Historical Markers
Lucretia C. Mott Historical Marker
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Lucretia C. Mott


Marker Location:
PA 611 at Latham Pkwy., N of Cheltenham Ave., Elkins Park

Dedication Date:
May 1974

Behind the Marker

"I have no idea, because I am a non-resistant, of submitting tamely to injustice inflicted either on me or on the slave. I will oppose it with all the moral powers with which I am endowed. I am no advocate of passivity. Quakerism, as I understand it, does not mean quietism."
                       -Lucretia Coffin Mott, National Anti-Slavery Standard, November 3, 1860.

Oil on canvas of an woman seated, wearing a bonnet and a white shawl over a dark dress.
Lucretia Coffin Mott, by Joseph Kyle, 1842.
When Lucretia Coffin Mott issued this pronouncement three days before the election of Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States and less than seven weeks before the outbreak of the Civil War, the sixty-seven year old Quaker was the elder stateswoman of both the American abolition and women’s movements. And it was her Quaker faith that instilled in her, as in other Quakers, the confidence—indeed the moral responsibility—to live by and fight for her convictions.

Since the days of William Penn, Quaker practice had allowed women to take public stances on social issues and granted women the right to speak openly at public meetings. Growing up in this tradition, Mott spoke out against injustice and engaged in a lifelong career as an abolitionist and women’s-rights activist. Indeed, the American women’s-rights movement first emerged after Mott and her female associates in several anti-slavery societies were refused entry at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840. In the decades that followed, Mott’s unrelenting conviction and powerful personality influenced others to participate in anti-slavery societies and inspired future generations of women’s-rights advocates.

James and Lucretia Mott
James and Lucretia Mott, photograph taken from original daguerreotype by William...
Lucretia Coffin was born January 3, 1793, in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Raised as a Quaker, she attended the Nine Partners School in New York, then worked as a teacher’s assistant after her graduation in 1808. In 1811, she married James Mott and moved to Philadelphia. Licensed as a Quaker minister in 1821, Mott was soon speaking out against slavery at the markerYearly Meeting of Friends.  After recognizing the immorality of the American cotton industry, James Mott, a thriving cotton and wool merchant, stopped importing all cotton goods from the slave states. Putting their beliefs into practice, the Motts also boycotted goods and services produced by slave labor. 

A Group of Philadelphia Abolitionists with Lucretia Mott [seated second from the right].
"A Group of Philadelphia Abolitionists," circa 1846.
When disagreements about slavery split American Quakers into two groups in 1827, the Motts joined the "Hicksite Quakers"—primarily rural Quakers who split from the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting over doctrinal differences—and became active in the abolition movement in Pennsylvania. A friend of William Lloyd Garrison, owner of nation’s most influential abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, Mott in 1833 participated in discussions at the founding of the American Anti-Slavery Society. But as a woman, Mott was not permitted to serve as a delegate. 

Recognizing the need for an anti-slavery society in which women could actively participate and contribute, Mott started themarker Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society  that December, then served as the organization’s first corresponding secretary. PFASS quickly became the model for other female abolition societies organized elsewhere in the state and the country. Its members wrote petitions and pamphlets, held lectures, raised money to start schools for African Americans, and participated in larger anti-slavery conventions, including the meeting of the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women in 1837, 1838, and 1839. 

In 1840, the Motts sailed to England as delegates to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. Despite Lucretia’s credentials from multiple American anti-slavery organizations, however, the British convention leaders only permitted her and other female delegates to watch from the gallery.  

A mob burned Pennsylvania Hall to the ground after a meeting of female abolitionists in 1838.
The Burning of Pennsylvania Hall, Philadelphia, PA, 1838.
While in England, Mott met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who had come to the convention with her husband, Henry B. Stanton, a delegate from New York. There the two women agreed on the need for a separate movement for women’s rights. In the 1840s, Mott attended Quaker meetings and state legislation assemblies, calling for women’s right to own property and to speak publically. On July 10, 1848, Mott, Stanton, and a small group of like-minded women met in Waterloo, New York, to plan the nation’s first Women’s Rights Convention. On July 19-20, at the now famous convention at Seneca Falls, the American Women’s Rights movement was born.

Approximately 300 women and men attended the Seneca Falls Convention, including African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass, James Mott, and Lucretia’s sister, Martha Coffin Wright. There, Stanton and Mott drew up a marker Declaration of Sentiments, modeled after the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Sentiments detailed the subjugation of women and called for equal rights for women in the family, professions, work place, politics, and churches. 

Head-and-shoulders portraits of seven prominent figures of the suffrage and women's rights movement
“Representative Women,” lithograph, circa 1870.
In 1849, Mott presented a marker "Discourse on Women" in response to criticism of the women’s movement and contentions that women were both physically and mentally inferior to men. Published in pamphlet form, Mott’s discourse was distributed at women’s-rights conventions throughout the country during the next two decades. 
 In the 1850s, the Motts also participated in the Underground Railroad, working with the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee and  markerWilliam Still  to provide shelter to runaway slaves at their home in Cheltenham. After the end of the Civil War and abolition of slavery in 1865, Mott became first president of the newly formed American Equal Rights Association (AERA), which lobbied hard for passage of the 14th Amendment, to provide constitutional affirmation of equal protection under the law for women as well as African Americans. When ratified in 1868, however, the 14th Amendment excluded any mention of women.

Exterior, Lucretia Mott is in the chair in the foreground.
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"Roadside" – residence of Lucretia Mott,1319 Chestnut St., Philadelphia...
Unwilling to support the proposed 15th Amendment unless it guaranteed the right for women to vote as well as African-American men, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, with the support of Mott, in 1869 formed the National Woman Suffrage Association. Fearing that the amendment would fail if women were included in its language, AERA leaders Lucy Stone, Henry Blackwell, and their followers created the American Woman Suffrage Association the same year. Mott tried to bridge the divide between the two groups, but the women’s-rights movement would remain divided until the two factions finally reunited in 1890.

Exterior and grounds. Main building of Swarthmore, now known as Parrish Hall, was the  original building when the college opened in 1869. This image is before the fire.
Swarthmore College, Parrish Hall
 Mott spent the rest of her life as an advocate for women’s suffrage and for rights for African Americans. The Motts were also strong advocates of the creation of coeducational Swarthmore College, founded by Hicksite Quakers in 1864. Elected president of the Pennsylvania Peace Society in 1870, Mott promoted temperance, morality, and peace, continuing the work she and James, who had been president at the time of his death in 1868, had shared. Mott served in this position until her death on November 11, 1880, at her "Roadside" home.
In the decades before the Civil War, Lucretia Mott inspired and led other women into the struggle for women’s rights. After her death, American suffragists continued to find inspiration in her life and work in their own struggle for women’s rights, a struggle that won its first great victory in ratification in 1920 of the Nineteenth Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote.
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