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Cassey, Amy Matilda Williams (1808-1856)

The Cassey House, Philadelphia
Image Courtesy of Janine Black
Amy Matilda Williams Cassey was born in New York City on August 14, 1808, to Sarah and Rev. Peter H. Williams Jr., a leading Episcopalian minister.  Raised in New York City, Williams was a member of an elite family. The Williams family, Rev. Peter Williams Jr., son of Mary and Peter Williams Sr., another prominent New York clergyman, was a well known figure in the history of both Trinity Church and St. Philips Church in New York City. 

In 1825, at the age of 17, Amy Williams married Philadelphia businessman Joseph Cassey, who was twenty years her senior.  Amy Williams Cassey soon joined her husband and other prominent Philadelphia African Americans in the campaign against slavery.  In 1837 she persuaded her parents to house delegates to the Antislavery Convention of American Women at their New York City home.  Since the Cassey household always employed at least one servant, Amy Cassey was free to devote considerable attention to anti-slavery efforts as a member of the interracial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. 

Amy Williams Cassey’s personal album resides in the collection at The Library Company of Philadelphia and contains original drawings and writings by Frederick Douglass, Lucy Stone, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Sarah Mapps Douglass, Robert Purvis, as well as members of the James Forten family, another prominent intergenerational family involved in the abolitionist movement.   

Two years after her husband’s death in 1848, Amy Cassey married Charles Lenox Remond, one of the nation’s leading anti-slavery activists and moved to his hometown, Salem, Massachusetts where she continued to work for abolition, civil rights and women’s rights.  The days and hours leading to her death due to illness on August 15, 1856 are captured in the diary of young Charlotte Forten.

Cassey Family Bible (1700s), care of Dianna Ruth Cassey, Warner, New Jersey; William H. Ferris, The African Abroad: His Evolution in Western Civilization, Tracing His Development Under Caucasian Milieu (New Haven, CT: The Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Press, 1913);  Joseph Willson, The Elite of Our People: Joseph Willson's Sketches of Black Upper-Class Life in Antebellum Philadelphia (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000); Philip Lapsansky, The Library Company of Philadelphia: 1998 Annual Report. The Library Company of Philadelphia Annual Meeting, May 1999 (Philadelphia, PA: The Library Company of Philadelphia: 34 (1999).


Temple University

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