Thoughts from Linda:
I became interested in Lucretia Mott while reviewing the 19th Amendment, as we will be celebrating the 100th year of its ratification on August 18, 2020.
Initially introduced to Congress in 1878, several attempts to pass a women's suffrage amendment failed until passing the House of Representatives on May 21, 1919, followed by the Senate on June 4, 1919. It was then submitted to the states for ratification. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee was the last of the necessary 36 states to secure ratification. The Nineteenth Amendment was officially adopted on August 26, 1920: the culmination of a decades-long movement for women's suffrage at both state and national levels.
While I was familiar with many of the names involved in the movement (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony) I was not well-informed on Lucretia Mott. After discovering this book, I have to say, I have learned that she was indeed a force of nature and most remarkable woman.
She was one of the most famous and controversial women in 19th century America. She is now somewhat overshadowed by abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison and feminists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But in her day, Mott was viewed as a dominant figure in both of these struggles: racial and sexual equality. She is depicted often in other writings as a somewhat gentle feminine Quaker lady, but this book illustrates she was an outspoken challenger to authority. She upset ministers, journalists, politicians, urban mobs who often threatened her and her family and last but not least, her fellow Quakers. She had a strong moral compass and followed it for her entire life.
This book, written in 1937, traces her life and includes many contemporary writings of colleagues, newspapers and journals. She has been called the “real founder and the soul” of the woman’s rights movement in America and England. ”She was an outstanding feminine worker in the struggle to rid our country of slavery. She advocated labor unions in a day when they were almost unknown and generally considered illegal. She proscribed war and worked diligently for liberal religion… (Roberta Lawson, President General Federation of Women’s Clubs)
She was born into a Quaker family in 1793 and died in 1880, being quite active even in her later years. A free thinker and early activist, she navigated leadership of two of the most significant movements in the history of our country: freedom for slaves and justice for all races as well as equality for women. The book lays out her journey, including her early Quaker ministry, her family life where she reared five children (after losing one son at age two) and worked tirelessly with her husband on social causes in both American and England.
The book is also an interesting journey through many of the religious thoughts, political issues, and social causes of the 19th century. There are original comments directly from source documents included which add so much to the ‘feel’ of the times.
I particularly enjoyed the seven words that Lucretia expressed as her primal declaration:
“Truth for authority, not authority for truth!”
She would note often that she did not seek some authority or the so-called ‘law of the land’ to provide her true point, but rather that she wanted Truth itself to be her own authority. As the author states: “This set her at once beyond the pale of man’s theology. It carried her beyond the canons of the Christian Church. She sought mental freedom and spiritual light that she might consecrate herself to the service of humanity.”
She was a woman to be reckoned with and an outstanding person in her own time…and for all time.