Tag Archives: Emma Field Book Three

Good Relations – Women, 3 of 10

Geese 04 by Michael Chokomoolin
Geese 04 by Michael Chokomoolin

Prior to European settlement, the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois of the Great Lakes region, were organized in a way that maintained a balance of equality between men and women.

When European women were not allowed to vote or run for office and were considered “dead in the law” once they married, Haudenosaunee women chose their chiefs and held political authority and key political offices as clan mothers.

When European law gave men the legal right to physically discipline their wives, violence against women was not tolerated amongst the Haudenosaunee. James Clinton, a general in the Sullivan Campaign that wiped most of the Haudenosaunee from New York State remarked that a Haudenosaunee man would never violate the chastity of any woman. He added this significant admonition to his colonel: ”It would be well to take measures to prevent a stain upon our army.”

When European women were responsible for the home but subordinate to the husband, to the point of losing all rights to property, children and even one’s own body, Haudenosaunee women owned their own property and farmed communally with other women.

When European women were forbidden to speak in churches and spirituality was disconnected from the earth, Haudenosaunee women held responsibilities in ceremonies and honoured Mother Earth along with the men.

So imagine the societal trauma that came about when European ways began to rule the day! Alice Fletcher, a noted 19th Century suffragist and government agent, had this to say before the 1888 International Council of Women: “They have said: ‘As an Indian (sic) woman I was free. I owned my home, my person, the work of my own hands, and my children could never forget me. I was better as an Indian woman than under white law.” But the changes had been difficult on men too. Fletcher also had this to say, “Men have said: ‘Your laws show how little your men care for their women. The wife is nothing of herself. She is worth little but to help a man to have one hundred and sixty acres.’ One day sitting in the tent of an old chief, famous in war, he said to me: ‘My young men are to lay aside their weapons; they are to take up the work of the women; they will plow the field and raise the crops; for them I see a future, but my women, they to whom we owe everything, what is there for them to do? I see nothing! You are a woman; have pity on my women when everything is taken from them.’”

How did both men and women survive this change? I honestly don’t know, but it was a big one and I invite anyone who does know to raise your voice.

International Women’s Month – Inspiring Change – Lucretia Mott, 10 of 10

"Truth for Authority", not "Authority for Truth" - LCM
“Truth for Authority”, not “Authority for Truth” – LCM

A few last quotes from Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793-1880):


“Any great change must expect opposition, because it shakes the very foundation of privilege.”

“’Truth for authority’, rather than ‘Authority for truth’”.

“In a true marriage relationship the independence of the husband and wife is equal, their dependence mutual, and their obligations reciprocal.”


I have so much admiration for her – the way she paid attention to her “Inner Light” and the way she respected it in others, especially those whose opinions differed from hers.  I love how utterly clever and energetic she was, how she pulled together so many different threads of her society and lastly, how much she and James were partners in every sense.                                  Sincerely, Carol Williams

International Women’s Month – Lucretia Mott – 9 of 10

19th Century Equal Rights Advocates
19th Century Equal Rights Advocates

One cold, rainy day when Lucretia Mott, who was in her seventies, was riding home from Philadelphia in a horse-drawn car she witnessed a conductor “ordering an elderly black woman to ride outside in the rain. Lucretia was so indignant that she insisted on riding with her, until the other passengers protested and the conductor reluctantly permitted both women in. “

Lucretia Mott died several years later at the age of eighty-seven.  After a simple funeral her body was carried to Fair Hill burial ground where several thousand had gathered in silence.  Henry Child, a Peace Society colleague, said a few words, then all was silent again. “‘Will no one speak?’ a low voice was heard to ask. ‘Who can speak?’ another said, ‘the preacher is dead.’”

Susan B. Anthony later wrote of Lucretia Mott’s life: “Mrs. Mott fought a triple battle – 1st in the Religious Society (Quaker)…she was persecuted and ostracized by many of her old and best friends…Then 2nd – Anti-Slavery – for her work for that she was almost turned out of the Society… then for her woman’s rights – she again lost the favor of many of her oldest and best friends, but through it all she was ever sweet tempered and self poised.”


Quotes from: Valiant Friend by Margaret Hope Bacon

International Women’s Month – Lucretia Mott, 8 of 10

Lucretia Mott's carriage was stoned in Delaware.
Lucretia Mott’s carriage was stoned in Delaware.

In February of 1840 Lucretia Mott’s travels took her to Delaware where she stayed with relatives. As she travelled about the countryside with Daniel Neall, the president of Pennsylvania Hall, their carriage was stoned. They disregarded the incident and proceeded on to the home of local Quakers for tea.  However they were followed there by “a group of raw-looking men , who demanded that Daniel Neall come with them. When Daniel refused, more men arrived and forced their way into the house.”

Lucretia would have none of it and later wrote that she “pled hard with (the men) to take me as I was the offender if offence had been committed …but they declining said ‘you are a woman and we have nothing to say to you’ – to which I answered, ‘I ask no courtesy at your hands on account of my sex’…When the men refused her offer and took Daniel Neall  away, she followed them, continuing to argue, so intent on what she was doing that she forgot to be afraid for herself.  With Lucretia watching, the men rather shamefacedly smeared a little tar on Daniel’s coat, attached a few feathers, and gave him a token ride on a rail. They then turned him over, virtually unharmed, to the little Quaker woman. “

Source of quotes: Valiant Friend by Margaret Hope Bacon

International Women’s Month – Inspiring Change – Lucretia Mott, 7 of 10

Lucretia Mott was instrumental in gathering 300 people together for the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls.
Lucretia Mott was instrumental in gathering 300 people together for the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls.

In the summer of 1848 Lucretia and James Mott travelled to northern New York State to visit the Seneca on the Cattaraugus reservation.  As members of the “Indian Committee” for the Quakers of their region they were especially concerned about the plight of the Seneca. From there they travelled to Canada where they visited settlements of escaped slaves* before returning to upstate NY to visit Lucretia’s sister Martha. There, the idea of a convention for women’s rights was conceived and within a matter of days, the convention took place with 300 people in attendance! The Smithsonian Institute has a nice concise explanation of the events that unfolded at: www.npg.si.edu/col/seneca/senfalls1.htm

*For those who have read the Emma Field series you may be interested to note that this was a year and a few months before Wm. King established the community at Buxton.  On an additional note – Lucretia Mott preached in Bloomfield Methodist Church, now Bloomfield United Church (and my home church) on one of her visits north. As I read this my heart started to pound and I hoped that the visit would have been significant for either Lucretia or her audience. Sadly for me, nothing special was noted!

International Women’s Month – Inspiring Change – Lucretia Mott 6 of 10

At the first World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840 female delegates were banned.
At the first World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840 female delegates were banned.

Lucretia and James Mott were named delegates from Pennsylvania to the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England in June of 1840 and the world of the abolitionists was thrown into upheaval. How dare the Americans send delegates who were women! Surely the dignity of the whole convention would be lowered and ridicule brought upon it if they were admitted. So they weren’t. They were relegated to a segregated area at the back of the meeting hall.

But Lucretia was in good company. Amongst the other banned women was a young Elizabeth Cady Stanton who was there as part of her honeymoon. The two women vowed that the issue of female equality was something they would address. And address it they did – the friendship that began in London was to last decades and have a wide-reaching impact.

International Women’s Month – Lucretia Mott, 5 of 10

Pennsylvania Hall was burned to the ground by crowds alarmed that white and black women were holding public meetings.
Pennsylvania Hall was burned to the ground by crowds alarmed that white and black women were holding public meetings.

Great Britain abolished slavery in the West Indies in August of 1833, prompting those opposed to slavery in the United States to come together. James Mott was a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and Lucretia, attended as a delegate of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. “The thought that men and women might work together in the same society had not yet crossed anyone’s mind.” (61)

The Female Society was composed of blacks and whites. (Abba Alcott, mother of Louisa May Alcott was one of them.) “The mere fact that black women were holding regular meetings with white women was enough to send a shock wave through Philadelphia’s body politic. From its moment of birth the little society of female abolitionists was suspect; soon their meetings would lead to violence. Rather than frightening the women, this public reaction strengthened their resolve. If their timid efforts to do good led to such public fear, they might just as well act as boldly and radically as they could.” (60) They even began to speak publicly – which was considered a “promiscuous act” when men were in attendance. Soon they found it difficult to find organizations which would allow them to use their buildings and it became necessary for the abolitionists to build their own. Pennsylvania Hall opened May 14, 1838 for the purpose of “discussing the evils of slavery”, but the abolitionists were considered dangerous radicals and trouble ensued. During the night of May 16th notices were posted all over the city calling for the public to “interfere, forcefully, if they must” with the convention. The mayor asked the black women to stop attending the meetings. The next day Lucretia delivered the message to the convention but asked  that the women not be put off “by a little appearance of danger.” She then arranged for the women to leave the hall two by two, a white woman in the arm with a black one. The mob outside the hall, having swelled to 17,000, burst into it, ransacked it, then lit it on fire. It was to burn to the ground unchecked by the fire department, which poured water only on the neighbouring buildings. As if that weren’t enough, looking for further targets they began to head to the Motts house. A quick-thinking friend of their family ran out in front, shouted “On to the Motts” and led them in the wrong direction.

*Source of quotes – Valiant Friend, by Margaret Hope Bacon.

International Women’s Month – Inspiring Change – Lucretia Mott 4 of 10

Nine Partners (Quaker) Meeting House and Boarding School.
Nine Partners (Quaker) Meeting House and Boarding School.

In 1804 the Coffin family moved to Boston. Soon after, Lucretia and her sister began attending Nine Partners Friends Boarding School in the rolling hills north of New York City. Quaker academies were the first to attempt co-education. “As a result Quaker girls as a group were among the first to receive any sort of higher education in the United States. Their pioneering in such professions as medicine was well as in the field of equal rights may have been a result.” (22)

At Nine Partners, Lucretia’s bright mind thrived. Her teenage eyes were opened to the horrors of slavery, the idea of boycotting slave products such as cotton cloth and cane sugar and the teachings of Quaker abolitionist, Elias Hicks. In time, she became a teacher there herself; but not before she challenged the injustice of a young James Mott receiving twice the salary of a much older, experienced teacher by the name of Deborah Rogers. “Until (that) moment Lucretia had not realized the existence of inequality purely on the basis of sex.” (26) She wrote of this time, “The injustice of this distinction was so apparent that I early resolved to claim for myself all that an impartial Creator had bestowed.” (26) She was to spend her whole life, from that point on, doing exactly that.

The “young James Mott” was to become Lucretia’s beau. In many ways they were opposites. “He was tall and blond, she was short and dark. He was taciturn and serious; she was talkative and merry. He was rather gloomy at times; she was full of hope. Some people found him cold; she was generally perceived as warm and friendly. He was cautious; she was impetuous and sometimes gullible. She found his silence restful and his strength a rock against which she could anchor. He delighted in her ability to put into words the thoughts he could not express, and her vivacity warmed him and made him feel alive.” (27) They married when Lucretia was 18. Seven years later, with James’s complete support, Lucretia became a travelling Quaker minister. The couple were complete partners in every aspect of the activist lives they embraced. They also raised a family of six children. 

Quotes are from Margaret Hope Bacon’s Valiant Friend – The Life of Lucretia Mott

International Women’s Month – Inspiring Change – Lucretia Mott 3 of 10

Nantucket Island thrived in the 19th century with whaling and sea commerce.
Nantucket Island thrived in the 19th century with whaling and sea commerce.

Lucretia  Coffin Mott was raised 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod on Nantucket Island. Margaret Hope Bacon, author of Valiant Friend – the life of Lucretia Mott writes, “(Lucretia) loved every inch of her native island – its food, its customs, its people, its weather-beaten houses, and its long, barren vistas. She loved the sea and ships and the smell of salt. She loved its stark, revealing light…Whenever she had been angry or unhappy, the sweeping moors and the whisper of the wind had been her comforters. She was deeply rooted here, more so than she was ever to become again throughout her long life.” (19)

“From 1700 to 1850 Nantucket was the center of the whaling industry in the US, its men sailing as far as China in quest of whale oil and blubber while its women operated the farms and shops and ran the affairs of the island. The result was the development of a hardy, self-reliant breed of both sexes, famous for their sharp wit, shrewd trading, and fierce independence.” (8)

The young Lucretia also grew up surrounded by Quakers. “Like all other Quaker children, (she) had been taught to believe that God spoke directly to men and women, boys and girls, though an Inward Light that illuminated their consciences. By minding the Light within, one could learn where one’s duty lay. Then it was just a matter of obedience. All the troubles of the world, all the evils including slavery, could be traced not to human depravity but to disobedience to manifest duty.

International Women’s Month – Inspiring Change – A blog about Lucretia Mott 2 of 10

In the 19th century women could not vote. Therefore, they could not change the laws that restricted them.
In the 19th century women could not vote. Therefore, they could not change the laws that restricted them.

I find it helpful, when thinking of the battles waged by Lucretia Mott, to recall the tight restrictions placed on women in the 19th century. At that time:

-upon marriage all property owned by a woman went to her husband

-all wages she earned went to her husband

-men had full power to punish their wives

-no matter what the state of the husband (he could even be in a constant state of inebriation), any children born of a marriage “belonged to him”

-few occupations were open to women

-very, very few opportunities existed for advanced education

-women had no voting rights to change the very laws that held all of the above in place.