Historian Karen Jean Hunt identifies three goals that anti- slavery lecturer Sarah Parker Remond had in mind when she first sailed from Boston for Liverpool in September of 1858. One was to remove herself from the daily toxicity of American racism. Another was to do all she could to consolidate anti-slavery sentiment on the eve of the Civil War by arguing the ethical and economic advantages of British support for the Union during the War. The third was to secure for herself an education superior to any available to her at home. Her speaking schedule, before groups up to two thousand strong, kept her on the road and often near exhaustion. Still, she wrote to Maria Weston Chapman that, “on the 12th of this month [October 1859] I go to London to attend the lectures at the Ladies College.” She continued both her lectures and her studies at Bedford College for Ladies, later a part of the University of London. Although there was steady demand for her services following the war as a speaker on behalf of the freedmen, Remond had her eye on Italy.
Sarah Remond’s political connections in England introduced her to reformers and revolutionaries from the Continent. With her friends Harriet Martineau, Mary Estlin and Clementia Taylor, she was a founding member of the Ladies’ London Emancipation Society which supported causes beyond the abolition of slavery in the United States. The Society had two male members, one active, and one honorary. The active member was Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini whom Remond had met in her early days abroad. He was a close friend of the Taylors with whom she stayed in London. Remond, as did Margaret Fuller before her, became a supporter of the Italian reunification struggle. She won Mazzini’s confidence as an effective speaker and fund-raiser for his cause during his visits with the Taylors. The honorary member was the great Garibaldi himself.
At the age of forty she moved to Florence where she embarked on medical studies at Santa Maria Nuovo, the hospital founded in the thirteenth century by Dante’s Beatrice’s father and which later served as Florence Nightingale’s model of medical care and training.
The black publication, The Christian Recorder, reported on what was probably one stage of her medical education with the notice that, “Miss Sarah Remond, a gifted colored lady, who studied medicine with Dr. Appleton –the friend and physician of Theodore Parker, during the latter portion of his life at Rome and Florence, has been regularly admitted as a practitioner of midwifery in Florence, where she is now residing, with excellent prospects of employment and success. Her merit has won her friends on the continent of Europe, as it did in England. On going to Italy, she had excellent letters of introduction from Mazzini, among others. With this satisfactory passport, Dr. Appleton went with her to call on Garibaldi, and, though many others were waiting for an interview, they were instantly admitted. Miss Remond is not only well received everywhere in Florence, but she has friends among the very best people there.”
Elizabeth Buffum Chace, human rights activist and former conductor on the Underground Railroad, visited Remond in Florence in 1873 and wrote that: “Sarah Remond is a remarkable woman and by indomitable energy and perseverance is winning a fine position in Florence as a physician and also socially; although she says Americans have used their influence to prevent her by bringing their hateful prejudices over here. If one tenth of the American women who travel in Europe were as noble and elegant as she is we shouldn’t have to blush for our country women as often as we do.” M.R.