About Martha Wright (Coffin)
Martha was an American feminist, abolitionist, and signatory of the Declaration of Sentiments.
Martha Coffin Wright (December 25, 1806 – 1875) was an American feminist, abolitionist, and signatory of the Declaration of Sentiments.
Martha Coffin was born in Boston, Massachusetts on Christmas day 1806, the youngest child of Anna Folger and Thomas Coffin, a merchant and former Nantucket ship captain. After the Coffin family moved to Philadelphia, Martha was educated at Quaker schools.
Martha married Peter Pelham of Kentucky in 1824 and moved with him to a frontier fort at Tampa Bay, Florida. They had a daughter. Peter died in 1826, leaving Martha a nineteen-year-old widow with an infant child. She moved to upstate New York to teach painting and writing at a Quaker school for girls. She married a young law student named David Wright and had six more children.
Seneca Falls Convention
Martha's older sister Lucretia Coffin Mott was a prominent Quaker preacher. In July 1848, she visited Martha's home in Auburn, New York. During that visit, Martha and Lucretia met with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and two other women and decided to hold a convention in nearby Seneca Falls, New York, to discuss the need for greater rights for women.
The importance of the Seneca Falls Convention was recognized by Congress in 1980 with the creation of the Women's Rights National Historical Park at the site, administered by the National Park Service. The Park's Visitor Center today features a group of life-size bronze statues to honor the women and men who in 1848 initiated the organized movement for women's rights and woman suffrage. Her statue shows her, as she was then, visibly pregnant. In 2005, the park featured a display about the relationship between Lucretia and Martha. In 2008, the park featured a display focused on Martha.
Women's rights and abolitionism
After the Seneca Falls Convention Martha Wright participated in a number of state conventions and the annual National Women's Rights Conventions in various capacities, often serving as President. She was also active in the abolition movement. The arguments for women's rights had much in common with the arguments for abolition. With her sister Lucretia, Martha attended the founding meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia in 1833.
Martha's home in Auburn, New York, was part of the Underground Railroad where she harbored fugitive slaves. She became a close friend and supporter of Harriet Tubman.
Martha's daughter Ellen Wright (1840–1931) was an advocate of women's rights, especially woman suffrage. In 1864, she married William Lloyd Garrison, Jr. (1838–1909), a prominent advocate of the single tax, free trade, woman's suffrage, and of the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act. William was the son of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. Ellen and William's daughter, Eleanor Garrison (1880–1974), worked for the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
On October 9, 2007 House resolution 588 entitled "Recognizing Martha Coffin Wright on the 200th anniversary of her birth and her induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame" passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Martha Coffin Pelham Wright's life as an activist was influenced by her Nantucket Quaker heritage. With a strong female role model in her mother, Anna Folger Coffin, and the Quaker tenets of individualism, pacifism, equality of the sexes, and opposition to slavery, young Martha was well prepared for her future role as an abolitionist and suffragist.
Martha Coffin was the youngest of eight children, born in Boston on Christmas Day, 1806. The Coffin family moved to Philadelphia when she was three. Following the death of her father in 1815, Martha's mother opened a boarding house. Martha attended a Philadelphia day school and eventually transferred to a Quaker boarding school outside the city. In 1822, Peter Pelham, a wounded soldier from the War of 1812, came to Philadelphia for medical care and boarded at the Coffin home. Martha, then 16, and Peter, 37, fell in love and wished to marry but Peter was not a Quaker and Martha's mother refused to give consent. He left for a Florida military posting, but maintained correspondence during his time away. Upon his return to Philadelphia in 1824, Mrs. Coffin finally gave consent for the couple to marry. The Quaker community, however, refused to accept the marriage and Martha was expelled from the group for marrying outside the faith. Following Peter's early death in 1826, 19-year old Martha and her year old child, Marianna, joined Martha's mother in Aurora, New York. Here she taught with her mother at a Quaker girls" school and in 1829 married David Wright, a young law student. As David's law practice grew, the family moved to nearby Auburn, the county seat.
In the summer of 1848, Wright, by then six months pregnant with her 7th child, joined her older sister, Lucretia Coffin Mott, at a meeting with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane Hunt, and Mary Ann M"Clintock in Waterloo, NY. These five women planned and led the first women's rights convention, held in Seneca Falls, NY on July 19th and 20th, 1848 - an event of worldwide historic importance. Thus began Wright's twenty plus years of dedication and commitment to women's rights and the abolition of slavery. She traveled extensively on behalf of the American Anti-Slavery Society and the National Woman Suffrage Association, which she served as president in 1874. Minutes from the 1874 NWSA meeting in New York City read in part, "Martha C. Wright, one of the most judicious and clear-sighted women in the movement‚" a fitting tribute to one of the major 19th century reform leaders of New York State.