Lucretia Mott

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Lucretia Mott

Lucretia Mott (January 3, 1793 – November 11, 1880) was a Quaker abolitionist, women's rights activist, and social reformer who lived in the USA.


"Put Woman on a Par With Man" October 1853[edit]

National Woman’s Rights Convention, Melodean Hall, Cleveland OH

  • The only cause of the failure of the revolution of 1779, was that it was presented by only one half of the intelligence race — an intelligence differing it is true, in some of its peculiarities, but from that very difference calculated to form a truer republic.
  • It is not Christianity but priestcraft that has subjected woman as we find her.
  • I alluded to my own society making no difference between man and woman in the ministry and the duties of the marriage covenant. It seemed to be a great step for those early reformers, William Penn and George Fox, moving as they did in fashionable society, amid the universal veneration for power in that country. It was a great step for them to take — making the marriage relation entirely reciprocal–asking no priest to legalize their union, but declaring their own marriage, and themselves invoking the Divine aid.
  • When woman shall be properly trained, and her spiritual powers developed, she will find in entering the marriage union nothing necessarily degrading to her. The independence of the husband and wife should be equal, and the dependence reciprocal. But Oh! how different now!
  • The Irishwoman now goes about barefoot, the husband with shoes and stockings; — she with her child in her arms, he carrying nothing.
  • This then is what we ask for woman, that she may be so prepared for life’s duties, that can be fill her walk in life respectably, and show that she can be something more than a slave, on the one hand, or a toy, or an effeminate being on the other.
  • Did Elizabeth Fry, of England, neglect her family? No! After rearing her eight or ten children, she went forth and did the things that Howard did, and greater. See Dorothea Dix, and what a ministering angel she has been! Look at the licentiousness of our own city of Penn, and see how Myra Townsend went forth and established a reformatory house for her sisters; see how she gathered them there and improved their situations, and awakened in them a desire for a better life.

"Why Should Not Woman Seek to Be a Reformer?" (1854)[edit]

In Outspoken Women: Speeches By American Women Reformers, 1635 1935. Caption: The following address was delivered at the 5th National Woman's Rights Convention in Philadelphia on October 18, 1854. It appeared in printed form in The History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. I (Rochester, N.Y., 1881) pp. 368-375.

  • Why should not woman seek to be a reformer? If she is to shrink from being such an iconoclast as shall "break the image of man's lower worship," as so long held up to view; if she is to fear to exercise her reason, and her noblest powers, lest she should be thought to "attempt to act the man," and not "acknowledge his supremacy"; if she is to be satisfied with the narrow sphere assigned her by man, nor aspire to a higher, lest she should transcend the bounds of female delicacy; truly it is a mournful prospect for woman.
  • We would admit all the difference, that our great and beneficent Creator has made, in the relation of man and woman, nor would we seek to disturb this relation; but we deny that the present position of woman is her true sphere of usefulness; nor will she attain to this sphere, until the disabilities and disadvantages, religious, civil, and social, which impede her progress, are removed out of her way.
  • So far from her "ambition leading her to attempt to act the man," she needs all the encouragement she can receive, by the removal of obstacles from her path, in order that she may become the "true woman." As it is desirable that man should act a manly and generous part, not "mannish," so let woman be urged to exercise a dignified and womanly bearing, not womanish. Let her cultivate all the graces and proper accomplishments of her sex, but let not these degenerate into a kind of effeminacy, in which she is satisfied to be the mere plaything or toy of society, content with her outward adornings, and the flattery and fulsome adulation too often addressed to her.
  • I would ask, if this modesty is not attractive also, when manifested in the other sex? It was strikingly marked in Horace Mann, when presiding over the late National Educational Convention in this city. The retiring modesty of William Ellery Channing was beautiful, as well as of many others who have filled elevated stations in society. These virtues, differing as they may in degree in man and woman, are of the same nature, and call forth our admiration wherever manifested.
  • Woman was not wanting in courage in the early ages. In war and bloodshed this trait was often displayed. Grecian and Roman history have lauded and honored her in this character. English history records her courageous women too, for unhappily we have little but the records of war handed down to us.
  • more noble, moral daring is marking the female character at the present time, and better worthy of imitation. As these characteristics come to be appreciated in man too, his warlike acts with all the miseries and horrors of the battleground will sink into their merited oblivion, or be remembered only to be condemned. The heroism displayed in the tented field must yield to the moral and Christian heroism which is shadowed in the signs of our times.
  • The question is often asked, "What does woman want, more than she enjoys? What is she seeking to obtain? Of what rights is she deprived? What privileges are withheld from her?" I answer, she asks nothing as favor, but as right; she wants to be acknowledged a moral, responsible being. She is seeking not to be governed by laws in the making of which she has no voice. She is deprived of almost every right in civil society, and is a cipher in the nation, except in the right of presenting a petition. In religious society her disabilities have greatly retarded her progress. Her exclusion from the pulpit or ministry, her duties marked out for her by her equal brother man, subject to creeds, rules, and disciplines made for her by him, is unworthy her true dignity.
  • Woman has so long been subject to the disabilities and restrictions with which her progress has been embarrassed, that she has become enervated, her mind to some extent paralyzed; and like those still more degraded by personal bondage, she hugs her chains.
  • I would urge that woman be placed in such a situation in society, by the recognition of her rights, and have such opportunities for growth and development, as shall raise her from this low, enervated, and paralyzed condition, to a full appreciation of the blessing of entire freedom of mind.
  • It becomes man to speak modestly of his ability to act without her.
  • On no good ground can reform be delayed.
  • In how many cases in our country the husband and wife begin life together, and by equal industry and united effort accumulate to themselves a comfortable home. In the event of the death of the wife the household remains undisturbed, his farm or his workshop is not broken up or in any way molested. But when the husband dies he either gives his wife a portion of their joint accumulation, or the law apportions to her a share; the homestead is broken up, and she is dispossessed of that which she earned equally with him; for what she lacked in physical strength she made up in constancy of labor and toil, day and evening. The sons then coming into possession of the property, as has been the custom until of later time, speak of having to keep their mother, when she in reality is aiding to keep them. Where is the justice of this state of things?
  • On no good ground can the legal existence of the wife be suspended during marriage, and her property surrendered to her husband. In the intelligent ranks of society the wife may not in point of fact be so degraded as the law would degrade her; because public sentiment is above the law. Still, while the law stands, she is liable to the disabilities which it imposes. Among the ignorant classes of society, woman is made to bear heavy burdens, and is degraded almost to the level of the slave.
  • There are many instances now in our city, where the wife suffers much from the power of the husband to claim all that she can earn with her own hands. In my intercourse with the poorer class of people, I have known cases of extreme cruelty from the hard earnings of the wife being thus robbed by the husband, and no redress at law.
  • the opening of profitable employment to women in France is doing much for the enfranchisement of the sex.
  • In visiting the public school in London a few years since, I noticed that the boys were employed in linear drawing, and instructed upon the black-board in the higher branches of arithmetic and mathematics; while the girls, after a short exercise in the mere elements of arithmetic, were seated during the bright hours of the morning, stitching wristbands. I asked why there should be this difference made; why the girls too should not have the black-board? The answer was, that they would not probably fill any station in society requiring such knowledge. The demand for a more extended education will not cease until girls and boys have equal instruction in all the departments of useful knowledge.
  • Women's property has been taxed equally with that of men's to sustain colleges endowed by the States; but they have not been permitted to enter those high seminaries of learning. Within a few years, however, some colleges have been instituted where young women are admitted upon nearly equal terms with young men; and numbers are availing themselves of their long denied rights. This is among the signs of the times, indicative of an advance for women. The book of knowledge is not opened to her in vain.
  • Let woman then go on, not asking favors, but claiming as right, the removal of all hindrances to her elevation in the scale of being; let her receive encouragement for the proper cultivation of all her powers, so that she may enter profitably into the active business of life; employing her own hands in ministering to her necessities, strengthening her physical being by proper exercise and observance of the laws of health. Let her not be ambitious to display a fair hand and to promenade the fashionable streets of our city, but rather, coveting earnestly the best gifts, let her strive to occupy such walks in society as will befit her true dignity in all the relations of life. No fear that she will then transcend the proper limits of female delicacy. True modesty will be as fully preserved in acting out those important vocations, as in the nursery or at the fireside ministering to man's self-indulgence. Then in the marriage union, the independence of the husband and wife will be equal, their dependence mutual, and their obligations reciprocal.

Speech (1856)[edit]

In Lucretia Mott, Her Complete Speeches And Sermons

  • The very men who signed the Declaration of Independence, many of them educated under English aristocratic institutions, did not seem to know how far those principles would carry them. Some of them at that time were very much opposed to educating the working-classes, for fear it would raise them above their proper level. And more recently, many who professed so great a reverence for these republican principles, were strongly opposed to a universal popular education, in place of the charity schools that disgraced the age.
  • There has been a great advance as regards the education of women. Many of our grandmothers did not know how to write their own names, it being then regarded as unnecessary for woman to learn to write. Now she has so far come up to the level of the intelligence of society as to rise above the mere drudgery of life, and demand something more.
  • Believe me, my sisters, the time has come for you to avail yourselves of all the avenues that are opened to you. I would that woman would wake up to a sense of the long-continued degradation and wrong that has been heaped upon her! Like the poor slave at the South, too many of our sex are insensible of their wrongs, and incapable of fully appreciating the blessings of freedom.

"The Mind and Powers of Woman" (May 10, 1860)[edit]

Eleventh National Woman’s Rights Convention, Church of the Puritans, New York City

  • I am sorry to come before you with so impaired a voice, and with a face so scarred; but, I rejoice that as we who have long labored in the cause become less able to do the work, the younger ones, the Tiltons and the Harpers, come forward to fill our places. It is no loss, but the proper order of things, that the mothers should depart and give place to the children. It is now more than twenty years since this Woman’s Rights movement began in this country. We were allowed to read, if we could not understand much; and could read that Blackstone defined the law, “that the husband and wife were one person, and that person the husband;” and we labored therefore to change the law, so as to recognize the wife as a person with civil rights.
  • I can but hope, comparing such an audience as this with the handful who met with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in the first Convention, in a little Wesleyan church at Seneca Falls, and seeing Henry Ward Beecher for the first time on our platform, and speaking such noble words for woman, I can but hope that it will not be as our friend Frances D. Gage expressed her fear it would, that the degradation which centuries had created among us, would require centuries to remove;
  • it is an enslavement, although not equal to the degradation of the poor black slaves, and although I have never liked to use the word “slavery,” as applied to the oppression of woman, while we had a legalized slavery in our country. But the oppression of woman has been such, and continues to be such, by law, by custom, by a perverted Christianity, by church influence.
  • As our President said, we have in our army such minds as Spencer, and Mill, and I would add Buckle, and many others; and they are diffusing light, intelligence and civilization, and advocating the right. We have women also. We have Frances Cobbe; whose name I speak with pride and rejoicing; and in the literary world we have Charlotte Bronte, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and many others, who are consecrating their talents to the great cause of womanhood, and freedom, and right.
  • When some of us in 1840 were sent forth as delegates to the World’s Convention at London, and were denied the right of acceptance because we were women, O’Connell and William Howitt came forth and plead our cause; and a short time after, Sir John Bowring said that the coming of those women to England would form an era in the history of philanthropic doings, and would create a deep if not a wide impression there. I like to allude to these things to show what progress we are making. Education has done much for us. We now have women as physicians, and in various departments of society. A little while ago when the daughters of Edgworth put out their volumes, they were afraid to publish them over their own names, and borrowed the name of their father. And when Lady Morgan wrote her history, in her introduction she mournfully says that “man tells woman that obscurity is her true glory, insignificance her distinction, ignorance her law, and passive obedience the perfection of her nature,” and proceeds to state the effect of this erroneous and vicious teaching on the mind and powers of woman.
  • Young women of America, I want you to make yourselves acquainted with the history of the Woman’s Rights movement, from the days of Mary Wollstonecraft. All honor to Mary Wollstoncraft. Her name was cast out as evil, even as that of Jesus was cast out as evil, and as those of the apostles were cast out as evil; but her name shall yet go forth and stand as the pioneer of this movement. I want you to note the progress of this cause, and know now that Woman’s redemption is a hand, yea, even at the doors.

Quotes about Lucretia Mott[edit]

  • I never saw that great woman, Mary Wollstonecraft, but I l have read her eloquent and unanswerable arguments in behalf of the liberty of womankind. I have met and known most of the progressive women who came after her — Lucretia Mott, the Grimké sisters, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone — a long galaxy of great women. I have heard them speak, saying in only slightly different phrases exactly what I heard these newer advocates of the cause say at these meetings. Those older women have gone on and most of those who work with me in the early years have gone. I am here for a little time only and then my place will be filled as theirs was filled. The fight must not cease; you must see that it does not stop. There have been others also just as true and devoted to the cause — I wish I could name every one — but with such women consecrating their lives, failure is impossible!
    • Susan B. Anthony speech February 15, 1906 — 38th Annual Convention, National American Woman Suffrage Association, Baltimore MD
  • The first such effort resulted in the organization of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, founded only a few months after the AASS. One of its main organizers was Lucretia Mott, who recalled later that, at the time of the founding, she had no idea of how to conduct a meeting. She said she had "no idea of the meaning of preambles and resolutions and votings." Women were seldom in assemblies of any kind and she had attended only one other convention before, "of colored people in this State."
    • Bettina Aptheker Woman's Legacy: Essays on Race, Sex, and Class in American History (1982)
  • It is no wonder that the eager, highly intelligent, already rebellious, young bride Elizabeth Cady Stanton found Lucretia Mott a "revelation," and they "walked home arm in arm" from the convention hall to their lodgings in Queen Street declaring "it was high time some demand was made for the liberties of women," and "discussing the propriety of calling a woman's rights convention."
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Bloomer, Carrie Nation, Frances Willard, Lucy Stone, Lucretia Mott, and the later suffragists of whom she [her mother] was one. These courageous women set a pattern not understood yet, standing in their prim strength, in their sweetness and sobriety against cruel ridicule, moral censure, charges of insanity; for there is no cruelty like that of the oppressor who feels his loss of the bit on those it has been his gain to oppress. "Pine knots as we are," Susan Anthony said. They used the only means open to them - they became orators when it was considered immoral for a woman to speak in public; if she went to meetings she was only to listen and learn. But they could use their constitutional right of petition, and they could tramp up and down, getting signatures for the right to work, to get a divorce, to speak in public, to vote.
  • if any woman would take her sister to her heart, and warm her there again by sympathy and kindness, if she would endeavor once more to infuse into her the spark of life and virtue, or morality and peace, she often dare not so far encounter public prejudice as to do it. It requires a courage beyond what woman can now possess, to take the part of the woman against the villain. There are few such among us, and though few, they have stood forward nobly and gloriously. I will not mention names, though it is often a practice to do so; I must, however, mention our sister, Lucretia Mott, who has stood up and taken her fallen sister by the hand, and warmed her at her own heart. But we can not expect every woman to possess that degree of courage.
    • Ernestine Rose 1853 speech anthologized in Mistress of Herself edited by Paula Doress-Worters (2008)
  • Struggle brought about the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited the government from denying women the right to vote. The amendment did not just appear: It was the fruit of the struggle of the suffragettes, led by such figures as Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the mid-nineteenth century.

Dedication of the New Mott School, Mary Church Terrell (May 17, 1909)[edit]

  • the name of Lucretia Mott has been written in the history of this country which records the deeds of those who have spent their lives trying to lift their fellow men to a higher plane and relieve the suffering of the world in letters which can never fade...Lucretia Mott shines more brilliantly in the galaxy of the good and great because of her work as an abolitionist and her efforts to improve the condition of woman
  • Lucretia Mott traveled thousands of miles, when travelling was much more difficult and far less pleasant than it is to day, holding meetings all through New England and even venturing in some of the slave States to arouse the conscience and touch the hearts of the people concerning the woes and wrongs heaped upon 4,000,000 slaves. She was often debarred from the use of public halls and suffered persecution of every conceivable nature even at the hands of those who called themselves Christians — yes even from her own religious sect, the Quakers, because of her activity in behalf of the slave. Once but wonder at the cool, calm courage of the small, fragile, gentle Lucretia Mott who never at any time of her life weighed more than 90 pounds, and much of the time did not weigh even that, as she faced the violence of hostile mobs. More than once her long, gray Quaker cloak was singed with vitriol thrown at her through windows by howling, hooting mobs during the meetings which she addressed. Nothing illustrates the courage and the tact [of] the little woman more than an experience she had, when she, the other speakers and the audience were driven from an abolition meeting in Philadelphia by an angry mob. She placed a friend who was with her under the care of a gentleman. “But what will you do”, inquired the lady. “This man”, replied Mrs. Mott touching the arm of a man among the hooting ruffians who had broken up the meeting, “will see me through safely, I think.” The man was so impressed with the sweetness of her manner and the angelic expression of her countenance that he instantly responded to her appeal [and] protected her from further insult as they passed through the hostile crowd.
  • How long the emancipation of the slave might have been delayed, had it not been for those Female Anti-Slavery Societies established largely through the efforts of Lucretia Mott, and other noble women like her, no human being can tell...Many a poor trembling slave was lifted from bondage into freedom by means of the underground railroad which ran through the home of James and Lucretia Mott. She helped and befriended free colored people and protested in season and out against the cruel exhibition of prejudice against them from which they suffered in the North...Tho thorny the path and rough the road, forward she pressed to do the work for the persecuted and afflicted which she felt called to perform.
  • I could wish no better, brighter future for the boys and the girls who are so fortunate as to attend this beautiful, well-appointed Mott school than that they emulate the courage, the unselfishness, and the zeal in all good work which were such conspicuous and beautiful traits in the character of that saintly woman, for whom this building which we dedicate to day is named.

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