Caroline Remond Putnam

Biographical Database of Black Woman Suffragists

Biographical Sketch of Caroline Remond Putnam, 1826-1908

By Gabrielle Briggs, Ariana Lindsey, Megan Montgomery, and Ahdonnica Patterson
Undergraduates, Warren Wilson College.
Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Margaret W. Carmack

Caroline Remond was born a free African American woman in Salem, Massachusetts in 1826 to parents Nancy Lenox Remond and John Remond. Caroline was born into an entrepreneurial family; her mother was a baker and father was a merchant and caterer. Her family’s business success ranked them among Salem’s black social elite. The family hosted members of the abolitionist movement such as William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and Charlotte L. Forten Grimke, who lived with the family temporarily.

These contacts along with early experiences with racism had a profound impact on Caroline and her seven siblings. At the age of nine, Caroline and her siblings were asked to leave the school they were attending because of protests by white parents. This forced the family to move so the children could complete their education. As the children entered adulthood, sister Sarah and brother Charles used their social standing and contacts within the abolitionist movement to become outspoken advocates for emancipation and the equal treatment of African Americans. Both Sarah and Charles became renowned speakers on the national and international abolitionist circuits.

Although not as outwardly involved in the cause of abolition as some of her siblings, Caroline was a member of the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society. And in 1865 she was chosen as the Vice President of the Anti-Slavery Academy. However, the majority of her energy went towards building and running what became one of the largest wig factories in Massachusetts. Caroline, sisters Cecilia and Marchita, along with Caroline’s husband Joseph H. Putnam ran the Ladies Hair Work Salon in Salem and sold Mrs. Putnam’s Medicated Hair Tonic, to stop hair loss. The success of this business allowed the Putnams to be an important financial resource to her abolitionist siblings and the movement as a whole.

Caroline and Joseph Putnam had at least one son, Edmund, who moved with his mother and one of her sisters to Rome in 1885. After Joseph’s death in 1859, Caroline traveled across Europe with her sister Sarah as she spoke against slavery. Sarah moved to Italy in 1866, where she became a physician. Caroline and another sister joined Sarah in Italy, where they continued their connection with American race activists, hosting Frederick Douglass at their home in Italy in 1886. Douglass wrote of the interracial gatherings at the house, which included artists and fellow philanthropists. Caroline Remond Putnam died in 1908.

For Further Reading:

Forten, Charlotte L., and Brenda E. Stevenson. The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimke. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Nell, William C. “Joseph Hall Putnam,” Liberator, January 28, 1859.

Porter, Dorothy Burnett. The Remonds of Salem, Massachusetts: A Nineteenth Century Family Revisited. Worchester, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society, 1986.

Sklar, Kathryn Kish, and James Brewer Stewart. Women’s Rights and Transatlantic Antislavery in the Era of Emancipation. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.


Yee, Shirley J. Black Women Abolitionists: A Study in Activism, 1828-1860. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1992.

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