to defray the expenses of securing the adoption of the 15th amendment in the doubtful states, hi June 1886, she attended an antislavery reception in Boston. The day preceding her fatal illness she finished a sketch of her husband for this work. Personally Mrs. Foster was amiable and unassuming, but never lacked the courage to proclaim and defend her advanced opinions. James Russell Lowell pays this tribute to Mrs. Foster: " A Judith there, turned Quakeress, Sits Abby in her modest dress. No noblest gift of heart or brain. No life more white from spot or stain, Was e'er on freedom's altar lain Than hers the simple Quaker maid."

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