(1793 – 1880)
Lucretia Coffin Mott was a nineteenth century Quaker minister and reformer. She is well known for her work in moral reform including temperance and abolition. She is best known, however, for her work in the Women’s Rights Movement of her day and especially for her work in organizing the first Women’s Rights Convention in New York State in 1848.
Lucretia Coffin was born in 1793 on the island of Nantucket; Massachusetts and her parents were of noble Quaker stock. Early on she was impressed by her mother’s active role in the community and church congregation, or Society as Quakers called it, to which they belonged. As a rule, Quakers believed in the equality of all people, no matter what the race or the sex, which made them very active in moral reform, including abolition and women’s rights. The Mott family moved to Boston in 1804 and Lucretia was sent to a Quaker boarding school in Poughkeepsie, New York. Lucretia was well educated and went on to teach in that same school at the age of fifteen.
In 1809 she moved to Philadelphia with her family where she married James Mott, a fellow teacher at the Poughkeepsie school who had recently joined her father’s hardware company. They were a fine match and their marriage has been spoken of as one of the most perfect the world has ever seen.
In 1821, Lucretia became a Quaker minister, noted for her intellectual ability, sweetness of disposition, and speaking ability. In 1827 she and
James changed their religious affiliation to that of the Hicksite Quakers, a more liberal branch of the Society of Friends and became deeply involved in the abolitionist movement. She soon became known for her persuasive speeches against slavery. Like many Hicksites, she refused to use cotton cloth, cane sugar, and other products produced by slaves. In 1833, Lucretia helped form the American Anti-Slavery Society and the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. In 1937 she helped organize the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women. With the support of her husband, the Mott’s frequently sheltered runaway slaves. While she was active in her role as a minister and in the cause of abolition, she was always first a wife, mother, and homemaker.
In 1840, Lucretia was sent with other women as delegates to the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London. The men in charge of the meeting, however, were opposed to public speaking and action by women and refused to seat the women delegates. This was an outrage to Lucretia and other women. It was here, while seated in the segregated women’s section at these meetings, that she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton and their conversations at this meeting are often credited as being the stimuli for the first Women’s Rights Convention to be held eight years later (Adelman, Famous Women, p. 167).
In 1848, Mott and Stanton called the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y., where Elizabeth lived. It was here that the Women’s Rights Movement was born. After this first convention, Lucretia became increasingly dedicated to women’s rights and began to speak widely for it.
Lucretia Mott was a social reformer and a philanthropist. She was a woman of modesty and courage, gentleness and force, with a sharp intellect and a great heart. She worked quietly but mightily for God and humanity.