Women and Adversity: Lucretia Mott
Women’s Activist, Abolitionist
In the second decade of the 21st century on the heels of the 2017 “Me Too” movement, women must be reminded that a host of women activists came before us. One of the earliest in America was Lucretia Mott.
Born Lucretia Coffin in 1793 in Nantucket, MA, Lucretia went to public school for two years before entering a Quaker school in Poughkeepsie, NY when she was 13. The family moved to Philadelphia, and Lucretia was hired as a teacher, but was paid half or less than half the salary of male teachers. This began her interest in women’s rights.
She married James Mott, a Quaker teacher as well, in 1811. The couple had six children, five of whom survived childhood. The Motts were anti-slavery advocates and would not purchase any goods made by slave labor. Lucretia became a Quaker minister in 1821 and spoke openly of anti-slavery issues and women’s rights. She was one of about 30 women who founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. She and James accepted runaway slaves through the Underground Railroad.
Lucretia was criticized harshly for her anti-slavery and equal rights for women views. She and James, who shared her viewpoints, attended the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840, but Lucretia was denied a seat because she was a woman. This is where she befriended Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
In 1848, she and Stanton and a few other women organized at Seneca Falls, NY, the Woman’s Rights Convention, considered the birth of the American women’s rights movement. She became known for her speaking ability and on Dec. 17, 1849 delivered her Discourse on Woman, which begins: “There is nothing of greater importance to the well-being of society at large – of man as well as woman – than the true and proper position of woman.” It appeared in print in 1850.
She was a founder of Swarthmore College, which opened in 1864 in Swarthmore, PA, near Philadelphia, one of the first co-educational institutions in America.
Lucretia died of pneumonia at her home in Chelton Hills, PA on Nov. 11, 1880.
More information about Lucretia Mott:
Discourse on Woman: gos.sbc.edu/m/mott.html