Document 1: Excerpts from letter from Martha Coffin Wright to David Wright, 5 December and 7 December 1833, Garrison Family Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College.

David Wright, ca. 1870

Courtesy of Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College

Introduction

       In late 1833, four years after marrying David Wright in Aurora, New York, Martha returned to Philadelphia to visit her mother, her sister Lucretia Mott, and other members of the Coffin extended family. Her visit coincided with the founding meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AAS), and she wrote her husband about meeting William Lloyd Garrison and other abolitionists in the Mott home. When “the women” were invited to attend the AAS convention, Martha chose to finish her letter and miss the first day, but attended the second and later meetings. Although at this point Martha’s views on abolition vs. colonization were not yet fully formed, this visit turned her into an ardent abolitionist.

My dear David--

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       Just after receiving your letter on monday, sister Lucretia arrived and it was exceedingly pleasant to see her. I made her think that your letter desired my immediate return to pay her for running off two days after I came. We sent Marianna for sister Eliza[A] and spent a very pleasant evening. If they will promise when I go to miss me one half as much as we miss her when she is absent I shall be satisfied. She has been exceedingly interested in a Convention that was to meet here for the purpose of forming a society favorable to immediate Emancipation and opposed to Colonization. A delegate from a Theological seminary in maine came on tuesday with a letter of recommendation and makes his home here. Early on that day sister L. called on Wm Lloyd Garrison the great man the lion in the Emancipation cause and invited him to tea here the next day--innumerable jackals were also invited. Yesterday was spent in preparation--there were about 50, counting our own family. For awhile it was quite interesting until the Garrison and a few of his particular jackals left to attend a committee for an hour or two, leaving a pet Lion from the Western Quarter who makes his home here, master of the field--the conversation then took a metaphysical turn on the subject of Heaven & its opposite. (I don’t like to write naughty words--tisn’t “dignified.”). For the rest of the evening I amused myself with observing the company from the other side of the folding doors, or in other words seeing “the stir of the great Babel.”[B]

       The Convention met yesterday to organize themselves--no females present. Several southern students were there and it was apprehended that they intended to offer violence to the Garrison but he was well fortified and nothing was attempted. I had always supposed he was a coloured brother but he isn’t. On sister L’s center table was an imposing array of Anti Slavery pamphlets and a sign that Lydia White[C] (the free store keeperess) presented her representing a coloured woman rampant and the words “Am I not a woman & a sister.”[D] Thomas Yarnall said he supposed that was put there to make an impression--wasn’t that a good beginning for Tommy?[E] Just as I had seated myself to commence this letter the Western Qr. friend came to say that he and others were dispatched to invite “the women” to meet with the convention and Mother sister L. and Anna[F] quickly clapped on their bonnets to accept the gallant invitation. Mother urged me to accompany them, thinking my poor letter of no kind of consequence but I thought I should enjoy myself more with you than with them. The Western Qr. friend has any quantity of sound sense, but under rather a revolting exterior. His eyes are constructed on such an admirable plan as to enable him to obey the injunction “keep thine eye single” for in a profound conversation which I afterwards ascertained was intended for the especial benefit of sister L. one eye was fixed full on me--as I vainly imagined, tho’ I afterwards found that mother laid claim to it. Of course I could do no other than let my buckwheat cake cool as it hung in mid-air, suspended from my fork, (and I cant bear cold buckwheat cake) while I dispensed the proper quantity of assenting nods, all the time thinking sister L’s “indeeds” and “possibles” quite supererogatory. Mother, meanwhile nodding her head to her share of the stray eye.

       7th – Again & again I thank you my dear David, for your kind letter recd. yesterday, the more acceptable, if possible, from being unexpected. I had been with Sister L. &c. to attend the Convention, which I found quite interesting, and at dinner time brother James brought up the letter--which I considered indeed fortunate as it was misdirected “n. 6th St.” and br. J. said was liable to have been returned to the P.O. and that his name alone would be sufficient.[G] I will however at the bottom of the page, give you the true indication. For two evenings there has been a public controversy or rather discussion between a Colonization advocate and an anti Colonization. I attended and became interested in the course of the debate, tho’ as the intentions of both appear good, I feel indifferent which succeeds. Sister L. &c. were so much opposed to the theatre that, as I was their guest, I reluctantly gave it up, tho’ if Miss Kemble[H] had been here I rather think I should have found more difficulty in relinquishing it. I should be very much at a loss, my love, in forming a card for you as I never saw a lawyer’s card--so I shall look for a copy of one in your next and will gladly get Edward[I] to have it printed for you.

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A. Eliza Coffin Yarnall (1794-1870) was the sister of Martha Wright and Lucretia Mott.
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B. This quote is from book IV of William Cowper’s poem, “The Task.” The phrase appeared prominently within the heading of The Reporter, a weekly newspaper of the period.
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C. Lydia White was a Philadelphia Quaker and antislavery activist who maintained a store limited to goods that were not derived from slave labor.
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D. The image, which originated in English antislavery circles, was actually of a Negro woman kneeling and in chains, a parallel to an earlier image of a Negro man with the message “Am I not a man and a brother?”
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E. Thomas Yarnall, then 17, was the oldest son of Benjamin Yarnall and Elizabeth (Eliza) Coffin, sister of Lucretia Mott and Martha Wright.
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F. Anna Mott Harper was the oldest daughter of Lucretia and James Mott.
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G. James Mott (1788-1868) married Lucretia Coffin in 1811 and the couple established their home in Philadelphia.
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H. Fanny Kemble, an English author and actress, was very popular at the time. Like many Quakers, Lucretia disapproved of the theatre, but Martha, who had been expelled by the Quakers for marrying Peter Pelham, a non-Quaker, felt not so constrained.
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I. Edward Davis was the husband of Maria Mott, one of Lucretia Mott’s several daughters.
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