Celebrating the Life of Lucretia (Lucy) Mott ~ Feminist & Civil Rights Activist during this Centennial Year




Lucretia Mott from the records of the National Woman’s Party c. September, 1920. Signature matches other signatures of hers. Image F. Gutekunst, Philadelphia, Pa, via U.S. Library of Congress’s Manuscript Division, digital copy.

As we await a new monument dedicated to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth coming to Central Park’s Literary Walk in late 2020, we are reminded of a monument in our nation’s Capital portraying two of those three women plus a third, so active in women’s rights that we take this time to reflect on her life ~ the extraordinary life of Lucretia (Lucy) Mott.

Located in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building, is a 14,000-pound sculpture of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott. During this centennial year, celebrating the 19th Amendment and women’s right to vote, let’s take a look at the life of Lucy Mott, an early feminist, activist and strong advocate for ending slavery.

This 14,000 pound sculpture was authorized for installation in the Crypt. It was relocated to the Rotunda in May 1997. Image via aoc.gov.

Lucretia (Lucy) Mott (1793-1880) was a quaker reformer and preacher ~ a woman way ahead of her time ~ who worked for abolition, peace and equality for women in jobs and education. Born on Nantucket Island, Lucy’s family moved to Boston when she was 10. She was raised as a Quaker and attended a Quaker boarding school in upstate New York.

After her family moved to Philadelphia, and at the age of 16, she married her father’s business partner, James Mott, with whom she would have six children. In spite of enormous family demands, she became one of the founders of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1833, which brought her in contact with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1840. They would go on to form a life-long friendship and collaboration.

Eight years later, in 1848, they organized the Seneca Falls Convention. Blessed with a supportive husband, Lucy advocated against buying products of slave labor, including cotton and sugar, which meant that her husband removed these products from his store.

Group portrait monument by artist Adelaide Johnson of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott, currently residing in the Rotunda of U.S. Capital. flickr image via aoc.gov.

With a remarkable speaking ability, Lucy became the first president of the American Equal Rights Association in 1866. She published ‘Discourse on Woman‘ (restrictions on women in the United States), and was a founder of Swarthmore College in 1864.

Lucy and her husband were considered to be of the more progressive wing of their faith. Strongly opposing slavery, she was considered to have radical views, and was often threatened with physical violence. Managing her household expenses well, she was able to extend hospitality to fugitive slaves.

Best said in wikipedia, “Mott attended all three national Anti-Slavery Conventions of American Women (1837, 1838, 1839). During the 1838 convention in Philadelphia, a mob destroyed Pennsylvania Hall, a newly opened meeting place built by abolitionists. Mott and the white and black women delegates linked arms to exit the building safely through the crowd. Afterward, 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.”

Mott and Cady Stanton organized the 1848 Seneca Falls, NY Convention, which launched the women’s rights movement. Again, taken from wikipedia, “Susan Jacoby writes, “When Mott died in 1880, she was widely judged by her contemporaries… as the greatest American woman of the nineteenth century.” She was a mentor to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who continued her work.”

Located in the lobby of the Visitor Center, representing the first wave of women’s rights activists. the sculpture includes statues of twenty people: Mary Ann and Thomas M’Clintock, Lucretia and James Mott, Jane and Richard Hunt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass, Martha Wright, and eleven “anonymous” participants who represent the men and women who attended the Convention but did not sign the “Declaration of Sentiments.”

Above is a stunning sculpture by artist, Lloyd Lillie, Professor Emeritus, Boston University, and two assistants. It is located near the front door at the Visitors Center of the National Historic Park located at 136 Fall Street in Seneca Falls, New York. It includes Lucretia and James Mott.

Women suffragists picketing in front of the White House. Library of Congress. A similar image will appear on the back of the new $10 bill.

The new $10 bill will hold on the reverse side, an image of the women’s suffrage movement, depicting the March 1913 march for women’s suffrage from the U.S. Capitol to the steps of the Treasury Department, picturing susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott. The front of the bill will continue to feature Alexander Hamilton. The issue was due to be in circulation in 2020, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of American women winning the right to vote and the 19th Amendment. No word on when we might see the new bill.