Lucretia Mott

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Lucretia Mott (Coffin)

Birthplace: Nantucket, Nantucket County, Massachusetts, United States
Death: November 11, 1880 (87)
Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, United States
Place of Burial: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Thomas Coffin and Anna Coffin
Wife of James Mott
Mother of Anna Hopper; Maria Davis; Thomas Mott; Elizabeth Cavender and Martha Lord
Sister of Elizabeth Yarnall; Martha Wright; Sally Coffin and Francis (Frank) Coffin

Managed by: Paul Douglas Van Dillen
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Lucretia Mott

Lucretia Mott (née Coffin; January 3, 1793 – November 11, 1880) was a U.S. Quaker, abolitionist, women's rights activist, and social reformer. She had formed the idea of reforming the position of women in society when she was amongst the women excluded from the World Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840. In 1848 she was invited by Jane Hunt to a meeting that led to the first meeting about women's rights. Mott helped write the Declaration of Sentiments during the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention.

Her speaking abilities made her an important abolitionist, feminist, and reformer. When slavery was outlawed in 1865, she advocated giving former slaves who had been bound to slavery laws within the boundaries of the United States, whether male or female, the right to vote. She remained a central figure in the abolition and suffrage movement until her death in 1880.

Mott was a Quaker preacher early in her adulthood. The Quaker families intermarried extensively. The Peases were also fiercely opposed to slavery. Joseph Pease III was the first Quaker MP in Britiain. Elizabeth Pease Nicholl (1807 – 1897), one of Joseph III’s daughters, led the Darlington Ladies Anti-Slavery Society. In 1840 she travelled to London to attend the World Anti-Slavery Convention where she met American Quaker abolitionists including Lucretia Mott.

Early life and education

Lucretia Coffin was born January 3, 1793,[1] in Nantucket, Massachusetts, the second child of Anna Folger and Thomas Coffin.[2] Through her mother, she was a descendant of Peter Folger[3] and Mary Morrell Folger.[4] Her cousin was Framer Benjamin Franklin, while other Folger relatives were Tories.[5]

She was sent at the age of 13 to the Nine Partners School, located in Dutchess County, New York, which was run by the Society of Friends.[6] There she became a teacher after graduation. Her interest in women's rights began when she discovered that male teachers at the school were paid significantly more than female staff.[7] After her family moved to Philadelphia, she and James Mott, another teacher at Nine Partners, followed.[8]


Early anti-slavery efforts

Like many Quakers, Mott considered slavery to be evil. Inspired in part by minister Elias Hicks, she and other Quakers refused to use cotton cloth, cane sugar, and other slavery-produced goods. In 1821, Mott became a Quaker minister. With her husband's support, she traveled extensively as a minister, and her sermons emphasized the Quaker inward light, or the presence of the Divine within every individual. Her sermons also included her free produce and anti-slavery sentiments. In 1833, her husband helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society. By then an experienced minister and abolitionist, Lucretia Mott was the only woman to speak at the organizational meeting in Philadelphia. She tested the language of the society's Constitution and bolstered support when many delegates were precarious. Days after the conclusion of the convention, at the urging of other delegates, Mott and other white and black women founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. Integrated from its founding, the organization opposed both slavery and racism, and developed close ties to Philadelphia's Black community. Mott herself often preached at Black parishes. Around this time, Mott's sister-in-law, Abigail Lydia Mott, and brother-in-law, Lindley Murray Moore, were helping to found the Rochester Anti-Slavery Society (see Julia Griffiths).

Amidst social persecution by abolition opponents and pain from dyspepsia, Mott continued her work for the abolitionist cause. She managed their household budget to extend hospitality to guests, including fugitive slaves, and donated to charities. Mott was praised for her ability to maintain her household while contributing to the cause. In the words of one editor, "She is proof that it is possible for a woman to widen her sphere without deserting it."[9] Mott and other female activists also organized anti-slavery fairs to raise awareness and revenue, providing much of the funding for the movement.[10]

Women's participation in the anti-slavery movement threatened societal norms.[citation needed] Many members of the abolitionist movement opposed public activities by women, especially public speaking. At the Congregational Church General Assembly, delegates agreed on a pastoral letter warning women that lecturing directly defied St. Paul's instruction for women to keep quiet in church.(1 Timothy 2:12) Other people opposed women's speaking to mixed crowds of men and women, which they called "promiscuous." Others were uncertain about what was proper, as the rising popularity of the Grimké sisters and other women speakers attracted support for abolition.

Mott attended all three national Anti-Slavery Conventions of American Women (1837, 1838, 1839). During the 1838 convention in Philadelphia, a mob destroyed Pennsylvania Hall, a newly opened meeting place built by abolitionists. Mott and the white and black women delegates linked arms to exit the building safely through the crowd. Afterward, the mob targeted her home and Black institutions and neighborhoods in Philadelphia. As a friend redirected the mob, Mott waited in her parlor, willing to face her violent opponents.[11]

Mott was involved in a number of anti-slavery organizations, including the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society (founded in 1838), the American Free Produce Association, and the American Anti-Slavery Society.

World's Anti-Slavery Convention
In June 1840, Mott attended the General Anti-Slavery Convention, better known as the World's Anti-Slavery Convention, in London, England. In spite of Mott's status as one of six women delegates, before the conference began, the men voted to exclude the American women from participating, and the female delegates were required to sit in a segregated area. Anti-slavery leaders didn't want the women's rights issue to become associated with the cause of ending slavery worldwide and dilute the focus on abolition.[13] In addition, the social mores of the time generally prohibited women's participation in public political life. Several of the American men attending the convention, including William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips, protested the women's exclusion.[14] Garrison, Nathaniel Peabody Rogers, William Adam, and African American activist Charles Lenox Remond sat with the women in the segregated area.

Activists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her husband Henry Brewster Stanton attended the convention while on their honeymoon. Stanton admired Mott, and the two women became united as friends and allies.

One Irish reporter deemed her the "Lioness of the Convention".[15] Mott was among the women included in the commemorative painting of the convention, which also featured female British activists: Elizabeth Pease, Mary Anne Rawson, Anne Knight, Elizabeth Tredgold and Mary Clarkson, daughter of Thomas Clarkson.[16]

Encouraged by active debates in England and Scotland, Mott also returned with new energy for the anti-slavery cause in the United States. She continued an active public lecture schedule, with destinations including the major Northern cities of New York City and Boston, as well as travel over several weeks to slave-owning states, with speeches in Baltimore, Maryland and other cities in Virginia. She arranged to meet with slave owners to discuss the morality of slavery. In the District of Columbia, Mott timed her lecture to coincide with the return of Congress from Christmas recess; more than 40 Congressmen attended. She had a personal audience with President John Tyler who, impressed with her speech, said, "I would like to hand Mr. Calhoun over to you",[17] referring to the senator and abolition opponent.

Women's rights


Mott and Cady Stanton became well acquainted at the World's Anti-Slavery Convention. Cady Stanton later recalled that they first discussed the possibility of a women's rights convention in London.

Women's rights activists advocated a range of issues, including equality in marriage, such as women's property rights and rights to their earnings. At that time it was very difficult to obtain divorce, and fathers were almost always granted custody of children. Cady Stanton sought to make divorce easier to obtain and to safeguard women's access to and control of their children. Though some early feminists disagreed, and viewed Cady Stanton's proposal as scandalous, Mott stated "her great faith in Elizabeth Stanton's quick instinct & clear insight in all appertaining to women's rights."[18]

Mott's theology was influenced by Unitarians including Theodore Parker and William Ellery Channing as well as early Quakers including William Penn. She thought that "the kingdom of God is within man" (1749) and was part of the group of religious liberals who formed the Free Religious Association in 1867, with Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise,[19] Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

In 1866, Mott joined with Stanton, Anthony, and Stone to establish the American Equal Rights Association. The following year, the organization became active in Kansas where black suffrage and woman suffrage were to be decided by popular vote, and it was then that Stanton and Anthony formed a political alliance with Train, leading to Mott's resignation. Kansas failed to pass both referenda.

Mott was a founder and president of the Northern Association for the Relief and Employment of Poor Women in Philadelphia (founded in 1846).

Seneca Falls Convention

In 1848, Mott and Cady Stanton organized the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women's rights convention, at Seneca Falls, New York.[20] Stanton's resolution that it was "the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves the sacred right to the elective franchise" was passed despite Mott's opposition. Mott viewed politics as corrupted by slavery and moral compromises, but she soon concluded that women's "right to the elective franchise however, is the same, and should be yielded to her, whether she exercises that right or not."[21] Mott signed the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments.

Despite Mott's opposition to electoral politics, her fame had reached into the political arena even before the July 1848 women's rights convention. During the June 1848 National Convention of the Liberty Party, 5 of the 84 voting delegates cast their ballots for Lucretia Mott to be their party's candidate for the Office of U.S. Vice President. In delegate voting, she placed 4th in a field of nine.

Over the next few decades, women's suffrage became the focus of the women's rights movement. While Cady Stanton is usually credited as the leader of that effort, it was Mott's mentoring of Cady Stanton and their work together that inspired the event. Mott's sister, Martha Coffin Wright, also helped organize the convention and signed the declaration.

Noted abolitionist and human rights activist Frederick Douglass was in attendance and played a key role in persuading the other attendees to agree to a resolution calling for women's suffrage.[22]

American Equal Rights Association

After the Civil War, Mott was elected the first president of the American Equal Rights Association, an organization that advocated universal suffrage. She resigned from the association in 1868 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony allied with a controversial businessman named George Francis Train. Mott tried to reconcile the two factions that split the following year over the priorities of woman suffrage and Black male suffrage. Ever the peacemaker, Mott tried to heal the breach between Stanton, Anthony and Lucy Stone over the immediate goal of the women's movement: suffrage for freedmen and all women, or suffrage for freedmen first?

Discourse on Women

In 1849, Mott's "Sermon to the Medical Students" was published.[23] In 1850, Mott published her speech Discourse on Woman, a pamphlet about restrictions on women in the United States.[24]

Swarthmore College

In 1864, Mott and several other Hicksite Quakers incorporated Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, which remains one of the premier liberal arts colleges in the country.[25]


Mott was a pacifist, and in the 1830s, she attended meetings of the New England Non-Resistance Society. She opposed the War with Mexico. After the Civil War, Mott increased her efforts to end war and violence, and she was a leading voice in the Universal Peace Union, founded in 1866.[26]

Personal life
On April 10, 1811, Lucretia Coffin married James Mott at Pine Street Meeting in Philadelphia. They had six children. Their second child, Thomas Mott, died at age two. Their surviving children all became active in the anti-slavery and other reform movements, following in their parents' paths. Her great-granddaughter May Hallowell Loud became an artist.

Mott died on November 11, 1880 of pneumonia at her home, Roadside, in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania. She was buried near to the highest point of Fair Hill Burial Ground, a Quaker cemetery in North Philadelphia.

Mott's great-granddaughter served briefly as the Italian interpreter for American feminist Betty Friedan during a controversial speaking engagement in Rome.[27]

Susan Jacoby writes, "When Mott died in 1880, she was widely judged by her contemporaries... as the greatest American woman of the nineteenth century." She was a mentor to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who continued her work.[28]

A version of the Equal Rights Amendment from 1923, which is different from the current version and is written, "Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.," was named the Lucretia Mott Amendment.[29][30]

A stamp was issued in 1948 in remembrance of the Seneca Falls Convention, featuring Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Lucretia Mott.

In 1983, Mott was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.[31]

Mott is commemorated along with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in a sculpture by Adelaide Johnson at the United States Capitol, unveiled in 1921. Originally kept on display in the crypt of the US Capitol, the sculpture was moved to its current location and more prominently displayed in the rotunda in 1997.[32]

The Lucretia Mott School in Washington D.C. was named for her,[33] as was P.S. 215 Lucretia Mott; the latter closed in 2015.[34]

The U.S. Treasury Department announced in 2016 that an image of Mott will appear on the back of a newly designed $10 bill along with Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession. Designs for new $5, $10 and $20 bills will be unveiled in 2020 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of American women winning the right to vote via the Nineteenth Amendment.[35][36]

Lucretia Coffin Mott was born 3 January 1793 in Nantucket, Massachusetts and died on 11 November 1880 near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was an American Quaker, abolitionist (Underground Railroad), social reformer, and proponent of women's rights.

Parents: Thomas Coffin and Anna Folger. Her youngest sister was pioneering rights activist Martha Coffin Wright.

  1. Married on 10 April 1811 in Philadelphia to James Mott (1788-1868), schoolteacher, son of Adam and Anne Mott.

Children of Lucretia Coffin and James Mott:

  1. Anna, born in Philadelphia, 6th of 8th month, 1812 ; died at York, Me., 3d of 8th month, 1874; married, 24th of 4th month, 1833, Edward Hopper, born 2d of 12th month, 1812, son of Isaac T. and Sarah (Tatum) Hopper, of New York.
  2. Thomas, born 23d of 7th month, 1814; died l0th of 4th month, 1817.
  3. Maria, born 30th of 3d month, 1818; married, 26th of 10th month, 1836, Edward M. Davis, born in Philadelphia 21st of 7th month, 1811 ; died in Boston, 26th of 11th month, 1887;son of Evan and Elizabeth Davis of Philadelphia, and grandson of Samuel Davis of Plymouth, Montgomery County, Pa.
  4. Thomas Mott, born 8th of 8th month, 1823 ; married, 28th of 7th month, 1845, Marianna Pelham, born 20th of 8th month, 1825 ; died in Switzerland, 3d of 7th month, 1872.
  5. Elizabeth Mott, born 14th of I2th month, 1825, died 4th of Qth month, 1865 ; married, in 1845, Thomas S. Cavender.
  6. Martha Mott, born 30th of 10th month, 1828 ; married, 8th of 6th month, 1853, George W. Lord, born 7th of 1st month, 1830, died 14th of 2d month, 1880.

Biographical notes

In 1821, before Lucretia Mott was 30 years old, she was designated as minister in the Society of Friends. Recognized for her exemplary character and her eloquence, she soon became not only a respected Quaker minister but one of the leaders in the reform movements of the 19th century. As a public speaker she declared that her religious convictions were founded on intelligent interpretation of the Bible and independence of thought and that her pleas for human brotherhood and world peace were expressions of her convictions.

Lucretia had a cheerful disposition and was inclined to talk overmuch. "Long tongue" was Anna Coffin's name for her second daughter. She began preaching in 1818.
In the 1830's Lucretia was looked upon as a fount of wisdom and as a woman capable of giving guidance to those beset by religious problems.

Recorded about Lucretia: "Her noble countenance was radiant as the morning; her soft voice though low, was so firm that she was heard to the farthest corner, and her sermon as philosophical as it was devout; Send forth thy light and thy truth was her text."

In public tributes appearing after her death, she was cited as "the greatest American woman" and "the noblest of them all".

Biographical Excerpt

Editorial, Time and Tide (9 July 1926):

Beginning with Mary Wollstonecraft in the late 18th century, the feminist movement owed its next big impetus (in the eighteen forties and fifties) to Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony, of New England. It was Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth C. Stanton who organised the first Equal Rights Convention which was held in New York in 1848; and it was Lucretia Mott who laid down the definite proposition which American women are still struggling to implement today: 'Men and Women shall have Equal Rights throughout the United States.'


by Lucretia Mott:

"There is no true peace that is not founded on justice and right."

Quotes About Lucretia Mott

• Ralph Waldo Emerson about Lucretia Mott's antislavery activism:

She brings domesticity and common sense, and that propriety which every man loves, directly into this hurly-burly, and makes every bully ashamed. Her courage is no merit, one almost says, where triumph is so sure.

• Elizabeth Cady Stanton about Lucretia Mott:

Having known Lucretia Mott, not only in the flush of life, when all her faculties were at their zenith, but in the repose of advanced age, her withdrawal from our midst seems as natural and as beautiful as the changing foliage of some grand oak from the spring-time to the autumn.

  • Carl Schurz first met Mott in 1854. He described her in his autobiography published in 1906:

Lucretia Mott, a woman, as I was told, renowned for her high character, her culture, and the zeal and ability with which she advocated various progressive movements. To her I had the good fortune to be introduced by a German friend. I thought her the most beautiful old lady I had ever seen. Her features were of exquisite fineness. Not one of the wrinkles with which age had marked her face, would one have wished away. Her dark eyes beamed with intelligence and benignity. She received me with gentle grace, and in the course of our conversation, she expressed the hope that, as a citizen, I would never be indifferent to the slavery question as, to her great grief, many people at the time seemed to be.

Family notes

Coffin Family

The Coffin family in England is traced back to the time of William the Conqueror, when a Norman Knight, Sir Richard Coffyn, accompanied William in his invasion of England. The knight doubtless had his reward, for " Sir Richard Coffyn of Alwington in Devonshire," became an hereditary name for centuries — from the reign of Henry I. to that of Edward VI. Richard Coffyn was Sheriff of Devonshire in the time of
Henry VIII. Curious agreements in relation to boundaries between Sir Richard Coffyn and the Abbot of Tavistock are still preserved. In one of them the Abbot grants the privilege of his church to the Coffyn family.

The first of the family in America was Tristram Coffyn, as he still spelled the name, son of Peter and Joanne (Thimber) Coffyn of Brixham Parish, in the town of Plymouth, in Devonshire.

Mott Family

from "Adam and Anne Mott" by Thomas Clapp Cornell

James Mott

[Husband] James Mott, the second child and eldest son of Adam and Anne Mott, was born at " the old place," the old Mott Homestead on Cowneck, on the 20th of 6th month, 1788, and died in Brooklyn, N. Y., of pneumonia, while on a visit to his daughter, Martha M. Lord, on the 26th of 1st month, 1868, in his eightieth year, clear in mind and memory, and in good bodily health until a few days before his death. He had
married in Philadelphia, l0th of 4th month, 1811, Lucretia Coffin, born 3d of 1st month, 1793, in Nantucket, died at "Roadside," near Philadelphia, 11th of 11th month, 1880, having nearly completed her eighty- eighth year, clear in mind to the last, although in failing strength, daughter of Thomas and Anna (Folger) Coffin, of Nantucket and subsequently
of Philadelphia.

Thomas Mott

Thomas Mott [son of Lucretia Coffin and James Mott] at the time of his marriage, was in the wool business with his father, and they prospered; and after the retirement of his father he made other business connections, and after one or two reverses, from which they promptly recovered, he retired from business in 1863 with a handsome competence. He has since spent considerable time in Europe, and of later years much time in Newport, R. I. He now makes the home of his family at Radnor near Philadelphia in the winter, and at Newport in the summer.

Edward Davis

His [Edward Davis, son in law - married to daughter Maria Mott] grandfather was Captain in the American army in the Revolution, and his father was Captain in the war of 1812, although both were members of the Society of Friends, and Edward M. Davis himself was on the staff of General John C. Fremont in Missouri during the Rebellion, with the rank of Captain.

Edward M. Davis, at the time of his marriage, was a merchant
in Philadelphia, and was deeply interested in the anti-Slavery movement, and in various other efforts of reform. For all the later years of his life, his home was at " Roadside." Their eldest daughter, Anna Davis Hallowell, is the author of the biography of James and Lucretia Mott above mentioned, and her husband, Richard P. Hallowell, has written two or three small volumes in defence of Quakerism and of Freedom : one, " The Quaker Invasion of Massachusetts;" the second, "The Pioneer Quakers," and a third, " The Southern Question." In recognition of these services, their portraits are introduced in this volume. Their home is at West Medford, near Boston, Mass.

George Lord

George W. Lord [son in law (married to daughter Martha Mott] was a clerk in the Bank of North America in
Philadelphia at the time of his marriage. He subsequently went into the wool business in New York, from which he retired about 1874 on account of ill health, but with a competence.

Town named in her honor

LaMott, Pennsylvania

After the [Civil] War, the little old lady, by then well in her seventies, remained as active as she could, attending woman's rights meetings and furthering the cause of racial equality. When President Grant visited Jay Cooke in 1873, Mrs. Mott, at the age of 80, paid him a visit to plead for the lives of Indians condemned for refusal to move onto a reservation in California.
When she died on November 11, 1880, Lucretia Coffin Mott left America a legacy of valuable accomplishments and lofty goals not yet accomplished. Of all the tribute bestowed upon that noble little Quaker lady, none is more meaningful than the naming of the village of LaMott, a community where men and women, black and white, live together proudly and peacefully--a living example of the equality she sought for all people.

Further reading

Mott, Lucretia, Beverly W. Palmer, Holly B. Ochoa, and Carol Faulkner. Selected Letters of Lucretia Coffin Mott. Women in American history. Urbana, Ill: University of Illinois Press, 2002. Print.
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Lucretia Mott's Timeline

January 3, 1793
Nantucket, Nantucket County, Massachusetts, United States
August 6, 1812
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
March 30, 1818
August 8, 1823
December 14, 1825
October 30, 1828
November 11, 1880
Age 87
Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, United States

Burial: see:
Fair Hill Burial Grounds:
" Probably the best known of the many prominent Friends is Lucretia Coffin Mott, the noted suffragist and peace activist, who died in 1880, and is buried beside her husband, Thomas Mott. The burial records will be of particular interest to genealogists. "

Age 86
Fair Hill (Quaker) Burial ground, Germantown, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States

Fair Hill mtg. is on this map >