A native of the Island of Nantucket,--of the Coffins and Macys on the father's side, and of the Folgers on the mother's; through them related to Dr. Franklin.
Born in 1793. During childhood was made actively useful to my mother, who, in the absence of my father, on a long voyage, was engaged in mercantile business, often going to Boston and purchasing goods in exchange for oil and candles, the staple of the island. The exercise of women's talents in this line, as well as the general care which devolved upon them in the absence of their husbands, tended to develop their intellectual powers and strengthen them mentally and physically.
In 1804 my father's family removed to Boston, and in the public and private schools of that city I mingled with all classes without distinction. My parents were of the Religious Society of Friends, and endeavored to preserve in their children the peculiarities of that sect, as well as to instill its more important principles. My father had a desire to make his daughters useful. At fourteen years of age I was placed with a younger sister, at the Friends' Boarding-School, in Dutchess County, State of New York; and continued there for more than two years without returning home. At fifteen, one of the teachers was leaving the school, I was chosen as an assistant, in her place. Pleased with the promotion, I strove hard to give satisfaction, and was gratified, on leaving the school, to have an offer of a situation as teacher, if I was disposed to remain, and informed that my services should entitle another sister to her education without charge. My father was, at that time, in successful business in Boston; but with his views of the importance of training a woman to usefulness, he and my mother gave their consent to another year being devoted to that institution. In the spring of 1809, I joined our family in Philadelphia, after their removal there. At the early age of eighteen, I married James Mott, of New York--an attachment formed while at boarding-school. He came to Philadelphia and entered into business with my father. The fluctuation in the commercial world for several years following our marriage, owing to the embargo, and the war of 1812, the death of my father, and the support of a family of five children devolving on my mother, surrounded us with difficulties. We resorted to various modes of obtaining a comfortable living; at one time engaged in the retail dry goods business, then resuming the charge of a school, and for another year was engaged in teaching. These trials, in early life, were not without their good effect in disciplining the mind, and leading it to set a just estimate on worldly pleasures. I, however, always loved the good, in childhood desired to do the right, and had no faith in the generally received idea of human depravity. My sympathy was early enlisted for the poor slave, by the class-books read in our schools, and the pictures of the slave-ship, as published by Clarkson. The ministry of Elias Hicks and others, on the subject of the unrequited labor of slaves, and their example in refusing the products of slave labor, all had their effect in awakening a strong feeling in their behalf. The unequal condition of women in society also early impressed my mind. Learning, while at school, that the charge for the education of girls was the same as that for boys, and that when they became teachers, women received but half as much as men for their services, the injustice of this was so apparent, that I early resolved to claim for my sex all that an impartial Creator had bestowed. At twenty-five years of age, surrounded with a little family and many cares, I felt called to a more public life of devotion to duty, and engaged in the ministry in our Society, receiving every encouragement from those in authority, until a separation among us, in 1827, when my convictions led me to adhere to the sufficiency of the light within us, resting on truth as authority, rather than 'taking authority for truth.' The popular doctrine of human depravity never commended itself to my reason or conscience. I 'searched the Scriptures daily,' finding a construction of the text wholly different from that which was pressed upon our acceptance. The highest evidence of a sound faith being the practical life of the Christian, I have felt a far greater interest in the moral movements of our age than in any theological discussion.
The temperance reform early engaged my attention, and for more than twenty years I have practised total abstinence from all intoxicating drinks. The cause of peace has had a share of my efforts, leading to the ultra nonresistance ground--that no Christian can consistently uphold, and actively engage in and support a government based on the sword, or relying on that as an ultimate resort. The oppression of the working-classes by existing monopolies, and the lowness of wages, often engaged my attention; and I have held many meetings with them, and heard their appeals with compassion, and a great desire for a radical change in the system which makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. The various associations and communities tending to greater quality of condition have had from me a hearty God-speed. But the millions of down-trodden slaves in our land being the greatest sufferers, the most oppressed class, I have felt bound to plead their cause, in season and out of season, to endeavor to put my soul in their souls' stead, and to aid, all in my power, in every right effort for their immediate emancipation. This duty was impressed upon me at the time I consecrated myself to that gospel which anoints 'to preach deliverance to the captive,' 'to set at liberty them that are bruised.' From that time the duty of abstinence as far as possible from slave-grown products was so clear, that I resolved to make the effort 'to provide things honest' in this respect. Since then our family has been supplied with free-labor groceries, and, to some extent, with cotton goods unstained by slavery. The labors of the devoted Benjamin Lundy, and his 'Genius of Universal Emancipation' published in Baltimore, added to the extra exertions of Clarkson, Wilberforce, and others in England, including Elizabeth Heyrick, whose work on slavery aroused them to a change in their mode of action, and of William Lloyd Garrison, in Boston, prepared the way for a convention in Philadelphia, in 1833, to take the ground of immediate, not gradual, emancipation, and to impress the duty of unconditional liberty, without expatriation. In 1834 the Philadelphia A.S. [Anti-Slavery] Society was formed, and, being actively associated in the efforts for the slaves' redemption, I have travelled thousands of miles in this country, holding meetings in some of the slave states, have been in the midst of mobs and violence, and have shared abundantly in the odium attached to the name of an uncompromising *modern* abolitionist, as well as partaken richly of the sweet return of peace attendant on those who would 'undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke.'
In 1840, a World's Anti-slavery Convention was called in London. Women from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, were delegates to that convention. I was one of the number; but, on our arrival in England, our credentials were not accepted because we were women. We were, however, treated with great courtesy and attention, as strangers, and as women, were admitted to chosen seats as spectators and listeners, while our right of membership was denied--we were voted out. This brought the Woman question more into view, and an increase of interest in the subject has been the result. In this work, too, I have engaged heart and hand, as my labors, travels, and public discourses evince. The misrepresentation, ridicule, and abuse heaped upon this, as well as other reforms, do not, in the least, deter me from my duty. To those, whose name is cast out as evil for the truth's sake, it is a small thing to be judged of man's judgement.
This imperfect sketch may give some idea of the mode of life of one who has found it 'good to be always zealously affected in a good thing.'
My life, in the domestic sphere, has passed much as that of other wives and mothers in this country. I have had six children. Not accustomed to resigning them to the care of a nurse, I was much confined to them during their infancy and childhood. Being fond of reading, I omitted much unnecessary stitching and ornamental work, in the sewing for my family, so that I might have more time for this indulgence, and for the improvement of the mind. For novels and light reading I never had much taste. The "Ladies Department," in the periodicals of the day, had no attraction for me.
[The foregoing autobiographical sketch is taken from the Pendle Hill Pamphlet, "Lucretia Mott Speaking: Excerpts from the Sermons & Speeches of a Famous Nineteenth Century Quaker Minister & Reformer," compiled and edited by Margaret Hope Bacon (Pendle Hill Pamphlet #234, 1980). It is reprinted here with the very kind permission of Pendle Hill.]