The women’s main strategy was to point out the role of societal prejudices in the up-keeping of the system of slavery. In their view prejudices were not natural, but stemmed from slavery itself, which the women associated with a patriarchal system to which they themselves were subjected to. They listed, amongst the crimes committed against the enslaved by the system, the deprivation of their right to own property, much less to own themselves, because their bodies, labour, and reproductive capacities were property to another. There are overlaps between the antislavery women’s arguments with Mary Wollstonecraft’s political philosophy and her arguments in favour of “self-ownership”, on which Immediatism, following late seventeenth-century contestations of mind-body dualism by proto-feminist writers like Lady Anne Conway (1631-1679), built its conceptional framework.
Following immediatist logic, black female abolitionists like Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911) took a step further by pointing to the biopolitical dynamic of enslavement, and the subsequent sensual trauma that came with it, because what was taken from the enslaved was nothing short of the jurisdiction over the function of their own senses. The slave mother, for example, was denied the ability to embrace her own child. At the same time abolitionists and women suffragists emphasized black women’s role as active shapers of a new generation that would leave behind the social degradation associated with the system of slavery.
Antebellum antislavery women emphasised that they regarded themselves as “bound with the enslaved” by pledging themselves to the tactics of “non-resistance” that were inspired by the Quaker peace testimony, and exercised through performance strategies based on the practice of “mental metempsychosis” (Elizabeth M. Chandler), by which was meant the mental placing of oneself into the enslaved’s situation.