Today marks the 139 years since the death of Quaker minister and activist Lucretia Mott on 11 November 1880. Born in 1793, Mott was a founder of the women’s rights movement and a leading advocate for abolition, peace, and other causes.
By James Truitt, Archives Digitization Technician at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
In a letter to Mott’s children shortly after her death (November 14, 1880), her friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton described her legacy thus: “One who has lived eighty-eight years, reflecting ever the sober virtues of the true wife & mother, the earnest reformer, the religious teacher, both in the school room & ‘Friends Meeting,’ must have a strong influence for good on our young impressible nation.” Stanton added that Mott’s spirit would live on, saying that her “great words & deeds, & this holy influence, are immortality. . . . As long as memory serves us, & we can recall your noble mother’s nice opinions in all questions, she will live to us though her sweet presence be forever withdrawn.” (Item identifier: A00182405, currently being cataloged, not yet online.)
Mott never gave up her activist spirit, pushing for what she felt was right even in the disposition of her body. A few months before she passed, her son-in-law recorded her feelings about her own death and her wish to be buried plainly in protest of extravagant interments. “My only dread of death,” she told him, “is in having to leave so much enjoyment. Even that I do not dread. Indeed I dread nothing. I am ready to stay or to go, but I feel that my faculties are giving way & that it is quite time I should be quietly laid away. Edward, I charge thee that I be put in a simple box. Avoid all show, parade, cost, in box or clothing. It is not right & I want to protest against it. . . . My life has been a simple one, let simplicity mark the last done for me.” (Item identifier: A00182429)
Mott’s correspondence is currently being digitized for the In Her Own Right project, and most of it is available for browsing.