This Day In History: May 28th
Abolitionist and church leader, Eliza Ann Gardener, is a voice of the abolitionist movement that is not often discussed. Gardener was born on May 28, 1831, and learned the foundation of abolitionism from her parents who were active in the movement.
She was born in New York City, but the Gardener family relocated to Boston after her father received a job. The family’s home served as a stop along the Underground Railroad. Gardener was also an active member of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church. She took a role teaching Sunday school and worked her way to becoming Boston’s Sunday school superintendent during the 1880s. Gardener was also establishing connections with the likes of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and other prominent members of the abolitionist movement.
Seeking to further her connection with the church, Gardener began working in a variety of leadership positions within the regional AME Zion Church. Gardener assisted with conferences to raise money for the church and organized AME Zion Woman’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society. The women-led organization provided aid to missionaries and helped to promote gender equality within the leadership structure of the church. She was soon recognized as the mother figure of the organization.
Gardener was a strong advocate for women having a place in the hierarchy, and often opposed men who did not support leadership roles being granted to women. She defied the status quo and even voiced her discontentment at a conference held by AME Zion Church in 1884. Her reputation as a respected leader continued to grow within the Boston community. Gardener became a co-founder of the Woman’s Era Club, which was aimed towards the Black women of Boston.
In 1895, Gardener served as the chaplain and an organizer of the First National Conference for Colored Women. Throughout her career, Gardener remained dedicated to her religious pursuits as well as the abolition of slavery. She continued to make the public speeches she was known for despite getting older and was able to share her message with a ranging audience.
Eliza Ann Gardener died in Boston on January 4, 1922.