EAST LIVERMORE — Any history fan can head to the Livermore Public Library to learn a little bit more about the region.

But what readers won’t learn on those bookshelves, in the currently sorted-through collection of the Livermore/Livermore Falls Historical Society nor in A History of Livermore by Reginald H. Sturtevant is the groundbreaking abolitionist rally held in East Livermore on the Fourth of July in 1854.

A very small collection of newspaper reports, historical accounts, and anthologies tell the story of the anti-slavery rally organized by the Maine Daughters of Freedom, according to Alice Taylor’s 2004 article “From Petitions to Partyism: Antislavery and the Domestication of Maine Politics in the 1840s and 1850s.”

Taylor describes the rally, held July 3 and 4 in 1854 at a campground in East Livermore, as “the most remarkable display of Maine women’s partisan political action.”

Over 10,000 people attended the rally, Taylor wrote.

She emphasized that “This number is even more extraordinary for the fact that East Livermore was located in Maine’s sparsely populated ‘back country,’ where no city or large village could pour out its thousands, and therefore many of the attendees ‘came fifty and sixty miles in carriages.'”


“[The Maine Daughters of Freedom] held one of the most notable gatherings ever convened in the groves of Maine,” according to to Helen Coffin Beedy’s 1895 book Mothers of Maine.

“Such a throng gathered as probably never before had been in the interior of the state,” Austin Wiley wrote in his 1886 book The history of the antislavery cause in state and nation.

The rally was also “the first political meeting in the state at which a woman presided and was its acknowledged leader,” Beedy wrote.

During the proceedings, Esther Gibbs (born Esther Weld in Livermore) was elected president of the newly formed state society for the Daughters of Freedom.

An unsigned Aug. 4, 1854, report from weekly-abolitionist newspaper the Liberator describes the campground as covered in banners with “inscriptions suitable to the day and the principles represented.”

Those banners included, “Maine Daughters of Freedom, all men are created equal, our brothers,” “We are all for Freedom,” “No Compromise with Slavery,” “Toil, ye friends of Freedom, toil, your message to fulfil,” and “Love and Truth, guide our youth,” according to the Liberator.


Alongside a picnic and music, speakers included John P. Hale, a former Senator from New Hampshire and U.S. Minister to Spain, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, famed abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin about “the injustices of slavery.”

Stowe revealed to the crowd that “every word of [Uncle Tom’s Cabin was] written in Maine” and encouraged the women to “keep up their efforts on behalf of the slave.”

There, she also accepted a position as a corresponding secretary for the newly formed state society Daughters of Freedom.

The purpose of holding it on Independence Day, Taylor writes, was “to highlight how the federally supported institution of slavery had betrayed the promise of the Declaration of Independence.”

Wiley emphasized that concept, writing, “The fourth of July had been much used in Maine in the cause of liberty to which it belonged, and with great benefit.”

“It ought to be consecrated in all generations to the instruction of the people on the true principles of liberty and equal rights and duties in solemn charge, together with the constant danger of their violation and loss,” he wrote.


Those principles are quite akin to Juneteenth, a celebration of the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, were told about the end of slavery on June 19, 1865, – two-and-a-half years after former President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation address in January 1863.

The first Juneteenth celebration was held the following year and it has since become an annual celebration of liberation and racial equality for black people and activists in America.

Though it was previously a lesser known holiday, attention has increasingly been drawn to Juneteenth, especially during the 155th anniversary in 2020 amid the Black Lives Matter protests. Some look to Juneteenth as America’s true Independence Day.

In 2021, Juneteenth was made a state-of-Maine and federal holiday.

While it was another nine years until Lincoln abolished slavery – and another eleven until the enslaved people of Galveston were freed – historians say that the East Livermore rally’s impact spread across Maine.

“The influence of the meeting was felt all over the state,” Wiley wrote. “Politicians who came to look on remarked, ‘It is no use to oppose any longer’; and the reconstruction of the state was hastened.”

“It was a great day for the town,” The Lewiston Evening Journal reported in 1894.

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