Document 12: Lucretia Mott to Martha Coffin Wright, 17 April 1865, in Anna Davis Hallowell, ed., James and Lucretia Mott: Life and Letters (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1884), pp. 415-17.
In her essay, Roth stresses that women in mixed-gender social movements have different experiences than the men who work alongside them. The freedman's aid movement, begun in 1861 by men and women active in the pre-Civil War anti-slavery movement, demonstrates how gender affected the experience of women reformers within one mixed-gender movement. Northern white women played a significant part in the movement, promoting and undertaking the education of former slaves, raising money for food and clothing, and working as members of aid societies. Many women saw the movement as not only a way to help newly-freed slaves, but also as a vehicle for expanding public responsibilities for women active in the cause. However, while the freedman's aid movement did provide women with new opportunities, women also faced discrimination on the basis of their gender. Lucretia Mott argued against that discrimination in the following letter, which also appears in "Women and the Freedmen's Aid Movement."
My Dear Sister,--A beautiful day! When a great calamity has befallen the nation, we want the sun to be darkened, and the moon not give her light; but "how everything goes on," as Maria said after her dear little Charley died, "just as though such an awful event had not occurred." Was there ever such universal sorrow? The "mirth" of the day before so suddenly "turned into heaviness." Men crying in the streets! As we opened out paper, the overwhelming news stunned us, and we could hardly attend to our dear invalid, and when the fatal result was known here by hearing the bells toll, she burst into tears.[A]
Such a display of mourning, as now in the city, was never before. All business is suspended. The children have festooned drapery along the length of our piazza. I objected at first, but finding that Edwd. D. had brought out a quantity of black muslin, and wished much to do it, I didn't care; and James made no objection, when he saw it.
Miller is much interested in the new Union Association, and the paper to be called the "Nation."[B] They are now collecting money on a large scale from some persons who never before were called on, and who have contributed freely. Miller would like for all the anti-slavery and freedmen's societies to be merged in this--a Reconstructive Union. He sent an appeal to our "Friends' Association." I told him it was objected, that woman was ignored in their new organization, and if it really were a reconstruction for the nation, she ought not so to be, and that it would be rather humiliating for our anti-slavery women and Quaker women to consent to be thus overlooked, after suffering the Anti-Slavery Society to be divided in 1840 rather than yield, and after claiming our rights so earnestly in London to a seat in the "World's Convention." He was rather taken aback, and said, "if there seemed a necessity for women," he thought "they would be admitted;" to which the impetuous reply was, "seemed a necessity!! for one half the nation to act with you!"
I am glad to hear thou read the proceedings of the non-resistant meeting with interest. The words of truth and soberness were spoken forth, and the meeting was altogether one of deep interest to me. On one account, more so than our first Anti-Slavery Convention; that women were there by right and not by sufferance, and stood on equal ground. With this I forward some of the tracts to hand to those to whom "it is lawful to speak wisdom."
With affectionate remembrances to one and all of your house hold,
I am thine most tenderly, L. Mott
A. Lucretia Mott is referring here to the recent assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Back to Text
B. James Miller McKim (1810-1874), abolitionist and close friend of Mott, was one of the founders of the American Freedmen's Aid Commission, the organization to which Mott refers, and the magazine, The Nation, first published in 1865.
Back to Text