Lucretia Coffin Mott (January 3, 1793 – 1880) — Quaker, Abolitionist, Woman’s Suffragist.
Introduction: With a supportive Quaker community, husband and family Lucretia Mott was able to combine her work on behalf of women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. A strong advocate on both issues, she was confident in her beliefs that both issues could co-exist.
Lucretia Mott (nee Coffin) was born into a Quaker family in Nantucket, Massachusetts. At 13, her parents sent her to Nine Partners Quaker Boarding School in New York. After graduation she stayed on to teach there. It was while teaching that she got an early taste of gender discrimination. She discovered that she and the other women staff were being paid significantly less than their male counterparts.
Lucretia married James Mott, another teacher at Nine Partners, in 1811. They had six children together, five of whom lived to adulthood. Lucretia, her husband and all of their living children were opposed to the slave trade and actively participated in the anti-slavery and other social reform movements. Mott’s and other women’s participation in anti-slavery activities flew in the face of the social norms of the day, being Quakers, she benefited from a more liberal treatment of women than her female peers did not enjoy.
Their community did not frown upon women participating in the public eye. In fact, her husband encouraged her to fully participate in activities outside of the home.
In 1821, Mott became a Quaker minister with her husband’s support. Through her sermons she was able to freely express her anti-slavery sentiments as well as the beliefs of the Quakers. Mott was known for her ability to support the efforts of the anti-slavery movement through speeches and fundraising while also effectively managing her household.
Helping to Claim the Place of Women in the Anti-Slavery Movement
When her husband co-founded the American Anti-Slavery Society with William Lloyd Garrison, Mott remained an active supporter and speaker for abolition and later, in partnership with a racially diverse group of women, founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. A racially integrated organization from the start, it stood against racism and slavery and developed close ties to the African American community in Philadelphia. Mott participated in all three of the national Anti-Slavery Conventions of American Women in 1837 through 1839 despite the fact that in 1838 a mob destroyed the meeting place. The mob later targeted her home and African American neighborhoods and institutions.
In June, 1840 Mott traveled to London, England to participate in the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention. Despite her status in the U.S. and her well known commitment to the cause, the male delegates voted to exclude Mott and the other seven female delegates from participating and relegated them to a separate seating area. In protest of the decision, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips and African American activist Charles Lenox Redmond sat with the women in the segregated section. When Mott returned following the convention in London, she was reinvigorated. She continued to lecture publicly in the north as well as in slave-owning states like Maryland and Virginia. By scheduling her lecture in the District of Columbia to align with Congress’s return from recess, she spoke to an audience including 40 Congressmen. Mott not only returned from London with renewed energy for the anti-slavery cause but also with a new friendship with Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The two women were connected by their ideals which resulted in them organizing the Seneca Falls woman’s rights convention in 1848. This convention has the distinction of being the first public woman’s rights meeting in the United States and produced The Declaration of Sentiments, a document based upon the Declaration of Independence, in which the numerous demands of these early activists were elucidated.
Mott was elected as the first president of the American Equal Rights Association, which was committed to universal suffrage, but she resigned when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony took the organization in a controversial direction. Additionally, Mott was involved with other organizations whose focus was anti-slavery such as the American Free Produce Association, the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, and the American Anti-Slavery Society. A pacifist, Mott also attended meetings of the New England Non-Resistance Society. Following the Civil War, she became even more devoted to anti-war activities and was an outspoken member of the Universal Peace Union. She was also the founder and president of the Northern Association for the Relief and Employment of Poor Women in Philadelphia.
Lucretia Mott was an advocate for women’s rights and anti-slavery into her seventies. She died of pneumonia in November of 1880. She and other suffragists were memorialized by Adelaide Johnson in a sculpture that stands in the U.S. Capitol.
For further reading:
Copies of Lucretia Mott’s Letters to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other information about her life can be found on the Lucretia Coffin Mott Project here:
How to Cite this Article (APA Format): Brown, A. (2011). Lucretia Coffin Mott (January 3, 1793-1880) — Quaker, abolitionist, woman’s suffragist. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved from https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/people/mott-lucretia-coffin/