Eliza Wigham

Eliza Wigham took her campaign to end slavery on to the streets and hills of Edinburgh

Who was she?

Eliza Wigham was born in Edinburgh on the 23rd February 1820.

Eliza's family were part of a religious group called Quakers. Quakers believe in peace and the idea that everyone is equal.

Like other Quakers, Eliza and her family thought slavery was wrong. They wanted an end to slavery in the USA, where black people could be bought and sold like property.

Eliza joined a group called the Edinburgh Ladies Emancipation Society. Emancipation means setting free and the society wanted slavery to end and slaves in America to be freed.

After she had joined the society, Eliza invited people like the famous ex-slave Frederick Douglass to come to Edinburgh to speak.

Eliza died in Dublin on the 3rd of November 1899. She was 79.

Slavery in America

  • Slavery in America went back to the 1600s when people were kidnapped from their homes in West Africa. They were imprisoned and sent by boat to America.

  • In America they were forced to work as slaves in places called plantations. These plantations grew things like cotton and tobacco.

  • Slavery ended in America in the 1860s. At that time Northern States did not allow slavery and Southern States did. This argument about slavery was one of the main reasons why war broke out between the North and South.

  • This war is known as the American Civil War and it lasted for four years.

  • The North led by President Abraham Lincoln , won the war in 1865. That same year, slavery in America was ended.

Slavery and the American Civil War

Photo of slaves at a plantation in South Carolina in the South-east of America in 1862.

Slaves at a plantation in South Carolina in the South-East of America. Most slaves lived in terrible conditions and were treated very badly. This photo was taken in 1862.

1 of 6

The Edinburgh Ladies Emancipation Society

  • The Edinburgh Ladies Emancipation Society was set up in 1833.

  • The society wanted to see an end to slavery in America and campaigned from Scotland.

  • To raise awareness, the society would invite guests to public meetings to speak out against slavery.

  • The Edinburgh Ladies Emancipation Society was still going in 1870.

Eliza Wigham's world - the places and people that were important to her

An old photograph showing Eliza, her stepmother Jane and their friend Mary Estlin

This photograph shows Eliza on the left, Eliza's stepmother Jane on the right and in the middle their friend Mary Estlin. All three protested about slavery in America. Image courtesy of Boston Public Library.

1 of 4