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
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Few people in the 19th-century inspired change more than Lucretia (Coffin) Mott. At the time of her death in 1880 she was called “the most venerated woman in America” for her work as a leader in the women’s rights and anti-slavery movements. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was named for her and her statue today stands in the crypt at the US capitol along with statues of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Lucretia Mott was also a mother to six children, a wife deeply devoted to her husband James and a travelling Quaker minister. She also played host to countless visitors, many of them noted activists of the time.
From Margaret Hope Bacon’s Valiant Friend – the life of Lucretia Mott: “(Abolitionist) William Lloyd Garrison was Lucretia’s close and admiring friend. She brought Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Abby Kelley Foster into the struggle for woman’s rights, and inspired the young Susan B. Anthony. She led the historic Seneca Falls Convention on woman’s rights, helped to found and support he first woman’s medical college, and persuaded President Grant to grant a partial amnesty to some Modoc Indians condemned to die for resisting resettlement. In hundreds of way, she fought for equality for blacks, women, native Americans, immigrants and the poor.”
In honour of International Women’s Month I am dedicating the next ten blogs to this woman who features prominently in Emma Field, Books Two and Three.