Lucretia Mott was, without doubt, one of the premier figures of the 19th century, and not only in the field of Quakerism--she was a leader in the abolitionist movement, in the early peace movement (the radical wing of which were known as the "non-resistants"), in the women's movement, and, interestingly-enough, in the first stirrings of the radical wing of liberal religion, the Free Religious Association, of which she, along with the venerable Emerson, was a founding member.
The pieces that follow are all talks or sermons that she gave on various issues throughout her life. The reader, I think, will find that, while best-known for her commitment to the reform movements of her day, everything she did was defined by her heartfelt commitment to her religion. An early Hicksite Quaker, she took as her sole authority what she discerned as the voice of the living God, the light within. And, while standing firmly in that light, she followed the ancient Quaker testimony of refusing to bow her head to either the religious or secular institutions of her day, whether it be the prevailing "notions" of the meaning of Christianity, or the "notions" regarding obligations to a state that sanctioned the holding of slaves and the relegation of women to second class status. There were times when this prophetic stance put her life in danger at the hands of pro-slavery mobs; there were other times when she was threatened with expulsion for "heresy" from the Religious Society of Friends for leaning a bit too close to the Unitarianism of the likes of the "saintly" William Ellery Channing.
Her faith was in the life of Christ, in, as she put it, "that inimitable Sermon on the Mount," the pillars of which she defined as justice, love, and mercy. Like Thomas Jefferson, she tossed the irrational and the cruel in scripture aside as "idolatry"; this constituted, in her words, "natural religion."
Most of the following material is posted with the very kind permission of the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore. It's open to use by anyone who wishes; if you'd like to post it at a different site, or if you'd like to print it elsewhere, they ask, as a courtesy, that you request permission first. For further information, please contact Chris Faatz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anything that doesn't include an attribution to the Friends Historical Library comes from either a newspaper of the period or from an unknown source. I've done my best to get permission for all that follows. Any oversight is mine alone.
I'd like to thank Mary Ellen Chijioke of the Friends Historical Library, Chuck Fager of Pendle Hill, Margaret Hope Bacon, Elizabeth Dalton, Chris Mahin, Tina Keller, and Louise Leviyah for their support for this project, and for their shared excitement in my "discovery" of Lucretia Mott, a woman who truly refused to hide her light under a bushel basket. May we all have the strength to walk that her life illumined with such intensity.
Chris Faatz email@example.com 1/14/96
Valiant Friend: the Life of Lucretia Mott, Margaret Hope Bacon, Walker and Company, 1980
Mothers of Feminism: the Story of Quaker Women in America, Margaret Hope Bacon, Harper & Row, 1986
Lucretia Mott: Her Complete Speeches and Sermons, edited by Dana Greene, The Edwin Mellen Press, 1980
"Lucretia Mott Speaking: Excerpts from the Sermons & Speeches of a Famous Nineteenth Century Quaker Minister & Reformer," compiled by Margaret Hope Bacon, Pendle Hill Pamphlet #234, 1980