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World-Changing Women: Lucretia Mott

Updated Wednesday 25th February 2015

Lucretia Mott campaigned for slavery abolishment and women's rights in public meetings at a time when women were silenced. Discover her incredible story here...

Lucretia Mott USA 1793 - 1880 Social Reform

Lucretia Mott image Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC Photograph of Lucretia Mott In 1830s America, some women identified a parallel between slavery and their own position in society.  While many wished to play their part in fighting for social justice in the anti-slavery movement, others within the movement were opposed to them taking active roles and disapproved of them speaking in public. There were attempts to silence women at anti-slavery conventions. This led ultimately to the first Woman's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, N.Y, in June 1848, organised by Lucretia Mott and other women.

Born into a Quaker (Society of Friends) family in Massachusetts, Mott was married in 1811 and had six children. She began to speak at Quaker meetings in 1818, since the Quaker tradition of gender equality allowed women to speak in public. In 1821 she was made a minister in Philadelphia and in the 1830s was elected clerk of the Philadelphia Women's Yearly Meeting.  Mott addressed various reform organizations such as the Non-Resistance Society and the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women and, in 1833 was instrumental in founding the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. In 1840 she was one of six American women delegates sent to the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in England but there, she and the other women were barred from entering.  This incident undoubtedly encouraged her growing interest in women’s rights and she was the first to sign the Declaration of Sentiments, a call for equal treatment of women.  The women’s movement's early leaders had learned from Anti-Slavery Societies how to organize, publicize and articulate a political protest.

Throughout the 1850s, Mott continued with antislavery and non-resistant activities; she took an active interest in the causes of school and prison reform, temperance, peace and religious tolerance. She was chosen first president of the Equal Rights Association, an organization formed to achieve equality for African Americans and women, in 1866.

This article is part of the world-changing women collection. All the articles in this collection are specially produced for the How women changed the world interactive tour created to reveal the untold stories the history books left out.

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