Lucretia Mott

January 3, 1793–November 11, 1880

Lucretia Mott was an early advocate for abolition, women’s rights and Woman Suffrage. She was a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society in the 1830s and helped found the Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. After she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton in London, England in 1840, she became involved in the women’s rights movement and helped organize the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848.

Lucretia Mott, Portrait

Lucretia Mott. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Early Life and Family Background

  • She was born Lucretia Coffin on January 3, 1793 in Nantucket, Massachusetts.
  • Her parents were Thomas Coffin and Anna Folger, and they were Quakers.
  • Her father was a ship’s captain. In 1802, his ship was captured by a Spanish man-of-war. In 1803, he moved the family to Boston, where he became a merchant.
  • Her mother was a shopkeeper.
  • When she was 13, she was sent to the Nine Partners School in Dutchess County, New York, a Quaker boarding school. After graduation, she joined the staff as a teaching assistant.
  • During her time at the school, she became a Hicksite, a follower of Quaker abolitionist Elias Hicks.
  • After she joined the staff, she found out the female teachers were paid less than the male teacher, which she believed was unfair.
  • She met James Mott, a teacher, while at the school. She married him in 1811 and they moved to Philadelphia, where her family had moved in 1809.
  • They had six children. All but one, Thomas, who died at a young age, grew up to become active in the anti-slavery movement and other reform movements.

Introduction to 19th Century Reform Movements, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton

  • She began publicly speaking during Society of Friends meetings in 1818 and was accepted as a minister in 1821.
  • In 1827, she sided with the Hicksite Quakers against the Orthodox Quakers when the Society of Friends split over ideology.
  • In 1830, the Motts met William Lloyd Garrison. James helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society with Garrison in 1833. Days later, Lucretia helped found the Philadelphia Female-Anti Slavery Society.
  • She attended the national Anti-Slavery Convention of Amerian Women in 1837, 1838, and 1839.
  • In 1840, she attended the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London with James as delegates from Pennsylvania, but the Convention voted to exclude women from fully participating.
  • While in London, she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and they became friends and discussed the possibility of holding a women’s rights convention when they returned home.
  • When she returned to the United States, she went on a speaking tour throughout the country, including states where slavery was in practice. She eventually met with President John Tyler. Tyler was impressed with her persuasiveness, and said, “I would like to hand Mr. Calhoun over to you.” John C. Calhoun was the leader of the pro-slavery coalition in the House of Representatives.

Seneca Falls Convention and Leader for Women’s Rights

  • In July 1848, she helped organize the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane Hunt, Mary Ann M’Clintock and Martha Coffin Wright. The Seneca Falls Convention was held on July 19 and 20, and over 300 people attended. James Mott was asked to preside over the Convention.
  • From that point on, she was dedicated to women’s rights and published Discourse on Woman in 1850.
  • In 1864, she helped charter Swarthmore College with Martha Ellicott Tyson and other leaders of the Hicksite Quakers. Swarthmore was set up to be a coeducational institution.
  • In 1866, she was elected as the first president of the American Equal Rights Association, which she helped found with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
  • She presided over the second annual meeting of the American Equal Rights Association in 1867. The key issue was how to proceed with women’s rights in light of the 14th and 15th amendments exclusion of women.
  • In 1867 she helped form the Free Religious Association in Boston with Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Dale Owen and Thomas Wentworth Higginson.
  • James died of pneumonia in 1868.
  • She resigned as president of the American Equal Rights Association when Stanton and Anthony allied themselves with George Francis Train in Kansas, where black suffrage and woman suffrage were going to be decided by popular vote. Train was viewed by many as a racist.

Death and Legacy

  • She died of pneumonia on November 11, 1880 in Chelton Hills, Pennsylvania, which is now part of Philadelphia.
  • After her death, Elizabeth Cady Stanton continued to advocate for women’s rights and woman suffrage, until her death in 1902.
  • On August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment passed, guaranteeing American women the right to vote.