About Lucretia Coffin Mott
Lucretia Coffin Mott Chronology
Lucretia Coffin Mott (hereafter LCM) was born on January 3, 1793, to Quaker parents in the seaport town of Nantucket, Massachusetts.  When she was 13, the Coffins decided to send Lucretia to a co-educational Quaker school, Nine Partners, in Dutchess County, New York.  It was here that Lucretia met James Mott.  From 1808-10 she served as an assistant teacher at Nine Partners, and during that time the Coffin family moved from Boston to Philadelphia, a city that was to be Lucretia's home for the rest of her life. 

In 1811 James Mott and Lucretia Coffin married, and he engaged in cotton and wool trade (he later focused only on wool trading as a protest against the slavery-dependent cotton industry in the South).  Between 1812 and 1828 Mott bore six children, of whom five lived to adulthood.  She began to speak at Quaker meetings in 1818, and in 1821 she was recognized as a minister in the Society of Friends in Philadelphia. 

Courtesy of the Mott Collection, Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore College

Throughout their long marriage James Mott encouraged his wife in her many activities outside the home.  The Quaker tradition enabled women to take public positions on a variety of social problems and in the 1830s Lucretia was elected as a clerk of the Philadelphia Women's Yearly Meeting.  During the 1820s a rift formed between the stricter, more conservative Quakers and the tolerant, less orthodox followers of Elias Hicks (known as the Hicksites).  In 1827 first James and then Lucretia followed the Hicksite branch which espoused free interpretation of the Bible and reliance on inward, as opposed to historic Christian, guidance.  Later in her life, although remaining a Hicksite Quaker and appearing only in simple, plain clothing, she often spoke in Unitarian churches; her sermons show her full engagement in the liberal religious discussions of the day.

LCM's letters reflect her regular travels in the mid-nineteenth century throughout the East and Midwest as she addressed various reform organizations such as the Non-Resistance Society, the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women as well as the quarterly and yearly Quaker meetings.    Her letters not only express the thoughts of a public figure but they also show the anxieties and joys of a nineteenth-century woman.  Forceful and intelligent, her letters also reflect Mott's character and Quaker background.

LCM's only trip abroad occurred in 1840.  Chosen as one of six women delegates from the several American antislavery societies to the World's Anti-Slavery Convention, she and James Mott sailed for England on May 5.  On June 12, she and the other women delegates were refused seats, despite the protest of other Americans attending the convention (such as William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips).  At this conference LCM met Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  Scholars agree about LCM's germinal influence on Stanton's determination to seek equality for all women.

1848 witnessed the birth of the women's rights movement in the historic Seneca Falls Convention which issued the women's Declaration of Sentiments, a call for equal treatment of women.  LCM presided over the Seneca Falls meeting and was the first to sign the Declaration.  Until her death, LCM remained a leader in women's rights organizations. [Link to letter to Elizabeth Cady Stanton]

Throughout the turbulent 1850s, LCM continued her speaking and engaged in further antislavery and non-resistant activities.  She worked with other antislavery leaders such as Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Lucy Stone.  As a Quaker preaching non-violence, LCM denounced the Civil War but not without some conflict, for, like other antislavery activists, she hoped the war would end slavery.

In recognition of her long service to the women's rights cause she was chosen first president of the Equal Rights Association in May 1866.  Ever the peacemaker, LCM tried to heal the breach between Elizabeth Cady Stanton/Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone over the immediate goal of the women's movement: suffrage for freedmen and all women? or suffrage for freedmen first? In the Selected Letters, LCM's private views on this split are available for the first time.

In her 85th year LCM delivered her last public address when women's rights advocates celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Seneca Falls convention in Rochester.  Throughout her life, an incisive, challenging mind, a clear sense of  her mission, and a level-headed personality made her a natural leader and a major force in nineteenth-century American life.

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