Amy Kirby (1802 - January 29, 1889) grounded her advocacy for women's rights and abolition in her Quaker faith. She's not as well-known as other anti-slavery activists, but she was well known in her own time.
Amy Kirby was born in New York to Joseph and Mary Kirby, farmers who were active in the Quaker religious faith. This faith inspired young Amy to trust her "inner light."
Amy's sister, Hannah, had married Isaac Post, a pharmacist, and they moved to another part of New York in 1823. Amy Post's fiance died in 1825, and she moved into Hannah's home to take care of Hannah in her final illness, and the stayed to take care of the widower and her sister's two children.
Amy and Isaac married in 1829, and Amy had four children in their marriage, the last born in 1847.
Amy and Isaac were active in the Hicksite branch of the Quakers, which emphasized inner light, not church authorities, as spiritual authority. The Posts, along with Isaac's sister Sarah, moved in 1836 to Rochester, New York, where they joined a Quaker meeting that sought equal standing for men and women. Isaac Post opened a pharmacy.
Dissatisfied with her Quaker meeting for not taking a strong enough stand against slavery, Amy Post signed an antislavery petition in 1837, and then with her husband helped found an Anti-Slavery Society locally. She brought together her antislavery reform work and her religious faith, though the Quaker meeting was skeptical of her "worldly" involvements.
The Posts faced a financial crisis in the 1840s, and after their three year old daughter died painfully, they stopped attending Quaker meetings. (A stepson and son also died before the age of five.)
Increasing Commitment to Antislavery Cause
Amy Post became more actively involved in antislavery activity, associating with the wing of the movement led by William Lloyd Garrison. She housed visiting speakers on abolition and also hid fugitive slaves.
The Posts hosted Frederick Douglass on a trip to Rochester in 1842, and credited their friendship with his later choice to move to Rochester to edit the North Star, an abolitionist newspaper.
Progressive Quakers and Women's Rights
With others including Lucretia Mott and Martha Wright, the Post family helped to form a new progressive Quaker meeting that emphasized gender and equality and accepted "worldly" activism. Mott, Wright, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton met in July 1848 and put together a call for a woman's rights convention. Amy Post, her stepdaughter Mary, and Frederick Douglass were among those from Rochester who attended the resulting 1848 convention in Seneca Falls. Amy Post and Mary Post signed the Declaration of Sentiments.
Amy Post, Mary Post, and several others then organized a convention two weeks later in Rochester, focused on women's economic rights.
The Posts became spiritualists as did many other Quakers and quite a few of the women involved in women's rights. Isaac became famous as a writing medium, channeling the spirits of many famous historical Americans including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
Amy Post began focusing her efforts again on the abolitionist movement, though remaining connected to women's rights advocacy as well. She met Harriet Jacobs in Rochester, and corresponded with her. She urged Jacobs to put her life story into print. She was among those who attested to the character of Jacobs as she published her autobiography.
Amy Post was among the women who adopted the bloomer costume, and alcohol and tobacco were not permitted in her home. She and Isaac socialized with friends of color, despite some neighbors being scandalized by such interracial friendship.
During and After the Civil War
Once the Civil War broke out, Amy Post was among those who worked to keep the Union directed towards the abolition of slavery. She raised funds for "contraband" slaves.
After the end of the war, she joined the Equal Rights Association and then, when the suffrage movement split, became part of the National Woman Suffrage Association.
In 1872, just months after being widowed, she joined with the many Rochester women including her neighbor Susan B. Anthony who attempted to vote, to try to prove that the Constitution already allowed women to vote.
When Post died in Rochester, her funeral was held at the First Unitarian Society. Her friend Lucy Colman wrote in her honor: "Being dead, yet speaketh! Let us listen, my sisters, possibly we may find echo in our own hearts."