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Introduction Carol Faulkner and Nancy Hewitt Lucretia Mott, the Quaker minister, abolitionist, and women’s rights activist, was as famous for her inspiring and provocative words as for her principled and courageous actions. A gifted orator, she spoke before thousands of people over the course of her sixty-year career. In 1848 alone, the year Mott became the “moving spirit” of the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, she also attended an Anti-Sabbath Convention, the annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Genesee Yearly Meeting, the annual Strawberry Festival on the Cattaraugus (Seneca Nation) reservation, a second women’s rights convention in Rochester, a “Colored” Convention in Philadelphia, monthly meetings of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, and the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society. That same year, Mott made several joint appearances with the former slave and writer William Wells Brown, and she preached to diverse audiences, including prisoners, fugitives, Universalists, and Quakers.1 Mott did not write down any of these speeches or sermons. As a Friend, she believed in speaking spontaneously on a subject that moved her. To capture Mott’s witty, moving, and reasoned arguments, as well as her sometimes tart tongue, subsequent generations must rely on the journalists, stenographers, Quakers, and co-workers who recorded her words. When she spoke, Lucretia Mott addressed a wide array of issues that confronted the United States and the world: the abolition of slavery and racism, feminism, religious freedom, international peace and cooperation, education, and democracy. Lucretia Mott Speaks is an authoritative selection of her abundant but scattered speeches, many of which readers will find relevant today. The editors have identified approximately 190 lectures by Mott in archives, newspapers, and other printed sources. Some of these appear in Dana Greene’s Lucretia Mott: Her Complete Speeches and Sermons (1980), but this volume includes significant additional speeches as well as fuller versions of those previously published.2 The sixty selected speeches present critical themes and important events in Mott’s xii Introduction long and distinguished public life. The annotations provide the vibrant context for her words and actions, identifying Mott’s intellectual engagement with allies and opponents, as well as with transatlantic religious and political debates across the nineteenth century. This volume complements Beverly Wilson Palmer’s Selected Letters of Lucretia Coffin Mott. Letters and oratory were two of the most important forms of communication in the nineteenth century, circulating information and opinions within circles of family and friends as well as to broad and diverse publics. Although letters were often read aloud and sometimes published in newspapers, and a speech or sermon might be described in personal correspondence, these genres spoke to distinct audiences and offered distinct perspectives. Thus a different Lucretia Mott appears in these pages than in the Selected Letters. While Mott’s letters contain trenchant observations about friends and enemies in the transatlantic Quaker, antislavery, and women’s rights movements, the letters also focus on the details of her extended family, many friends, and bustling household. Even though Mott’s private and public lives were intertwined, readers of this volume will find little mention of her husband James, her children and grandchildren, or her daily life in these orations (for wonderful exceptions, see pp. 5 and 161). Instead, Mott’s speeches and sermons illuminate the engaged, tireless, and often controversial public figure. While Mott is notable for the breadth and depth of her radicalism, she participated in a larger movement of reformers. This introduction places Mott in that expansive activist milieu. Though Mott does not always mention her co-workers, they formed an important part of her audience, attending the same meetings and conventions, and listening and responding to her words. Many of them supported Mott’s view that “all these subjects of reform are kindred in their nature; and giving to each its proper consideration, will tend to strengthen and nerve the mind for all.”3 And, like Mott, many were or had been Hicksite Quakers. The Society of Friends experienced multiple fractures over Mott’s lifetime, and these debates had a lasting impact on both the antislavery and women’s rights movements . While many of her allies left the Society of Friends, Mott did not. Neither, however, did she stop agitating for change—within the Society of Friends and in other religious institutions, reform organizations, and society at large. Mott used her persuasive powers to challenge the authority of social customs , laws, and organized religion...


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