Lucretia Mott: Life and Major Accomplishments
One of the most prominent 19th Century American civil rights personalities, Mott dedicated much of her life in support of women’s rights and abolitionism. Her beliefs, practices and speeches have helped shape the cause of present-day social activism. She was welcomed into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1983.
Early Years & Quaker Values
Mott was born as the second of eight children of a Quaker family in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Being staunch Quakers themselves, her parents raised her in the Quaker tradition which over the years, helped her to recognize the depravity of inequality in all shapes and forms.
Mott was educated at Nine Partners, a Quaker boarding school where she became exposed to various literature and lectures on the cruelty of slavery. Furthermore, her Quaker upbringing taught her about the “equality of people before God.” This tenet was all she needed to set her on a career path of advocating for social and political reforms that would protect the rights of women, the black community and other minority groups.
Notable Accomplishments of Lucretia Mott
By 1833, Mott had become a relentless abolitionist. She attended the convention of the American Anti-Slavery Society and played a key role in the founding of its women’s interracial chapter, the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. Two years later, she helped establish the National Anti-slavery Coalition of American Women.
In a 1838 edition of the anti-slavery convention, an agitated mob vandalized the Pennsylvania Hall. Undeterred, Mott continued in her calling and was later appointed a representative of the organization at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. In attendance were male abolitionists, including William Lloyd Garrison, William Adams and Nathaniel Peabody Rogers. Despite being chosen as a delegate, she and other women delegates were not allowed to sit o speak at the conference. This was when she realized the dehumanizing situation women of her age were put through.
Mott would later meet fellow female abolitionist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with whom she organized the Seneca Falls Convention in New York eight years later. Mott often criticized England for being more interested in slowing down the pace of the slave trade rather than eradicating it altogether.
During the Seneca Falls Convention, the Declaration of Sentiments was launched. The document, based on the Declaration of Independence, included 12 resolutions signed by 68 women and 32 men. It advocated for American women to be granted the same civil and political rights enjoyed by American men. These rights included issues relating to marriage, family, voting, education religion and economics. Though the meeting was considered extremely tendentious, it was a great success.
Throughout the period leading up to the Civil War, Mott continued to lead the fight for women’s rights and abolitionism.
As a Quaker, Mott did not support conflicts. During the War, she helped the Quaker Friends Educational Association set up the coeducational, Swarthmore College in Philadelphia in 1864. The school started operating in 1989 and over the period, has been counted among the top liberal arts institutes in the country.
An excellent orator and organizer, Mott organized and spoke at many conventions across the United States. Though she started off as a Quaker preacher, her later speeches were not limited to religious audiences. She often used her religious and social platforms to speak on issues bordering on social freedoms in general and the rights of women in particular.
During the Civil War, she made speeches in support of delegations of black soldiers to superior positions in the military as her way of advancing the pursuit of social equality. On the whole, Mott used her voice and the language to gradually close to gap between sects, races, sexes, among others. She also encouraged her audience to be more courageous in their promotion of equality. By her own admission, “If our principles are right, why should we be cowards?”
Mott wrote several articles and lectured on women’s rights at various platforms. In 1850, she published her pro-women’s pamphlet, “Discourse on Women.” The book was a rebuttal to Richard Henry Dana’s “Address on Women,” which suggested that women were meant for domestic duties rather than professional pursuits. The book earned her considerable recognition in literary circles.
Following the Civil War, Mott and many other women’s rights activists expressed their disapproval of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments when they failed to address matters regarding citizenship and women’s voting rights. She was also instrumental in providing support for struggling African American communities.
Together with like-minded feminists, she was increasingly involved in peace projects culminating in the establishment of the Pennsylvania Peace Society in 1866. Later that year, Mott served as president of the American Equal Rights Association contributions.
In 1811, she married James Mott and spent the early part of their marriage in their Philadelphia home. The couple had six children. James supported her throughout her activism. The couple was present at the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.
In early 1868, her husband succumbed to pneumonia. Devastated, she busied herself with activism despite her own health issues. The women’s rights activist continued in her fight against injustice of all forms and attended a number of conventions in support of those causes. In November 1880, at the age of 87, Lucretia Mott died.
In honoring her contributions to the fight for equality, a version of the equal rights amendment from 1923 was named the Lucretia Mott Amendment.
In 1948, as part of the hundredth anniversary commemoration of the Seneca Falls Convention, the United States Post Office issued a stamp which featured the reformers, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Carrie Chapman Catt.
Together with other social activists, including Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul, Mott’s image appeared on the back of a $10 bill issued by the U.S. Treasury Department.
Though she did not live to see the passage of the 19th Amendment which granted women the right to vote, Mott’s legacy cannot be dimmed. Since her death, great progress has been achieved in the areas of social justice and equal rights in the United States.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some major facts about Lucretia Mott:
When was Lucretia Mott born?
Born as Lucretia Coffin on January 3, 1793, in Nantucket, Massachusetts, she was raised in the Quaker tradition, which emphasized equality and social justice.
Who was her husband?
In 1811, she married fellow social reformer James Mott, and they settled in Philadelphia.
At what age did she become a Quaker minister?
By age 28, Lucretia Mott became a recognized minister in the Quaker community, giving her a platform from which to speak on various social issues.
How did she view slavery and women’s rights?
Mott was a staunch abolitionist. She saw slavery as a sin and used her influence to advocate for its abolition, even offering her home as a station on the Underground Railroad.
After attending the 1840 World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London and seeing women delegates excluded from participation, Mott became more resolved to fight for women’s rights.
What was her role in the Seneca Falls Convention?
Alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mott helped organize the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. She delivered the keynote address, pushing for women’s suffrage and equal rights.
What other things was she famous for?
Beyond suffrage, Mott advocated for broader gender equality, including equal pay for equal work and more educational opportunities for women. She also supported temperance and religious tolerance.
When did she die?
Mott continued her activism well into her later years. She passed away in 1880, but her legacy as a leading figure in both the abolitionist and women’s rights movements remains intact.
When was she inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame?
In recognition of her contributions, Lucretia Mott was introduced into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1983, making her one of the pioneering figures in American social reform movements.