Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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Lucretia Mott

LUCRETIA MOTT (1793–1880)

Detail from <em>Representative women</em> / L. Schamer del., lithograph, tinted. Boston: L. Prang & Co., ca. 1870. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a08842

Lucretia Coffin was born on January 3, 1793, in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Her family's membership in the Society of Friends (Quakers) was an important influence on her life. She adhered to the church's teachings of equality of all people, leading her to become an advocate for woman's rights and the abolition of slavery. She was educated at a Quaker school and in 1811 married James Mott in Philadelphia. They had six children. In 1821, after several years of speaking at Meetings, she was formally recognized as a minister. In her preaching she often denounced the evils of slavery, and in their wholesale business she and her husband refused to use or sell any products that slaves produced.

After experiencing exclusion from formally organized abolition groups because she was a woman, Mott help found the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. Four years later she was an organizer of the First Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women, which was held in New York City. By this time, she had become a notable speaker, attracting large audiences to her lectures, which increasingly included woman's rights with her abolitionist arguments. In 1840 Mott and her husband were chosen as the representatives from Pennsylvania to attend the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London. At that meeting, Mott and all the other women representatives were barred from officially taking their seats, and allowed to attend only as visitors. While at the convention, Mott met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who had accompanied her husband to the convention. As a result of the discrimination over seating, Stanton and Mott began plans for what became the woman's rights movement in the United States.

Mott continued her efforts for abolition and woman's rights, including equal pay for women and men workers. In 1848 she helped Stanton organize the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention, which an estimated 300 men and women attended from July 19 to 20, 1848, at Seneca Falls, New York. The convention was the first woman's rights meeting of its kind held in the United States. At its conclusion sixty-eight women and thirty-two men signed the Declaration of Sentiments, affirming the individual rights of women. The convention and Declaration led many people to join the woman's rights movement.

In the 1850s Mott met and developed a friendship with Susan B. Anthony, and throughout the decade she advocated abolition and woman's rights. The violence of the Civil War appalled Mott. She was a pacifist and had always advocated a nonviolent abolition of slavery. The end of the war and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment pleased Mott, and she argued for the equal right of all races and both sexes to vote. In the midst of the controversy between woman's rights groups and freedpeople's rights groups over the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted universal male suffrage, Mott joined with Anthony and Stanton to found the National Woman Suffrage Association. She continued to advocate woman's rights, always emphasizing the equality of all people, traveling, speaking, and attending meetings until her death at Chelton Hills, near Philadelphia, on November 11, 1880.

Suggested Reading:

Bacon, Margaret Hope. Valiant Friend: the Life of Lucretia Mott. New York: Walker, 1980.

Greene, Dana, ed. Lucretia Mott: Her Complete Speeches and Sermons. New York: E. Mellen Press, 1980.

Wellman, Judith. “The Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention: A Study of Social Networks.” Journal of Women's History 3 (Spring 1991): 9–37.