Lucretia Mott
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Joel Rose:

Her physical presence was hardly intimidating. But when Lucretia Mott spoke, her words carried enormous weight, says Temple University curator Charles Blockson:

"She spoke out for the liberation of enslaved African Americans. She spoke out for women's rights. She never once weighed more than ninety-eight pounds, she stood under five feet tall but…oh what a profound statement she made when she spoke for her causes."

Lucretia Mott's causes included abolitionism and the rights of women. And she promoted them with fiery oratory, at a time when the simple act of public speaking by a woman was considered revolutionary.

Charles Blockson:

"Let me say, Credit not the old fashioned absurdity, that woman's is a secondary lot, ministering to the necessities of her lord and master! It is a higher destiny I would award you. If your immortality is as complete, and your gift of mind as capable as ours of increase and elevation, I would put no wisdom of mine against God's evident allotment…"

Lucretia Coffin was born in Massachusetts in 1793, and moved to Philadelphia as a teenager. She married a Quaker man, James Mott, and belonged to an antislavery wing of the Quaker faith, the "Hicksites."

Mott's politics were more liberal than the religious orthodoxy of the day, says Emma Lapsansky, a historian at Haverford College:

"To get involved in the Underground Railroad in an active way is to have broken through all those boundaries that say you can't steal from somebody else, because, in fact, the Underground Railroad is a theft network. To be involved in it as was Lucretia Mott and some of the most radical…some of the most forward looking men and women, view was to make peace with yourself breaking the law."

Lapsansky says Mott wasn't just anti-slavery: she was pro-black:

"There is a significant difference in the 19th century. Other people who were anti-slavery were against the institution of slavery because it was unjust. …But that is not the same thing as wanting to have African American friends come home with you. Lucretia Mott was of the I'm gonna take my black friends home with me variety."

On the encouragement of friends in the American Anti-Slavery Society, Mott founded a female chapter in Philadelphia. As Lucretia Mott and the Female Anti-Slavery Society continued to strive for the freedom and rights of African Americans, they began to think of their own rights.

Emma Lapsansky:

"Somewhere in the 1830s, women looked up in Pennsylvania…looked up and said, well, we could think about liberating African Americans, but we aren't free.…in fact, we can't really work to free them until we simultaneously work to free us."

In 1840, Lucretia Mott traveled to London for a World Anti-Slavery Convention. But the conference refused to seat her and other women delegates from America, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Together, Mott and Stanton organized the first Woman's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls eight years later. And they penned the Women's Declaration of Rights and Resolutions, adding a few crucial words to a familiar sentence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal"

Historian Charles Blockson:

"Women were considered second class citizens."
"It was OK for them to raise children and to take care of the home, but as far as education and giving speeches, it was sort of taboo. And in any society, there is always a group of individuals who were free thinkers, Lucretia Mott was part of it."

Mott's views on women weren't always popular with her colleagues in the abolitionist movement. Phil Lapsansky is a historian at the Library Company of Philadelphia:

"Are they radical, are they progressive, in the America of the 1830s, what are you if you happen to think that black people are not particularly different from white people, that slavery is wrong, and that women should have the same rights and responsibilities of men? What does that make you?"

If nothing else, Lucretia Mott and her peers were years ahead of their time. Only one of the women who signed the Declaration of Rights and Resolutions in 1866 would live long enough to vote.
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