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Who Was Lucretia Mott And Why Should You Care?

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Chances are you’ve never heard of Lucretia Mott (January 3, 1793 – November 11, 1880) or her contributions to society. She was born Lucretia Coffin, attended Nine Partners Quaker Boarding School and became a teacher. She became active in women’s rights when she discovered that male teachers were being paid three times more than she was. She met and married James Mott, another teacher she met at Nine Partners.

Women’s Rights & Slavery

Mott, like many Quakers, thought slavery was wrong. She and her husband refused to use cloth, cane sugar, and other goods produced by slaves. She became a Quaker minister in 1821 and her sermons often included free produce and anti-slavery positions. In 1830, with the help of her husband, she founded the American Anti-Slavery Society.

Women’s rights activists in the 1800’s had several concerns. Equality in marriage such a women’s property rights and rights to their earnings. Divorce was difficult to impossible and fathers were almost always awarded custody of and children.

Anti-Women In Society

Many men at the time felt threatened by women speaking out on various issues that previously had been their exclusive domain. The didn’t approve of women speaking to groups in public and even went so far as to label women speaking to mixed crowds of men and woman “promiscuous.” Church pastors warned women of St. Paul‘s instruction for women to keep quiet in church. But the women in the movement persisted and support for their positions steadily grew.

Enter Susan B. Anthony

Following the Civil War, Mott became the first president of the American Equal Rights Association that advocated universal suffrage. Mott resigned when two other activists of the day, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony joined forces with a controversial businessman named George Francis Train. The dispute centered on the immediate goals of the group. Free slaves first or free slaves and suffrage for all women first.

Mott’s Legacy

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

Some Final Thoughts

Most people believe that the women’s rights movement began in the 1920’s or with the “bra burning” protests of the 1960’s. I’m posting the short history of Lucretia Mott to let you know that women’s rights have been a concern for well over the past 200 years. Like the old cigarette commercial used to say, “You’ve come a long way baby.” However, there is still more work to do.

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