Document 6: Lucretia Mott to Salem, Ohio, Woman's Convention, 13 April 1850, The Liberator, 17 May 1850, p. 80.
To begin her discussion of what constitutes a women's movement, Roth points out that these movements can sometimes, although not always, be classified as feminist movements. Feminist movements, according to Roth, seek a "transformation of societies' public and private gender institutions." The woman's rights movement of the 1850s sought these kinds of transformations. The following short letter, which also appears in "Lucretia Mott's Reform Networks," was authored by Mott and read in her absence to a woman's rights convention held in Salem, Ohio, in 1850. In this piece Mott expressed her strong feelings about reforming the social position of women, arguing that woman's inequality with men had a detrimental effect on the social and political welfare of American society as a whole. In her "Discourse on Woman," also read to the convention, Mott spoke in greater depth about specific reforms she hoped to see improve women's social position.
Philadelphia, 4th mo., 13th, '50.
To the 'Woman's Convention,' to be held in Salem, Ohio, on the 19th inst.:
The call for this Convention, so numerously signed, is indeed gratifying, and gives hope of a large attendance.[A] The letter of invitation was duly received, and I need scarcely say how gladly I would be present, if in my power. Engagements in another direction, as well as the difficulty of travel, at this season of the year, will prevent my availing myself of so great a privilege.
You will not, however, be at a loss for speakers in your midst; for among the signers of the Call are the names of many whose hearts 'believe unto righteousness;' out of their abundance, therefore, the mouth will make 'confession unto salvation.'[B]
The wrongs of woman have too long slumbered. They now begin to cry for redress. Let them be clearly pointed out in your Convention; and then, not ask as favor, but demand as right, that every civil and ecclesiastical obstacle be removed out of the way.
Rights are not dependent upon equality of mind; nor do we admit inferiority; leaving that question to be settled by future developments, when a fair opportunity shall be given for the equal cultivation of the intellect, and the stronger powers of the mind shall be called into action.
If, in accordance with your Call, you ascertain 'the bearing which the circumscribed sphere of woman has on the great political and social evils that curse and desolate the land,' you will not have come together in vain.[C]
May you indeed 'gain strength' by your 'contest with difficulty'! May the whole armor of 'Right, Truth and Reason' be yours! Then will the influence of the Convention be felt in the assembled wisdom of men, which is to follow; and the good results, as well as your example, will ultimately rouse other States to action in this most important cause.
I herewith forward to you a 'Discourse on Woman,' which, though brought out by local circumstances, may yet contain principles of universal application.[D]
Wishing you every success in your noble effort, I am yours for woman's redemption and consequent elevation,
A. The Convention of the Women of Ohio, meeting on 19-20 April 1850, was the first woman's rights conference to be held outside of the state of New York. See The Salem, Ohio 1850 Women's Rights Convention Proceedings, ed. Robert W. Audretsch (Salem: Salem Public Library, 1976); for the significance of the convention, see Isenberg, Sex and Citizenship, ix, 70-71, 212.
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B. Romans 10:10. Other women attending included Josephine Griffing, J. Elizabeth Jones, and Mary Ann Johnson. For Griffing's activism in the 1860s, see "How Did White Women Aid Former Slaves during and after the Civil War and What Obstacles Did They Face?" also on this website.
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C. From the call "To the Women of Ohio" in Anti-Slavery Bugle, 30 March 1850:114. Another call summoned residents of the Columbiana County area to a mass meeting to urge the upcoming Ohio constitutional convention to grant suffrage "without regard to sex, COLOR or CONDITION". See Audretsch, 1850 Women's Rights Convention, 19-20.
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D. Mott had delivered her "Discourse on Woman" on 17 December 1849, in Philadelphia, as an answer to an earlier address by Richard Henry Dana Sr., which had criticized the women's rights movement. In it she declared that women were just as effective as men in solving the world's problems and set forth the rights to suffrage, property rights, and income which women should be permitted to enjoy as they chose. At the Salem meeting, after reading her letter, Jones read Mott's "Discourse," which "was listened to with marked interest by the whole Convention." Liberator, 17 May 17 1850:80. Extracts from the "Discourse" were published in the National Anti-Slavery Standard, 21 March 1850:172, and the Liberator 15 February 1850:28. See also Sermons, 143-62.
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E. After the Woman's Convention adjourned, a group of male spectators met and adopted a resolution affirming that women should enjoy the same civil and political rights, including suffrage, as men. Audretsch, 1850 Women's Rights Convention, 65. In May the Ohio constitutional convention defeated, 72-7, a resolution that the word male be deleted from Ohio's constitution. Eugene H. Roseboom, A History of the State of Ohio: Volume IV, The Civil War Era (Columbus: Ohio State Historical Society, 1944), 235.
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