Document 16: Lucretia Mott to Maria Weston Chapman, 29 July 1840, Boston Public Library.
As Roth notes in her essay, women involved in social movements face difficulty in convincing men to support what are considered "women's issues," which within mixed-gender social movements are often compartmentalized and given limited resources. The treatment of female delegates to the World Anti-Slavery Convention held in London in 1840 provides an example of the treatment women received within one mixed-gender movement. American women delegates at the convention were not allowed to speak and were forced to view the proceedings from behind a partition. In this letter, which also appears in "Lucretia Mott's Reform Networks," Mott detailed the lack of support the women abolitionists received from their male peers for eliminating such discrimination.
[Written on stationery of the British & Foreign Anti-Slavery Society]
Dublin 7 Mo. 29th. 1840.--
My dear Maria
I remember how many--and kind and long have been thy messages of this sort to me, and now that our dear Wm. L. G. & N. P. Rogers are about to leave us setting their faces homeward[A], I feel that somewhat is due from me to thee-- But how to accomplish it 'I find not', for we are from day to day so in the midst of bustle & commotion & excitement--pleasurable & otherwise, that to write seems quite out of the question. Our friends too can tell you so much better than I can narrate here, the story of our coming across the Atlantic to attend a 'World's Convention'--simple souls! and on our arrival the grave information awaited us, that it was no more than a Conference of the British & Foreign A. S. Society, to be composed of such members as their 'Com. of Arrangement' should choose to select--that the name "The Worlds Convention" was merely a "poetical license"-- (alias--a rhetorical flourish--)--and that the 'Com.' in their wisdom had seen meet to ordain and enact, that women should not compose part of their august body. That they further 'as wise men should, had a resolution prepared for this said 'Conference' as one of its first measures,-- 'That all the arrangements of said committee be sanctioned & approved by the Conference.-- Of course we would not "thrust ourselves forward" into such a meeting, but having come so far to see what could be done for the Slave, & being [thus?] prevented doing anything ourselves, we were willing to be mere lookers on & listeners from without, as, by so doing we should be the means of many more women having an invitation to sit as spectators--which we found was accounted a very high privilege, in this land--by their women, who had hitherto, most submissively gone forth into all the streets, lanes, high-ways & bye paths to get Signers to petitions, & had been lauded--long & loud, for this drudgery, but who had not been permitted,--even to sit with their brethren, nor indeed much by themselves in public meetings--having transacted their business, as we were informed, by Committees.
In vain we endeavored to have a public meeting called for women--altho a few--Anne Knight, Elizh. Pease &.c--did all they could to promote it.[B] At length we gave up in despair & left London satisfied--that "when for the time they ought to be teachers, they have need that one teach them which be the first principles"[C] of Human Freedom. I might say more but time forbids--and much doubtless has already been written you in Boston, by those who keenly felt our grievances.-- We had many opportunities with members of the 'New-Organization,' & with the com. & with individuals, to present to them their injustice to us--to the cause of the slave--as well as their own inconsistency. These we improved & had many a battle wherein we came off as we think victorious. But a 'World's Convention' has yet to be held-- That the feelings of the British public would not have been so outraged as we were given to understand, by our admission, is abundantly evinced, in the readiness with which I have been heard in other places.-- In Birmingham my appearance on the platform, in a large Meeting at the Town-Hall was as heartily cheered as if I had been worth hearing. And an invitation sent to the Chair to me to appoint a special meeting.-- George Harris of Glasgow delivered an excellent lecture at the Meeting alluded to--on Capital punishment.[D] I intend to get a copy if possible of three which we are told he has delivered in Glasgow on the same subjectx.
Since we came to Dublin I have accepted an invitation to speak in a Temperance Mg.[E] --not the least manifestation of dissatisfaction--altho' unexpected to most present--but on the contrary "cheers long & loud"--& not merited neither--but such is the custom in this land--and I mention it as proof that the objections to our admission were all hollow--
Abby Kelly asks W. L. G. in a letter, if, as they fear, L. Mott has sacrificed principle at the altar of Peace-- Now I dont know how far she will consider me as having done so-- I have sometimes shrunk from a defence of our rights, when others have gone forward & stood in the breach--& I am very willing to crown such with laurels that I may not deserve--
We discovered before we left Philada. that the name of the convention was changed & saw the letter of Josh. Sturge[F]--hence we recd. our credentials conditionally-- & after being refused by the Com. we felt satisfied not to present them to the Meeting[.] I was glad however that Wendell Phillips & Ann were not so easily put by & that he came forward & manfully plead for the right-- I shall ever love Ann Phillips for her earnest appeals to her husband to stand firm in that hour of trial--and him for doing so[G] -- Tell Abby Kelly if I am not much bold myself I respect those most who are so.-- Tho' I fully believe if our English and Irish friends thought there were any in America whose foreheads were more as adamant than mine, they would be awe-struck--yea, horrified! I never failed in our several tea-parties,--soirees, &c to avail myself of every offer made for utterance for our cause--& then I shrunk not from the whole truth as those who heard can testify[.] Egotism must be excused for woman's sake.
In addition to several letters written home giving an account of ourselves--I have filled one sheet to C. C. Burleigh--remarking on some of our speakers &c--which I have concluded to enclose unsealed--thinkg, thou might like to look over it--when thou wilt oblige me by sealg & forwg. it as directed-- If Wm. M. is with you ask him to let it serve instead of a letter to him, as I have sometimes thought of writing since I recd. a dear affect. message from him in a letter from Charles-- Our Irish friends tell me I take too sombre a view of the Meeting & Speakers-- I admit it may be so but I tell them to put their souls in our Souls stead & perhaps they too will be affected with a morbid sensitiveness.
Wm. L. G. will tell you--what glorious meetings they have had in Scotland.-- We rejoice that we have stayed here to see them once more.
We rejoice too to hear of thy well-doing in thy chamber--as well as of Helen Garrison's-- -- How affecting is the death of J. A. Collin's wife![H] We feel a deep interest in your doings across the wide water & hope truth & the right will yet be triumphant-- -- How I wish you could win back J. G. W. & Gerritt Smith![I] It is much best that a separation has taken place in the National Society--as we were--we could not walk together unless more agreed--
Love to thy husband & every one of you--
xFor the Non-Resistant.
ever thine L. Mott
A. William Lloyd Garrison, Boston editor of the Liberator, and New Hampshire newspaperman Nathaniel P. Rogers (1794-1846), delegates to the World's Anti-Slavery Convention, had protested against the exclusion of the women's delegates and refused to participate. They left Ireland on 29 July and sailed from the British Isles for the U.S. on 4 August.
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B. Anne Knight (1792-1862), an English writer, socialized frequently with the Motts in London. Mott had met the Quaker reformer and antislavery leader Elizabeth Pease (1807-1897) on 6 June, when Pease "talked orthodoxy" en route to a hat maker's. See Frederick B. Tolles, ed., Slavery and the "Woman Question": Lucretia Mott's Diary (Haverford: Friends Historical Association, 1952), 23-25.
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C. Hebrews 5:12.
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D. In her diary Mott briefly described a speech before a group of British abolitionists in London on 24 June. Her letter to her children adds more detail to the event as she "addressed the brethren on the importance of effort to supply us with manufactured goods from free cotton and answered some objections urged during the sittings of the convention--I was listened to patiently--In the course of my remarks I most unwittingly came across Josiah Fosters prejudices by speaking of ourselves as Friends alluding to the sentiments of some in America & to those expressed by some here, . . . I did not remember while I was speaking that there had been a division, I had no sooner sat down than he was up desiring the audience to understand that I was not a member of the Society of Friends" (27 June 1840, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester). Unitarian minister George Harris (1794-1859) preached before a crowd of 2500. See Tolles, Diary, 46-47, 60.
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E. On 22 July Mott had spoken at the temperance meeting where she recorded that "people appeared satisfied." See Tolles, Diary, 62.
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F. Joseph Sturge (1793-1859), member of the executive committee of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, had sent a letter discouraging the women delegates from attending: "such a step would be any thing rather than a help to our cause" (letter of 3 March 1840, Liberator, 8 May 1840:75). Despite Sturge's stand, the Motts had several social encounters with the Quaker corn merchant from Birmingham. See Tolles, Diary, 18, passim.
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G. Wendell Phillips (1811-84), Boston lawyer and antislavery leader, and his wife, Ann Terry Greene Phillips (1813-86), were both delegates to the convention. On 12 June, arguing for the acceptance of the women delegates, Phillips said that in the U.S., "we think it right for women to sit by our side there, and we think it right for them to do the same here." See Proceedings of the General Anti-Slavery Convention (London: British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, 1841), 36.
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H. Helen Benson (1811-76) had married Garrison in 1834. John A. Collins (1810-79) was a supporter of Garrison and agent for both the American and the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery societies.
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I. After the American Anti-Slavery Society meeting in New York in May 1840, John Greenleaf Whittier and Gerritt Smith had joined the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (called the "New Organization"), established by those who favored involvement in the political process and opposed the American Anti-Slavery Society's placement of women in key positions. See also Mott to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 16 March 1855, Stanton Papers, Library of Congress.
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