Amy Kirby Post: Quaker Anti-Enslavement Activist and Feminist

Trusting Her Inner Light

Lucretia Mott
Lucretia Mott, friend of Amy Post.

Interim Archives / Getty Images

Amy Kirby (1802 - January 29, 1889) grounded her advocacy for women's rights and anti-enslavement activism in her Quaker faith. She's not as well-known as other anti-enslavement activists, but she was well known in her own time.

Early Life

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.

Anti-Enslavement Work

Dissatisfied with her Quaker meeting for not taking a strong enough stand against enslavement, Amy Post signed an anti-enslavement petition in 1837, and then with her husband helped found an Anti-Slavery Society locally. She brought together her anti-enslavement 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 Anti-Enslavement Cause

Amy Post became more actively involved in North American 19th-century anti-enslavement activism, associating with the wing of the movement led by William Lloyd Garrison. She housed visiting speakers on anti-enslavement activism and also hid freedom seekers.

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 anti-enslavement 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.

Harriet Jacobs

Amy Post began focusing her efforts again on the North American 19th-century Black activist 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.

Scandalizing Behavior

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 toward the ending of enslavement. She raised funds for "contraband" enslaved people.

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.

Later Life

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." 

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Amy Kirby Post: Quaker Anti-Enslavement Activist and Feminist." ThoughtCo, Nov. 18, 2020, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, November 18). Amy Kirby Post: Quaker Anti-Enslavement Activist and Feminist. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Amy Kirby Post: Quaker Anti-Enslavement Activist and Feminist." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 4, 2023).