Biography of Lucretia Mott

Abolitionist, Women's Rights Activist

Lucretia Mott
Lucretia Mott. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Lucretia Mott, a Quaker reformer and minister, was an abolitionist and women's rights activist. She helped initiate the Seneca Falls Woman's Rights Convention with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1848. She believed in human equality as a right granted by God.

Early Life

Lucretia Mott was born Lucretia Coffin on January 3, 1793. Her father was Thomas Coffin, a sea captain, and her mother was Anna Folger. Martha Coffin Wright was her sister.

She was raised in a Quaker (Society of Friends) community in Massachusetts, "thoroughly imbued with women's rights" (in her words). Her father was often away at sea, and she helped her mother with the boarding house when her father was gone. When she was thirteen, she started school, and when she finished at the school, she came back as an assistant teacher. She taught for four years, then moved to Philadelphia, returning home to her family.

She married James Mott, and after their first child died at age 5, became more involved in her Quaker religion. By 1818 she was serving as a minister. She and her husband followed Elias Hicks in the "Great Separation" of 1827, opposing the more evangelical and orthodox branch.

Anti-Slavery Commitment

Like many Hicksite Quakers including Hicks, Lucretia Mott considered enslavement to be an evil to be opposed. They refused to use cotton cloth, cane sugar, and other goods produced by the labor of enslaved people. With her skills in ministry, she began to make public speeches in favor of abolition. From her home in Philadelphia, she began to travel, usually accompanied by her husband who supported her activism. They often sheltered freedom seekers in their home.

In America Lucretia Mott helped organize women's abolitionist societies, since the anti-slavery organizations would not admit women as members. In 1840, she was selected as a delegate to the World's Anti-Slavery Convention in London, which she found controlled by anti-slavery factions opposed to public speaking and action by women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton later credited conversations with Lucretia Mott, while seated in the segregated women's section, with the idea of the holding a mass meeting to address women's rights.

Seneca Falls

It was not until 1848, however, before Lucretia Mott and Stanton and others (including Lucretia Mott's sister, Martha Coffin Wright) could bring together a local women's rights convention in Seneca Falls. The "Declaration of Sentiments" written primarily by Stanton and Mott was a deliberate parallel to the "Declaration of Independence": "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal."

Lucretia Mott was a key organizer in the broader-based convention for women's rights held in Rochester, New York, in 1850, at the Unitarian Church.

Lucretia Mott's theology was influenced by Unitarians including Theodore Parker and William Ellery Channing as well as early Quakers including William Penn. She taught that "the kingdom of God is within man" (1849) and was part of the group of religious liberals who formed the Free Religious Association.

Elected as the first president of the American Equal Rights Convention after the end of the Civil War, Lucretia Mott strove a few years later to reconcile the two factions that split over the priorities between woman suffrage and Black male suffrage.

She continued her involvement in causes for peace and equality through her later years. Lucretia Mott died on November 11, 1880, twelve years after her husband's death.

Lucretia Mott Writings

  • Memo on Self
    A compilation of autobiographical material from Lucretia Mott. Linking pages appear to be missing from the site.
  • Likeness to Christ
    Mott's sermon of September 30, 1849. Provided by Chris Faatz -- the Mott biography that used to accompany this is unavailable.
  • On John Brown
    An excerpt from a talk by Mott on the abolitionist John Brown: a pacifist need not be passivist.
  • Bryant, Jennifer. Lucretia Mott: A Guiding Light, Women of Spirit Series. Trade Paperback 1996. Hardcover 1996. 
  • Davis, Lucile. Lucretia Mott, Read-&-Discover Biographies. Hardcover 1998. .
  • Sterling, Dorothy. Lucretia Mott. Trade Paperback 1999. ISBN 155861217.

Selected Lucretia Mott Quotations

  • If our principles are right, why should we be cowards?
  • The world has never yet seen a truly great and virtuous nation, because in the degradation of women, the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source.
  • I have no idea of submitting tamely to injustice inflicted either on me or on the slave. I will oppose it with all the moral powers with which I am endowed. I am no advocate of passivity.
  • Let her [woman] receive encouragement for the proper cultivation of all her powers, so that she may enter profitably into the active business of life.
  • Liberty is not less a blessing, because oppression has so long darkened the mind that it can not appreciate it.
  • I grew up so thoroughly imbued with women's rights that it was the most important question of my life from a very early day.
  • My conviction led me to adhere to the sufficiency of the light within us, resting on truth for authority, not on authority for truth.
  • We too often bind ourselves by authorities rather than by the truth.
  • It is time that Christians were judged more by their likeness to Christ than their notions of Christ. Were this sentiment generally admitted we should not see such tenacious adherence to what men deem the opinions and doctrines of Christ while at the same time in every day practise is exhibited anything but a likeness to Christ.
  • It is not Christianity, but priestcraft that has subjected woman as we find her.
  • The cause of Peace has had my share of efforts, taking the ultra non-resistance ground -- that a Christian cannot consistently uphold, and actively support, a government based on the sword, or whose ultimate resort is to the destroying weapons.

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.

Facts About Lucretia Mott

Occupation: reformer: anti-slavery and women's rights activist; Quaker minister
Dates: January 3, 1793 - November 11, 1880
Also known as: Lucretia Coffin Mott

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Biography of Lucretia Mott." ThoughtCo, Nov. 20, 2020, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, November 20). Biography of Lucretia Mott. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Biography of Lucretia Mott." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).