Childhood & Early Life
Lucretia Coffin was born on January 3, 1793 in Nantucket, Massachusetts, as the second child of eight children to Anna and Thomas Coffin. Her father was a seaman while her mother ran a store.
After the capture of his ship by a Spanish man-of-war, her father retired from the sea in 1803 and the next year moved the family to Boston, where he became a merchant.
At thirteen, sent to the Nine Partners Quaker Boarding School in Dutchess County, New York, run by the Society of Friends, she became an avid follower of Elias Hicks, a fiery Quaker abolitionist.
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Lucretia became a teacher's assistant at Nine Partners and was troubled by the unfairness in salary differences between male and female instructors. Here, she met teacher James Mott, the grandson of Nine Partners' superintendent.
The family moved in 1809 to Philadelphia, where Thomas Coffin entered into business, investing all his capital in a factory for the manufacture of cut nails, a new product of the Industrial Revolution.
James Mott boarded with the family and became her father's partner and married Lucretia. In 1815, her father died, leaving her mother with heavy debts. The Motts also suffered financial hardship.
Anna Coffin set about shopkeeping again, and Lucretia taught school while James worked in his uncle's cotton mill, sold plows, and worked as a bank clerk before entering the wholesale business.
James boycotted slave products and traded in wool rather than cotton. Lucretia suddenly began speaking in Meeting, simply but powerfully, and in 1821 she was formally recognized as a minister.
Mott considered slavery as an evil and refused to use slavery-produced goods. In 1821, she became a Quaker minister and traveled extensively as a minister, and gave sermons which emphasized the presence of the Divine within every individual.
In 1833, her husband helped found the American Anti-Slavery Society and later with the help of other women, she founded the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.
Despite social persecution by Anti- abolitionist, she managed her household budget, extended hospitality to guests, including fugitive slaves, and donated to charities, organized fairs to raise awareness and revenue for the anti-slavery movement.
There was division among the abolitionist regarding public speaking by women. The Congregational Church General Assembly regarded that it was a defiance of St. Paul's instruction for women to keep quiet in church.
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Mott attended all three national Anti-Slavery Conventions of American Women between 1837 and 1839. During the convention in Philadelphia, a mob destroyed Pennsylvania Hall. The women delegates linked arms to exit the building safely.
In 1838, 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.
In 1840, she attended the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London as one of six women delegates. American women were excluded from participating and required to sit in a segregated area despite protests
Activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton admired her and the two women became friends and allies. One Irish reporter described her, ‘Lioness of the Convention’ and she returned with renewed vigor.
She continued an active public lecture schedule, with covering major northern cities of New York and Boston, as well as 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, her lecture was attended by 40 Congressmen and had a personal audience with President John Tyler
After the Civil War, she was elected the first president of the American Equal Rights Association that advocated universal suffrage, but resigned over differences between factions led by Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B. Anthony
In 1864, she along with several other Quakers founded Swarthmore College located near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One of the earliest co-educational colleges, it remains one of the premier liberal-arts colleges in the United States.
For years, she was vice president of the Universal Peace Union. In 1870 she was elected president of the Pennsylvania Peace Society, an office she held until her death.
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In 1876, the centennial of the Declaration of Independence, she presided on the Fourth of July at the National Woman Suffrage Association convention in Philadelphia, where she, Stanton, and Anthony demanded women's rights