The Caldwells: 1836–1865

In the decades before the American Civil War, Lucy and Josiah Caldwell and their adopted daughter, Margaret, lived here. Like many middle-class and prosperous Protestants, they were influenced by religious revivalism and a new ideal that stressed the moral power of home and family. For some families like the Caldwells, these ideas inspired a radical mission. They believed that ordinary families who joined together could change the world.

Look Around!

What issue was important to the Caldwells? This room is full of clues.

Lucy Caldwell made her home a center for social activism, participating in the most contentious reform of her time—the abolition of slavery in the United States. She hosted meetings of the Ipswich Female Anti-Slavery Society, gathering women to discuss abolitionist literature, listen to fellow activists, or sing antislavery songs. Here, too, the women organized petition drives and fund-raising campaigns, and made goods to sell at antislavery fairs.

The Slave’s Friend, an antislavery magazine for children, 1839

In the years before the Civil War, a woman was expected to confine herself and her interests to the socially acceptable sphere of home and family. Lucy Caldwell and her fellow activists opened themselves to criticism for being active outside the home. But because slavery destroyed family life, they believed it was their moral duty not only to raise virtuous children, but also to fight against human bondage.

Continue “through” the house until you reach the outdoor setting. (The aluminum beams above you represent the extent of the original structure.)