Lucretia Mott

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Lucretia Mott
Mott Lucretia Painting Kyle 1841.jpg
Lucretia Mott at the age of 49 (1842), at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Born Lucretia Coffin
(1793-01-03)January 3, 1793
Nantucket, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died November 11, 1880(1880-11-11) (aged 87)
Cheltenham, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation Abolitionist, suffragist, teacher
Spouse(s) James Mott
Children 6
Parent(s) Thomas Coffin
Anna Folger
Relatives Martha Coffin Wright (sister)
Mayhew Folger (maternal uncle)

Lucretia Mott (née Coffin; January 3, 1793 – November 11, 1880) was a U.S. Quaker, abolitionist, women's rights activist, and social reformer. She had formed the idea of reforming the position of women in society when she was amongst the women excluded from the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840. In 1848 she was invited by Jane Hunt to a meeting that led to the first meeting about women's rights. Mott helped write the Declaration of Sentiments during the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention.

Her speaking abilities made her an important abolitionist, feminist, and reformer. When slavery was outlawed in 1865, she advocated giving former slaves who had been bound to slavery laws within the boundaries of the United States, whether male or female, the right to vote. She remained a central figure in the abolition and suffrage movement until her death in 1880.

Mott was a Quaker preacher early in her adulthood.

Early life and education

Lucretia Coffin was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, the second child of Anna Folger and Thomas Coffin.[1] Through her mother, she was a descendent of Peter Folger[2] and Mary Morrell Folger.[3] Her cousin was Framer Benjamin Franklin, while other Folger relatives were Tories.[4]

She was sent at the age of 13 to the Nine Partners School, located in Dutchess County, New York, which was run by the Society of Friends.[5] There she became a teacher after graduation. Her interest in women's rights began when she discovered that male teachers at the school were paid significantly more than female staff.[6] After her family moved to Philadelphia, she and James Mott, another teacher at Nine Partners, followed.[7]


Early anti-slavery efforts

Like many Quakers, Mott considered slavery to be evil. Inspired in part by minister Elias Hicks, she and other Quakers refused to use cotton cloth, cane sugar, and other slavery-produced goods. In 1821, Mott became a Quaker minister. With her husband's support, she traveled extensively as a minister, and her sermons emphasized the Quaker inward light, or the presence of the Divine within every individual. Her sermons also included her free produce and anti-slavery sentiments. In 1833, her husband helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society. By then an experienced minister and abolitionist, Lucretia Mott was the only woman to speak at the organizational meeting in Philadelphia. She tested the language of the society's Constitution and bolstered support when many delegates were precarious. Days after the conclusion of the convention, at the urging of other delegates, Mott and other white and black women founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. Integrated from its founding, the organization opposed both slavery and racism, and developed close ties to Philadelphia's Black community. Mott herself often preached at Black parishes. Around this time, Mott's sister-in-law, Abigail Lydia Mott, and brother-in-law, Lindley Murray Moore, were helping to found the Rochester Anti-Slavery Society (see Julia Griffiths).

Amidst social persecution by abolition opponents and pain from dyspepsia, Mott continued her work for the abolitionist cause. She managed their household budget to extend hospitality to guests, including fugitive slaves, and donated to charities. Mott was praised for her ability to maintain her household while contributing to the cause. In the words of one editor, "She is proof that it is possible for a woman to widen her sphere without deserting it."[8] Mott and other female activists also organized anti-slavery fairs to raise awareness and revenue, providing much of the funding for the movement.[9]

Women's participation in the anti-slavery movement threatened societal norms.[citation needed] Many members of the abolitionist movement opposed public activities by women, especially public speaking. At the Congregational Church General Assembly, delegates agreed on a pastoral letter warning women that lecturing directly defied St. Paul's instruction for women to keep quiet in church.(1 Timothy 2:12) Other people opposed women's speaking to mixed crowds of men and women, which they called "promiscuous." Others were uncertain about what was proper, as the rising popularity of the Grimké sisters and other women speakers attracted support for abolition.

Mott attended all three national Anti-Slavery Conventions of American Women (1837, 1838, 1839). During the 1838 convention in Philadelphia, a mob destroyed Pennsylvania Hall, a newly opened meeting place built by abolitionists. Mott and the white and black women delegates linked arms to exit the building safely through the crowd. Afterward, the mob targeted her home and Black institutions and neighborhoods in Philadelphia. As a friend redirected the mob, Mott waited in her parlor, willing to face her violent opponents.[10]

Mott was involved in a number of anti-slavery organizations, including the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society (founded in 1838), the American Free Produce Association, and the American Anti-Slavery Society.

World's Anti-Slavery Convention

Isaac Crewdson (Beaconite) writer Samuel Jackman Prescod - Barbadian Journalist William Morgan from Birmingham William Forster - Quaker leader George Stacey - Quaker leader William Forster - Anti-Slavery ambassador John Burnet -Abolitionist Speaker William Knibb -Missionary to Jamaica Joseph Ketley from Guyana George Thompson - UK & US abolitionist J. Harfield Tredgold - British South African (secretary) Josiah Forster - Quaker leader Samuel Gurney - the Banker's Banker Sir John Eardley-Wilmot Dr Stephen Lushington - MP and Judge Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton James Gillespie Birney - American John Beaumont George Bradburn - Massachusetts politician George William Alexander - Banker and Treasurer Benjamin Godwin - Baptist activist Vice Admiral Moorson William Taylor William Taylor John Morrison GK Prince Josiah Conder Joseph Soul James Dean (abolitionist) John Keep - Ohio fund raiser Joseph Eaton Joseph Sturge - Organiser from Birmingham James Whitehorne Joseph Marriage George Bennett Richard Allen Stafford Allen William Leatham, banker William Beaumont Sir Edward Baines - Journalist Samuel Lucas Francis August Cox Abraham Beaumont Samuel Fox, Nottingham grocer Louis Celeste Lecesne Jonathan Backhouse Samuel Bowly William Dawes - Ohio fund raiser Robert Kaye Greville - Botanist Joseph Pease, railway pioneer W.T.Blair M.M. Isambert (sic) Mary Clarkson -Thomas Clarkson's daughter in law William Tatum Saxe Bannister - Pamphleteer Richard Davis Webb - Irish Nathaniel Colver - American not known John Cropper - Most generous Liverpudlian Thomas Scales William James William Wilson Thomas Swan Edward Steane from Camberwell William Brock Edward Baldwin Jonathon Miller Capt. Charles Stuart from Jamaica Sir John Jeremie - Judge Charles Stovel - Baptist Richard Peek, ex-Sheriff of London John Sturge Elon Galusha Cyrus Pitt Grosvenor Rev. Isaac Bass Henry Sterry Peter Clare -; sec. of Literary & Phil. Soc. Manchester J.H. Johnson Thomas Price Joseph Reynolds Samuel Wheeler William Boultbee Daniel O'Connell - "The Liberator" William Fairbank John Woodmark William Smeal from Glasgow James Carlile - Irish Minister and educationalist Rev. Dr. Thomas Binney Edward Barrett - Freed slave John Howard Hinton - Baptist minister John Angell James - clergyman Joseph Cooper Dr. Richard Robert Madden - Irish Thomas Bulley Isaac Hodgson Edward Smith Sir John Bowring - diplomat and linguist John Ellis C. Edwards Lester - American writer Tapper Cadbury - Businessman not known Thomas Pinches David Turnbull - Cuban link Edward Adey Richard Barrett John Steer Henry Tuckett James Mott - American on honeymoon Robert Forster (brother of William and Josiah) Richard Rathbone John Birt Wendell Phillips - American M. L'Instant from Haiti Henry Stanton - American Prof William Adam Mrs Elizabeth Tredgold - British South African T.M. McDonnell Mrs John Beaumont Anne Knight - Feminist Elizabeth Pease - Suffragist Jacob Post - Religious writer Anne Isabella, Lady Byron - mathematician and estranged wife Amelia Opie - Novelist and poet Mrs Rawson - Sheffield campaigner Thomas Clarkson's grandson Thomas Clarkson Thomas Morgan Thomas Clarkson - main speaker George Head Head - Banker from Carlisle William Allen John Scoble Henry Beckford - emancipated slave and abolitionist Use your cursor to explore (or Click "i" to enlarge)
1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention.[11] Move your cursor to identify delegates or click the icon to enlarge

In June 1840, Mott attended the General Anti-Slavery Convention, better known as the World's Anti-Slavery Convention, in London, England. In spite of Mott's status as one of six women delegates, before the conference began, the men voted to exclude the American women from participating, and the female delegates were required to sit in a segregated area. Anti-slavery leaders didn't want the women's rights issue to become associated with the cause of ending slavery worldwide and dilute the focus on abolition.[12] In addition, the social mores of the time generally prohibited women's participation in public political life. Several of the American men attending the convention, including William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips, protested the women's exclusion.[13] Garrison, Nathaniel Peabody Rogers, William Adam, and African American activist Charles Lenox Remond sat with the women in the segregated area.

Activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her husband Henry Brewster Stanton attended the convention while on their honeymoon. Stanton admired Mott, and the two women became united as friends and allies.

One Irish reporter deemed her the "Lioness of the Convention".[14] Mott was among the women included in the commemorative painting of the convention, which also featured female British activists: Elizabeth Pease, Mary Anne Rawson, Anne Knight, Elizabeth Tredgold and Mary Clarkson, daughter of Thomas Clarkson.[15]

Encouraged by active debates in England and Scotland, Mott also returned with new energy for the anti-slavery cause in the United States. She continued an active public lecture schedule, with destinations including the major Northern cities of New York City and Boston, as well as travel over several weeks to slave-owning states, with speeches in Baltimore, Maryland and other cities in Virginia. She arranged to meet with slave owners to discuss the morality of slavery. In the District of Columbia, Mott timed her lecture to coincide with the return of Congress from Christmas recess; more than 40 Congressmen attended. She had a personal audience with President John Tyler who, impressed with her speech, said, "I would like to hand Mr. Calhoun over to you",[16] referring to the senator and abolition opponent.

Women's rights


Mott and Cady Stanton became well acquainted at the World's Anti-Slavery Convention. Cady Stanton later recalled that they first discussed the possibility of a women's rights convention in London.

Women's rights activists advocated a range of issues, including equality in marriage, such as women's property rights and rights to their earnings. At that time it was very difficult to obtain divorce, and fathers were almost always granted custody of children. Cady Stanton sought to make divorce easier to obtain and to safeguard women's access to and control of their children. Though some early feminists disagreed, and viewed Cady Stanton's proposal as scandalous, Mott stated "her great faith in Elizabeth Stanton's quick instinct & clear insight in all appertaining to women's rights."[17]

Mott's theology was influenced by Unitarians including Theodore Parker and William Ellery Channing as well as early Quakers including William Penn. She thought that "the kingdom of God is within man" (1749) and was part of the group of religious liberals who formed the Free Religious Association in 1867, with Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise,[18] Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Her theological position was particularly influential among Quakers, as in the future many harked back to her positions, sometimes without even knowing it.[citation needed].

In 1866, Mott joined with Stanton, Anthony, and Stone to establish the American Equal Rights Association. The following year, the organization became active in Kansas where black suffrage and woman suffrage were to be decided by popular vote, and it was then that Stanton and Anthony formed a political alliance with Train, leading to Mott's resignation. Kansas failed to pass both referenda.

Mott was a founder and president of the Northern Association for the Relief and Employment of Poor Women in Philadelphia (founded in 1846).

Seneca Falls Convention

In 1848, Mott and Cady Stanton organized the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women's rights convention, at Seneca Falls, New York.[19] Stanton's resolution that it was "the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves the sacred right to the elective franchise" was passed despite Mott's opposition. Mott viewed politics as corrupted by slavery and moral compromises, but she soon concluded that women's "right to the elective franchise however, is the same, and should be yielded to her, whether she exercises that right or not."[20] Mott signed the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments.

Despite Mott's opposition to electoral politics, her fame had reached into the political arena even before the July 1848 women's rights convention. During the June 1848 National Convention of the Liberty Party, 5 of the 84 voting delegates cast their ballots for Lucretia Mott to be their party's candidate for the Office of U.S. Vice President. In delegate voting, she placed 4th in a field of nine.

Over the next few decades, women's suffrage became the focus of the women's rights movement. While Cady Stanton is usually credited as the leader of that effort, it was Mott's mentoring of Cady Stanton and their work together that inspired the event. Mott's sister, Martha Coffin Wright, also helped organize the convention and signed the declaration.

Noted abolitionist and human rights activist Frederick Douglass was in attendance and played a key role in persuading the other attendees to agree to a resolution calling for women's suffrage.[21]

American Equal Rights Association

After the Civil War, Mott was elected the first president of the American Equal Rights Association, an organization that advocated universal suffrage. She resigned from the association in 1868 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony allied with a controversial businessman named George Francis Train. Mott tried to reconcile the two factions that split the following year over the priorities of woman suffrage and Black male suffrage. Ever the peacemaker, Mott tried to heal the breach between Stanton, Anthony and Lucy Stone over the immediate goal of the women's movement: suffrage for freedmen and all women, or suffrage for freedmen first?

Discourse on Women

In 1849, Mott's "Sermon to the Medical Students" was published.[22] In 1850, Mott published her speech Discourse on Woman, a pamphlet about restrictions on women in the United States.[23]

Swarthmore College

In 1864, Mott and several other Hicksite Quakers incorporated Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, which remains one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the country.[24]


Mott was a pacifist, and in the 1830s, she attended meetings of the New England Non-Resistance Society. She opposed the War with Mexico. After the Civil War, Mott increased her efforts to end war and violence, and she was a leading voice in the Universal Peace Union, founded in 1866.[25]

Personal life

Daguerreotype portrait of Lucretia and James Mott sitting together
James and Lucretia Mott, 1842

On April 10, 1811, Lucretia Coffin married James Mott at Pine Street Meeting in Philadelphia. They had six children. Their second child, Thomas Mott, died at age two. Their surviving children all became active in the anti-slavery and other reform movements, following in their parents' paths. Her great-granddaughter May Hallowell Loud became an artist.

Mott died on November 11, 1880 of pneumonia at her home, Roadside, in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania. She was buried near to the highest point of Fair Hill Burial Ground, a Quaker cemetery in North Philadelphia.

Mott's great-granddaughter served briefly as the Italian interpreter for American feminist Betty Friedan during a controversial speaking engagement in Rome.[26]


Official name Lucretia C. Mott
Type Roadside
Criteria Civil Rights, Government & Politics, Government & Politics 19th Century, Religion, Underground Railroad, Women
Designated May 01, 1974
Location PA 611 at Latham Pkwy., N of Cheltenham Ave., Elkins Park
Marker Text Nearby stood "Roadside," the home of the ardent Quakeress, Lucretia C. Mott (1793-1880). Her most notable work was in connection with antislavery, women's rights, temperance and peace.
United States postage stamp featuring Elizabeth Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Lucretia Mott, with caption: 100 years of progress of women, 1848–1948
U.S. postage stamp commemorating the Seneca Falls Convention titled 100 Years of Progress of Women: 1848–1948 (Elizabeth Cady Stanton on left, Carrie Chapman Catt in middle, Lucretia Mott on right.)

Susan Jacoby writes, "When Mott died in 1880, she was widely judged by her contemporaries... as the greatest American woman of the nineteenth century." She was a mentor to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who continued her work.[27]

A version of the Equal Rights Amendment from 1923, which is different from the current version and is written, "Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.," was named the Lucretia Mott Amendment.[28][29]

A stamp was issued in 1948 in remembrance of the Seneca Falls Convention, featuring Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Lucretia Mott.

Mott is commemorated along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in a sculpture by Adelaide Johnson at the United States Capitol, unveiled in 1921. Originally kept on display in the crypt of the US Capitol, the sculpture was moved to its current location and more prominently displayed in the rotunda in 1997.[30]

The Lucretia Mott School in Washington D.C. was named for her,[31] as was P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott; the latter closed in 2015.[32]

The U.S. Treasury Department announced in 2016 that an image of Mott will appear on the back of a newly designed $10 bill along with Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession. Designs for new $5, $10 and $20 bills will be unveiled in 2020 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of American women winning the right to vote via the Nineteenth Amendment.[33][34]

See also


  1. ^ Faulkner 2011, pp. 8, 14.
  2. ^ Faulkner 2011, p. 12.
  3. ^ Payne 2011, p. 20.
  4. ^ Faulkner 2011, p. 14.
  5. ^ Faulkner 2011, pp. 24–27.
  6. ^ Faulkner 2011, p. 33, 34.
  7. ^ Faulkner 2011, pp. 34, 36.
  8. ^ Bacon 1999, p. 68.
  9. ^ Faulkner 2011, p. 169.
  10. ^ Faulkner 2011, p. 79.
  11. ^ Haydon 1841.
  12. ^ Rodriguez 2011, pp. 585–596.
  13. ^ Winifred, Conkling. Votes for women! : American suffragists and the battle for the ballot (First ed.). Chapel Hill, North Carolina. p. 27. ISBN 9781616207342. OCLC 1021069176.
  14. ^ Bacon 1999, p. 92.
  15. ^ Haydon 1840.
  16. ^ Bacon 1999, p. 105.
  17. ^ Faulkner 2011, p. 160.
  18. ^ The Free Religious Association 1907, pp. 30–31.
  19. ^ McMillen 2008, pp. 2–3.
  20. ^ Faulkner 2011, p. 147.
  21. ^ National Portrait Gallery, The Seneca Falls Convention.
  22. ^ Lockard.
  23. ^ Mott 1849.
  24. ^ Swarthmore College.
  25. ^ "Universal Peace Union Records, Collection: DG 038 - Swarthmore College Peace Collection".
  26. ^ Friedan 2001, p. 221.
  27. ^ Jacoby 2005, p. 95.
  28. ^ "Who was Alice Paul". Alice Paul Institute. Retrieved 2016-02-02.
  29. ^ ""Lucretia Mott" National Park Service". National Park Service. United States Government. Retrieved March 21, 2016.
  30. ^ Architect of the Capitol.
  31. ^ The Washington Post Staff 1909.
  32. ^ "P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott – District 27 – InsideSchools".
  33. ^ US Department of the Treasury.
  34. ^ Korte 2016.


  • Architect of the Capitol. "Portrait Monument of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony". Washington, D.C.: Architect of the Capitol.
  • Bacon, Margaret Hope (1999). Valiant friend: the life of Lucretia Mott. New York, New York: Quaker Press of Friends General Conference. ISBN 9781888305111.
  • Faulkner, Carol (May 10, 2011). Lucretia Mott's Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-0500-6.
  • The Free Religious Association (1907). Proceedings at the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Free Religious Association. Boston: Adams & Company. pp. 30–31.
  • Friedan, Betty (2001), "The enemies without and the enemies within", in Friedan, Betty, Life so far, New York: Touchstone, p. 221, ISBN 9780743200240
  • Haydon, Benjamin Robert (1840). "The anti-slavery society convention". Retrieved July 19, 2008.
  • Haydon, Benjamin Robert (1841). "The Anti-Slavery Society Convention, 1840". National Portrait Gallery, London. NPG599, Given by British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1880
  • Jacoby, Susan (2005). Freethinkers: a history of American secularism. New York: Metropolitan/Owl. p. 95. ISBN 9780805077766.
  • Korte, Gregory (April 21, 2016). "Anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman to replace Jackson on $20 bill". USA Today. Retrieved August 7, 2016.
  • Lockard, Joe. "A Sermon to the Medical Students, 1849". The Antislavery Literature Project.
  • McMillen, Sally Gregory (2008). Seneca Falls and the Origins of the Women's Rights Movement. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-518265-0.
  • Mott, Lucretia (December 17, 1849). "Discourse on Woman". National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection. American Memory, Library of Congress.
  • Phil Wallace Payne (September 30, 2011). Writes of Passage: Threads in the Fabric of Our Times. Xlibris Corporation. p. 20. ISBN 978-1-4653-4861-6. [self-published source]
  • "The Seneca Falls Convention". National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. Archived from the original on June 3, 2013. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  • Rodriguez, Junius P. (2011), "Entries, O–W", in Rodriguez, Junius P., Slavery in the modern world: a history of political, social, and economic oppression, Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, LCC, ISBN 9781851097883
  • "1860 Founders and the Quaker Tradition". Swarthmore College. Archived from the original on September 30, 2015.
  • "Treasury Secretary Lew Announces Front of New $20 to Feature Harriet Tubman, Lays Out Plans for New $20, $10 and $5". US Department of the Treasury. April 20, 2016. Retrieved December 11, 2017.
  • The Washington Post Staff (April 9, 1909). "Mott School Completed". The Washington Post.

Further reading

  • Bacon, Margaret Hope (1989). Mothers of feminism: the story of Quaker women in America. San Francisco: Harper & Row. ISBN 9780062500465.
  • Cromwell, Otelia (1958). Lucretia Mott. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. OCLC 757626.
  • Mott, Lucretia (author); Greene, Dana (editor) (1980). Lucretia Mott, her complete speeches and sermons. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press. ISBN 9780889469686.
  • Mott, Lucretia (author); Hallowell, Anna Davis (editor) (1884). James and Lucretia Mott. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company.
  • Hare, Lloyd C.M. (1937). The greatest American woman, Lucretia Mott. New York: The American Historical Society, Inc. OCLC 1811544.
  • Mott, Lucretia (author); Palmer, Beverly Wilson (2002). Selected letters of Lucretia Coffin Mott. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252026744.
  • Unger, Nancy C. (February 2000). "Mott, Lucretia Coffin". American National Biography Online.

External links

  • Wikisource logo Works written by or about Lucretia Coffin Mott at Wikisource
  • About Lucretia Coffin Mott, Lucretia Coffin Mott Chronology
  • Lucretia Mott, Women's Rights, National Historical Park, New York, National Park Service
  • Lucretia Mott Biography, Civil Rights Activist, Women's Rights Activist (1793–1880),
  • Lucretia Mott,
  • The Lucretia Mott Papers
  • Lucretia Mott's biography from the Smithsonian
  • Biography on the National Women's Hall of Fame site
  • The Liberator Files, Items concerning Lucretia Mott from Horace Seldon's collection and summary of research of William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator original copies at the Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • "Lucretia Mott". Quaker Abolitionist, Suffragist, and Educator. Find a Grave. January 1, 2001. Retrieved August 18, 2011.
  • Lucretia Coffin Mott, Discourse on woman, 1849 (From a book, Chapter 6, without pagination, continuous text), in google books
  • Michals, Debra "Lucretia Mott". National Women's History Museum. 2017.
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