Lucretia Mott's Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America

Lucretia Mott's Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America

Lucretia Mott's Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America

Lucretia Mott's Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America

Synopsis

Lucretia Coffin Mott, one of the most famous and controversial women in 19th-century America, was viewed in her time as a dominant figure in the dual struggles for racial and sexual equality. In this biography, Carol Faulkner reveals the motivations of this radical egalitarian from Nantucket.

Excerpt

On February 11, 1849, Lucretia MOTT gave an unusual sermon in her usual place of worship, Cherry Street Meetinghouse in Philadelphia. The petite fifty-six-year-old Quaker minister was one of the most famous women in America. During the previous year alone, she had addressed the first women’s rights conventions at Seneca Falls and Rochester, Seneca Indians on the Cattaraugus reservation, former slaves living in Canada, and the annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society in New York City. Yet her audience on that winter day was filled, not with Quakers, African Americans, reformers, or politicians, but with white medical students from Thomas Jefferson Medical College and the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. Many of these students were born in the south. And, although a female medical school would open in Philadelphia the next year, all these students were men.

Her sermon was unique to its time and place. In 1849, Philadelphia was the fourth largest city in the United States, with a population of 121,376. The diverse city was home to the largest population of free blacks in any northern state. It also contained the oldest and most prestigious anti-slavery society in the country, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, founded by Quakers. With borders touching the slave states of Delaware and Maryland, Pennsylvania was regularly infiltrated by fugitive slaves. Philadelphia’s black abolitionists established a Vigilance Committee to aid these fugitives. Mott was a member of two anti-slavery organizations, the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society and the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. Both of these interracial organizations denounced slavery as a sin and called for its immediate end.

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