Back in the days when “dressed for success” meant a chin-high collar and lace bonnet, Lucretia Mott was a major player.
Born in 1793 to the famous Coffin whaling family of Nantucket (making her a distant relative of 1960s civil rights protestor the Rev. William Sloane Coffin), Lucretia Mott took her bedrock Quaker principles with her to Philadelphia after her marriage to trader James Mott. She started speaking up in Quaker meetings and then became a church minister in 1821, just about in the middle years of the six children she bore from 1812-28.
Then she took her lace bonnet on the road, speaking out against slavery and in favor of women’s rights. We remember her best today as a key organizer of the Seneca Falls Convention of 1848; she was the first to sign the convention’s Declaration of Sentiments calling for full rights for women.
That’s how she became part of this terrific marble sculpture by Adelaide Johnson that now sits in the U.S. Capitol. It shows Lucretia Mott with her with fellow suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton (left) and Susan B. Anthony (looking just like she does on her dollar coin).
Being from a whaling family, it’s maybe fitting that Mott is at the prow of this figurative ship of glory. These rock-jawed women won their fight, though the final victory came well after Mott’s death in 1880. She was 87, having been born on January 3, 1793.
The Declaration of Sentiments, by the way, is a tart-tongued document that’s well worth a read. It manages to be both passionate and sarcastic, taking the famous words of the Declaration of Independence and turning them into a feminist manifesto:
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.…The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.